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Plants, Travel and Change in SW China
Speaker : Ed Shaw
Tuesday 27 February 10.30am-12noon in the Education Centre

After studying ecology at the University of Sheffield’s Animal and Plant Sciences Department, Ed stayed at the university to undertake a PhD in catchment sciences, which he completed in 2012.
He is now the Director of the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, a charitable trust dedicated to enhancing the ecology of the rivers and streams of the Don Catchment (which covers most of South Yorkshire).

Early on at university Ed met his now wife who is originally from Sichuan Province in SW China.
The biodiversity and rugged mountains he encountered on his first visit to the region were a revelation, and Ed soon developed a keen interest in the exceptionally rich flora. Subsequently he has been on botanic expeditions in 2013 and 2016 to Sichuan and Yunnan which are the basis of his talk.

Wednesday Morning Volunteers - Curator's Briefing Day 10 January 2018

Ian Turner started the meeting in the Education Centre by expressing his appreciation for the work done by volunteers. The Wednesday morning session group amassed 3276 hours of work in 2017, only 6 hours short of the previous record set in 2016 – however, the number of volunteers who had attended throughout the year marked a new record of 99 individuals. The highest attendance on any one day had been 44 and the lowest 6 on an extremely wet day. The hours worked could be compared to that of two full-time gardeners and represented a huge contribution to the maintenance of the Gardens. In addition to the Wednesday morning group, there are many other volunteers who carry out research and work in other ways to support the Gardens

He was pleased to announce that Lindsay Berry, head gardener at Ordsall Hall in Salford had been offered the job as Head Gardener, and would let us know when a starting date had been agreed.

In his annual health and safety message, he stressed the importance of risk assessment – no harder than crossing the road. Take care of yourself, be aware of personal limitation and if in doubt - don’t do it. This was relevant for lifting, digging, choice of appropriate tools, working in a tidy manner and considering the other people around – a major cause of accidents was tripping over tools or debris left lying around. Just a reminder not to fill the dumpy bags too full so the garden staff were unable to lift them onto the truck.

The tour started in the Nursery area where a new path had just been tarmacked. There were plans to reconstruct the compost heaps so that they would have a concrete base to enable easier access and turn over, and that it was hoped a reduction in bin area would enable higher temperatures to be achieved. Not all weed seeds were being killed in the present circumstances and he asked that all pernicious weeds, such as bindweed, be put in the rubbish bins and not in the dumpy bags.

Volunteer Briefing
Compost heaps, ©A. Hunter

Next was the Marnock Garden where a large pine tree had been removed, thus allowing more light into the area. The next project here was to clear, renew and replant the gravel beds.

Volunteer Briefing
Marnock Garden, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Osborn Field, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Rock Garden, ©A. Hunter

Moving on to Osborn’s Field, a large area had been cleared in order to create a new bed for the Weigela species display. As the Gardens are the home of the National Collection of weigelas, it was desired to demonstrate the original 10 species individually, so as to compare the characteristics that have been used to create the wide range of hybrid cultivars displayed nearby along the edge of the East lawn. The Rock Garden is infested with the highly resilient Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) or Mare’s Tail. The plan is to clear the area of desirable plants, which means waiting for the spring bulbs to come up before removal. It is then proposed to let the ground lie fallow and treat with glyphosate until the weed is defeated. It is not usual practice in the Gardens to use chemicals but in this case there is no other remedy.

The pathway from the café to around the base of the large beech tree, needs to be redesigned as people are taking short cuts across planted areas around the Victorian beds.

Ian picked a small flower from the Prunus ‘Autumnale’ tree near the top of the east lawn and showed us that it had no stalk. This tree will flower from October to March – however, he had observed that in the later flush of blooms the flowers do have stalks.

Volunteer Briefing
Entrance Area, ©A. Hunter

At the Himalayan Garden, a huge ash tree that had become unstable had been removed, opening up the area to light. Eric Lee, volunteer manager in charge of that section, asked if an information board explaining that significance of the Himalayan Garden could be erected. Volunteer Briefing
Himalayan Garden, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©A. Hunter

In the Mediterranean Garden, the acacias and banksias are flowering beautifully. It is a source of amazement that such plants have done so well in Sheffield since planting in 2013. There is still the concern that a really cold and prolonged hard winter would kill many of these plants, but up to now they have survived to surprise and delight visitors. Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©A. Hunter

Removal of a large yew opened up the view of the Handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata, in the Asia Garden – that will be a spectacle later in the year. Volunteer Briefing
Asia Garden, ©A. Hunter

The Evolution Garden, which has a guided walk with information boards explaining the evolution of plants, needs some maintenance. Some vandalism of the boards has occurred. The good news is that the squirrels, which infest the area, seem to have finally lost their taste for the Drimys winteri, which was planted in 2010 and had to be caged in heavy duty plastic fencing to protect it from their depredations. The shrub now looks healthy with strong shoots; the top of the cage has been removed and, so far, there has been no new damage.

Ian finished the morning by thanking everyone again for the hard work that all volunteers do to support the Gardens.

Alison Hunter 10 January 2018

Volunteer Briefing
Evolution Garden, ©A. Hunter


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