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The weird and wonderful world of climbing plants

Speaker: Dr Ken Thompson
Monday 10th July at 7.15pm in the Education Centre

Ken studied for a PhD in Sheffield in 1977 and later settled here from 1990 when he was Research Fellow, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, before moving to live in Devon in 2016.
He is very well known at SBG as a regular lecturer, FOBS supporter and Garden Tour Guide.
Ken is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the public understanding of science, and especially the science of gardening.

He writes and lectures extensively, including on Kew’s Horticulture Diploma, and has written seven books on gardening and popular science, including Compost, No Nettles Required and Do We Need Pandas? : The Uncomfortable Truth About Biodiversity.  In 2014 he published Where do Camels Belong? The Story and Science of Invasive Species.

His latest book, containing his collected gardening columns from the Daily Telegraph, was published in 2015. In 2016 he was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal for his contribution to the advancement and improvement of the science and practice of horticulture.

Ken is married with two grown-up children. He enjoys gardening, watching old films, walking, reading and supporting Plymouth Argyle football club.

FOBS Members free, Visitors £3

As this is an evening meeting access to the gardens is via Thompson Road entrance only

Inaugural Lecture draws capacity audience

Inaugural lecture
The lecture room, ©A. Houldcroft

Inaugural lecture
The way forward, ©A. Houldcroft

Inaugural lecture
A successful first lecture, ©A. Houldcroft

Tuesday 24th January 2017 marked a new chapter in the history of the Friends, and the Botanical Gardens themselves. It was the day of the first ever event in the new Dorothy Fox Education Centre. Replacing the leaky prefab that had existed in the Gardens for some 30 years, the Centre provides splendid accommodation for lectures, talks and classes.

The Friends were delighted to be the first hosts of an event in the Centre, which drew 160 people (our usual attendance for a Friends event is about 70). Even before the 10am start time, it was standing-room-only, and further chairs had hurriedly to be found! It was a joy to have so much space to be able easily to accommodate so many people.

Friends President Sue Kohler MBE addressed the audience, reminding us about the long story behind the creation of the Centre, and her pleasure that it had finally come to fruition. Then we were treated to barn-storming lectures from Professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough from the Landscape Department at Sheffield University. Both are old friends of the Gardens and of FOBS. Their lectures focused, in very different ways, on the urban planting communities for which both have gained global reputations. They gave us much to think about, to laugh about and to celebrate.

Thanks are due to the many people whose donations made the Centre possible, and to all those involved in its creation and in planning for this inaugural lecture. We look forward to welcoming Friends new and old to future events in the Centre, and to it establishing its place as a major venue for horticultural education.

Wednesday Morning Volunteers - Curator's Briefing Day 11 January 2017

Volunteer Briefing
Curator's Briefing, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Old toilets to be replaced, ©M. Thewles

On a wild and blustery day, the volunteers gathered in the large greenhouse. Curator, Ian Turner, commented that he had hoped that the briefing day could have been started in the new Education Centre, but the hand-over date had now been set for Friday 20 January. He stated that the first FOBS meeting on 24 January would definitely be held in the new building, even if chairs had to be borrowed. He congratulated the volunteers for yet again exceeding previous totals by contributing 3282 hours work in the Gardens - this in spite of all the difficulties caused by the building activities.

Although several experienced FOBS volunteers were present, it was a pleasure to welcome relatively new helpers to the group, there are now 98 people registered. Maximum number attending on one day was 44, minimum was 2 on an awful day - pouring with rain! On wet days work is available in the pavilions, but no-one would be expected to turn up in deep snow.
Health and safety issues are a matter of common sense and careful risk assessments. Make sure your working area is tidy to protect yourself and others from accidents - what Ian called "Slip, Trip and Fall" hazards. Use the correct tools, if you have to strain you are using the wrong one; for example secateurs for pencil thin twigs - loppers for larger ones - a saw for thick branches. A staff member requested that forks and spades should be pushed into the ground, not left lying around, and that other tools should be laid next to them, not on the paths. Be careful when lifting, use your leg muscles, protect your back and assess the weight of any object before attempting to lift - people have been known to hurt themselves by putting too much effort into lifting light weight objects as well as those too heavy. Ask for help, but if in doubt do not do it. Don't overload the collection bags so that the gardens staff can lift and transport them safely.
Finally, if you notice a potential hazard, please inform the staff, "See something, Say something".

The good news for this coming year is that the old toilets are to be replaced. Planning permission has been granted and work is due to start in April. The new building will be constructed in a similar style to the Education Centre. Once the builders have left the site, the first gardening priority this year will be attention to the Thompson Road Drive area, which has necessarily neglected during the construction project.

Volunteer Briefing
Prairie Garden, ©J. Dykes

Volunteer Briefing
Long Border, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Olives in Sheffield! ©A. Hunter

The Prairie garden is definitely not at its best at this time of year, the process of cutting back the plants is in progress. In mid-March the area will be scorched with a weed burner, killing off early germinating weeds and allowing the established perennial plants to flourish later in the year.

The Long Border was replanted by FOBS volunteers in 2006 and, although regularly maintained at the southern end by John Potter, like elsewere there is an ongoing weed battle. The soil also needs to be improved, this year lots of mulch will be applied to ameliorate both problems.

First priority in the Mediterranean Climate Garden is to finish clearing the autumn leaves as the plants here dislike the cold wet covering. Weeding is particularly important to maintain the different collections in their respective areas. Ian was delighted to demonstrate that not only the olive tree was growing well, but it actually had olives.

Volunteer Briefing
Four Seasons Garden, ©M. Thewles Volunteer Briefing
East Lawn, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver', ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Variegated foliage bed - Same area March 2016, ©A. Hunter

After an overview of the progress on the Himalayan Bed and noting the swelling buds of the nearby magnolias, Ian updated the group on the pollution monitoring planting carried out in cooperation with the Engineering Department at the University of Sheffield. Results of last years growth have yet to be published and the proposed network of similar projects at York, London and Edinburgh seems to have fallen through due to lack of funding, but Ian hopes to continue the experiment in Sheffield.

Moving on to the Four Seasons Garden, it was evident that the effort to rid the Autumn Bed of couch grass, by treating smaller sections year by year, is nearing a successful completion.

Near the top of the East Lawn, the old variegated foliage bed, planted in the 1970s, had been cleared to reveal the lovely Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver'. Ian explained the plan to create a new bed to showcase the original ten Weigela species. Comments were made on how much the clearing of the old foliage plants had opened up the vista and how that reflected Robert Marnock's (the Gardens' first curator) Gardenesque approach. Would the new planting re-obscure the view? Ian thought that the Gardenesque principle of planting each tree or shrub to show its features in an all-round way would still be followed.

The tour finished at the AGM Borders where again Ian praised the work of the volunteers, thanked everyone for attending and admitted that without this wonderful freely given help the Gardens would not be so well maintained.


Wanted someone to write articles about events in the Gardens and to liaise with the local newspapers and Radio Sheffield to publicise FOBS activities.
If you are interested and can help - please email the FOBS Committee or speak to the Chairman at any FOBS meeting.

Building Update - getting closer

steps - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017
cold frames - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017
more work - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017

Building Update - almost there - but more work needed at the entrance

decking - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017
front door - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017
entrance - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017


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