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Volunteers' Blog - January & February 2022

It has been a difficult time for those who work in the Garden following Mike’s untimely death. Peter, Bill, Craig, Claire and the rest of the gardening team have been working hard to maintain some normality and ensure the Garden continues to be a tribute to Mike’s vision and work. The Friends Volunteer Group has been working alongside them both in the Garden and preparing and packaging seed for sale in the Visitors Centre.

The Garden is waking up from its winter sleep, the daffodils are beginning to flower as are the cherry trees, and whilst snowdrops are starting to go over the crocus is coming into its own. The Viburnum near the five-bar gate from the carpark has looked lovely and the Daphne in the Winter Garden not only looks good it also has a gorgeous scent.

I found this poem which seems appropriate for the time of year.

Lines Written in Early Spring

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure…

William Wordsworth.

The many storms swept across the country over the winter have affected the Garden. Whilst the first of the season, Storm Arwen, caused a great deal of damage across the region it was Storm Malick with its northerly winds that caused most damage to the Garden. Fifteen trees were felled on Saturday 29th January. They included the stately Chestnut Oak, Quercus montana, that gave shade to the Millennium bugs. It was known that this tree was already failing. A fungus had penetrated the wood, where the rootstock meets the scion, weakening the trunk. Across the garden a large number of twigs and branches were strewn across the ground, which we were happy to assist in clearing. Elsewhere, we have continued to maintain the paths around the Visitor Centre, Terrace and greenhouses.

Recently we have met with members of the University’s Archaeology, Earth Science and Biological Sciences departments with a view to assisting them in their research into Tiny Forests. The research, led by Professors Mike Church and Darren Grocke, will examine the effect of different historic fertilizers (seaweed and biochar) on the growth of densely planted Silver Birch, Betula pendula. The FoG Volunteers will be assisting in measuring the trees over the three-year research project. A link to the research, with much more detail of what is happening, is to be made available on the Friends Website.

The Seed Group are once again happily ensconced in the greenhouse surrounded by drying strawflowers, Helichrysum, and bird of paradise, Strelitzia. They report that the new heating system is very efficient making for a pleasant environment in which to work. In addition to packing seeds for sale in the Visitors Centre the group has continued to prepare copies of Juliet Percival’s anniversary map of the Garden for sale. We are getting to the end of the seed packing season, we usually finish at Easter, and the shelves of seeds in the Visitors Centre are full. So maybe now is a good time to pick up something new or different for your own garden.

If you would like to join us, you will be very welcome, we meet at 10 am on Wednesday mornings.

Alex Taylor.