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Volunteers' Blog - January & February 2020

The start of the year, as we all know, has been rather wet and windy. However, undeterred the Volunteers have met regularly on Wednesday mornings. Normally we are to be found in the warmth of the greenhouse but, as in the picture below, if Mike Hughes has school groups we move into the cafe. Here we have continued to pack the seeds, extracted and cleaned of extraneous debris, from the flower heads brought in by Friends of the Garden. The wide variety of plants cultivated and brought in enables us to provide the large number of different seeds for sale in the Visitors Centre.


Volunteers packing and labelling seeds.

Under Wendy and Ann’s direction seeds are distributed and placed in the brown paper envelopes, individual labels glued onto the outside and finally, a small sticky dot is applied to the top right-hand corner of the envelope to depict whether the seeds enclosed will develop into an annual (blue), biennial (yellow) or perennial (green) plant. Very small seeds, which might escape from the envelope, Delphinium and Digitalis spring to mind, are carefully wrapped in kitchen foil before being placed in the envelopes.

The fruits of our labour - seed packets ready for sale in the Visitors Centre.

The weather has not been conducive to much work outside so far this year. However, John and one or two others have braved the elements to keep the seating area and the steps leading down from the Cherry Circle and through the Winter Garden clear of leaves and other detritus.

The Winter Garden is one area of the Garden that the Volunteers, along with Mike, have identified for development. About a year ago a group of the Friends went to the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr on a fact-finding mission and a list of possible plants to introduce into the Winter Garden was drawn up. More recently a small group has met with Mike to draw up plans and procure new plants. It was agreed that, alongside developing the Winter Garden, the border, to the side of the path adjacent to the Woodland Garden leading to the Arboretum, would also benefit from replanting with shrubs of winter interest. On a very wet and windy Friday, towards the end of February, Mike and a couple of Volunteers braved the elements to visit the nursery at Eggleston. The high winds and driving rain focused minds and plants were quickly chosen and purchased before retreating to the warmth of the nursery café. Acquisitions included: Photinia magical volcano; Synthyris missurica var. stellate; Daphne perfume princess; Mahonia soft caress and Ligustrum sinense sunshine. Back in Durham they were placed in the polytunnel to await being planted out, alongside the tubs of tulips planted by Friends of the Garden.

Plants purchased from Eggleston Nursery in the polytunnel alongside the tubs of tulips planted by Friends of the Garden.

In addition to the plants purchased at Eggleston other plants are to be ordered direct from nurseries, including: Hamamelis (Witch Hazel); Cornus (Dogwood) and Hellebores (Christmas rose). These will compliment and add to, amongst others, the Sarcococca (Christmas box), Lonicera (winter honeysuckle) and Viburnum already in the Garden.

We still have a few more weeks of seed packing ahead of us, then with the warmer weather we will again be mainly outside. Please feel free to join us on Wednesdays at 10:00.

Alex Taylor.