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Volunteers' Blog - April 2023

The weather at the start of March was very different from what we are experiencing in May, when I am writing this Blog. Back then it was still Winter, snow was falling and there had been high winds.  Did this deter the intrepid Volunteers, at least those that ventured outside? Not one bit of it!  Although, in our weaker moments, we perhaps thought enviously of our colleagues busy packing seeds in the warmth of the greenhouses. However, there was work to do, so out into the Garden we strode – or at least ambled.  

We have spent many hours, over the past couple of months, working in the arboretum, gathering up twigs after the storm and removing Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). After the snow, with warmer weather, the grass within the arboretum started to grow. But before it got too long there was an opportunity to remove Himalayan balsam seedlings.  Removing the balsam at this stage reduces the chance that they will be missed later in the year where a single plant may produce up to 800 seeds.  It took us a little while to confidently recognise the balsam seed leaves (cotyledons) amongst all the other seedlings germinating. However, once our eyes were attuned to our quarry many hundreds were found, particularly in the area around the kiosk entrance. 

Earlier in the year some of you may have wandered down towards Fungate to admire the snowdrops (Galanthus spp) growing on the steep valley side. After they had flowered the fearless Volunteers scaled the near vertiginous slopes to lift clumps of snowdrops in the green. Each clump was carefully divided into three and each third replanted separately so that next year the display will be even more spectacular.

Other works carried out include: the continuation of edging paths; weeding around the Fossil Fern beds, dead heading tulips, further clearing of leaves from the pond and removing weeds from between the block paving on the terrace and elsewhere.  

The seed group has been busy throughout the winter. The returns of their labours, through the purchase of seeds from the Visitors Centre, provides a significant source of income that The Friends can then use to further enhance the Garden. I am sure many of you will have supported their work, and the work of the Friends, by buying seeds when you visit the Garden.

The whole volunteering team came together in mid-April to work in the Garden during the visit of the Northumberland in Bloom judges. Paths were swept, beds weeded, twigs gathered, and daffodils deadheaded. Not to take anything away from Peter and his team’s tireless work around the garden, we however trust that the judges were impressed by our labours.

You may notice, in the picture above that there are numerous primroses (Primula vulgaris) and a few cowslips (Primula veris) growing amongst the daffodils. Amid all these native wildflowers Pam came across this curiosity, pictured below, which seems to be a cross between a primrose and a cowslip. There is always something interesting and unexpected cropping up within the Garden, even for those who spend a lot of time here.

If you would like to join the Volunteers, we meet every Wednesday at 10 am at the Visitors Centre, you will be most welcome.

Alex Taylor