|Much of this post will be about Kew's grass garden, |
since that is where we spent most of our
time this week. Photo by Daisy.
Although there were a few interesting diversions this week (more on that later), I think Daisy and I have started to settle into our section's normal routine. Monday was spent edging and weeding the order beds, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent weeding the grass garden, and Thursday was spent deadheading and training at the rose pergola.
Getting to know the grass garden
We did spend two full days and part of one morning working in the grass garden this week, so I figure it's appropriate to go into a bit more depth on that subject. I'll provide a very brief history of the grass garden at Kew, share this week's experience with grass verification, write a bit about the main weed problems, and conclude with what it feels like to weed one of these areas.
A quick history
Ornamental grasses have been cultivated at Kew nearly since its foundation. The botanic gardens were founded in 1759, and the earliest accounts for a grass garden on the site were in the 1760's (Desmond, 39). The circular grass beds were not included on a 1763 map of the gardens (Desmond, 56 - 57), so they must have been established later in that decade.
|Many visitors still miss the grass garden during|
their visits. In 2006, Kew added a path from the
Princess of Wales Conservatory (structure to the right)
and Cambridge Cottage (not photographed)
to increase traffic through the grass garden.
The grass collection was first moved in 1963, and again in 1982 to the space where it presently resides (Desmond, 354 - 355). In the 1990's, Kew remodeled and revitalized several garden areas, including the grass the grass garden. In 1997 circular beds were added, and in 1999 a lawn wheel of British native grasses was installed (Desmond, 310 and 358). Despite all of the work done in this garden, it was still overlooked by visitors. That is why in 2006, Kew added a path through the grass garden that would connect the Princess of Wales Conservatory and Cambridge Cottage. The hope was that this would increase traffic in this area.
Today the grass gardens are a riot of movement, sound, texture and color. The landscape is pleasing, educational, compelling for visitors, and botanists and horticulture students are still able to use this area as a reference garden.
|After a certain period of time, Kew's|
hort team in the grass garden sends
samples to be verified by the herbarium
Friday morning, Shelley showed us the steps on the horticulture side of verifying some grasses. First, she went on Kew's live collection database and printed off the information for the four plants to be verified.
|A wing of Kew's herbarium|
Then, the plant material and an information sheet for each plant was placed in a sealed plastic bag. Martin, a horticulture student in the group, was charged with delivering the samples to the herbarium. Really interesting!
Weeding the grass garden was much more intensive than it had been the week before. Last week we were mostly focused on improving curb appeal by removing weeds that were visible to visitors. This week, Shelley gave Daisy, Simon and me small sections within different beds to weed intensively. Shelley encouraged us to be very thorough when weeding each section, and I did my best to remove as much of each weed as possible.
|View within the grass garden prior to weeding|
The grass garden is pretty large, and the mulch isn't as thick as it is in the order beds, which makes it more difficult to completely remove entire weeds. Add into the mix the fact that we're supposed to make every effort to preserve that thin layer of mulch without exposing any soil, and you can see why this took all day Tuesday and Wednesday to do.
An intern's perspective from within
|View within the grass garden after weeding|
Weeding on your hands and knees is like swimming under waves of Miscanthus. You pray the wind doesn't rise lest you become tossed under the whipping fronds. On the freshly weeded, brown, soft mulch floor, the temptation to lay down gets stronger as the work drags on. Thankfully, Simon throws a life saver ("Tea time!") long before there is any danger of drowning in the grassy sea.
Tuesday afternoon was a real treat -- Kew had a staff cookout! Although I hadn't really met anyone (besides interns) in the horticulture department outside my section, I was able to get an idea of how many horticulturalists there are at Kew in last week's meeting. The barbeque on Tuesday was even more boggling because it included all the people who make the gardens run -- not just horticulture staff. It's really amazing just how many people actually work at Kew.
There wasn't as much mingling between departments as one might expect, but there was a little. The hort people tended to stick together, the Joddrell folks were in another group, etc. One employee in the foundation did something really brilliant to get the horticulture people talking and comfortable -- she asked a plant question. Simple, but effective.
She described a plant she had noticed ("It's like a stick with a hard raspberry on it"). There was silence at first, then one person asked for more information. ("It didn't have any leaves or flowers at the time"). A low murmuring started, and then the questions started flowing ("There was no label." "It was near the Director's garden." "I saw it last week."). Other horticulturalists who work in the area were tracked down. Apparently one person walked back there to try to find exactly what she was talking about. The next morning at work before the Hardy Display section meeting, everyone was all atwitter. One person had even dreamed about the plant, and woke up in the middle of the night knowing exactly what it was.
Genius. I need to keep that in my pocket as an ice breaker at the next horticulture conference I attend.
The British treat of the week is scone with clotted cream and jam (or jam and clotted cream). Sooo decadent.
The procedure for applying spreads to the scone differ depending on where you are in the United Kingdom. In some regions, the jam must be spread before the cream, whereas others are vice-versa. I tried both, and they're both really rich and delicious. Here's my two cents. If you want your scone to absorb some flavor from the jam, apply the jam before the clotted cream. If you don't want a soggy scone, then apply the clotted cream before the jam. However you choose to prepare this tasty treat, plan on taking a nice, leisurely stroll afterwards to ease your guilt after having such a heavy dessert.
|Enjoying a decadent scone with clotted cream and jam at Kew's cafe by the Victoria Gate|
As promised, here are a couple photos of Kew's water boxes and my section's tool shed. More photos can be viewed in the "Week Three" photo album on my facebook page.
|As per one reader's request, here are some photos of our section's tool shed. Every tool is clean and in its place. The floors are also clean. Absolutely the tidiest tool shed I've ever set foot in. And it is ALWAYS this clean.|
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel welcome to leave a comment or send me an email.
To see more photos from this week, be sure to check out the album "Week Three" on the Plante on Plants Facebook page. "Likes", shares and comments are appreciated.
All photos were taken by Amanda Plante at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew unless otherwise stated in the caption.
- Desmond, Ray. (2007). The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2nd Edition). London: Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 177-179, 345-346.
- The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew website and staff
- The Royal Horticultural Society website