Friday, July 4, 2014

Week Two

The Royal Palace at Kew, where royalty,
including King George III would spend family time.
Happy U.S. Independence Day from across the Atlantic!  It is so weird to be in England on the Fourth of July, working at a garden where George III actually spent quite some time.  I read something in Ray Desmond's The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew that around the same time as the Revolutionary War was going on, King George was actually buying up some of the property surrounding Kew at that time to increase the size of the estate.  Interesting stuff.

This week was as exciting, new, and varied as the first, but this post won't be nearly as long as last week's post.

Secluded Garden

The slate fountain in the Secluded
Garden makes a really lovely sound,
but it gets really gross with algae
The whole team spent the first part of Monday straightening up the secluded garden.  This area of Kew is designed to attract most of the senses, including sight, sound, and smell.  The director was planning an event in the area for that afternoon, so it had to be tidied in the morning.  We were mostly weeding and deadheading, although we did a bit of planting too.

Shelley asked me to clean algae out of the slate fountain towards the end of the morning.  Martin told me to use a garden rake to scoop the algae out, "It's like scooping spaghetti out of a pot."  It really was.  I think it will be a while before I can eat spaghetti again though.  There was a bit of algae growing on the fountain as well, so I had to pick it out.  It's difficult because the algae gets into the grooves between the pieces of slate, but I think I got nearly all of it.

Order Beds

Mondays mean edging in Kew's order beds.  The whole team and two volunteers got together to edge all of the order beds and the pillars in the rose pergola.  I think I'm starting to get the hang of edging.  My cuts were much cleaner, and I got done a bit quicker than last week.  We finished around afternoon tea, then spent the rest of the day weeding and deadheading.

I think Daisy made this really nice border fence.
The fences are made of Hammamelis branches, and
hold floppy plants out of the mown paths.
On Wednesday morning Chrissy, one of Kew's horticulture students, taught Daisy and I how to build branch fences to hold up plants that were flopping into the pathways.  Shelley wanted us to prop everything out of the paths and off of the grass because the team would be mowing the next day.  I had never built anything quite like these fences, and it was really interesting to learn.  I hope to write a Thrifty Gardener post about it in the future with more details so readers can learn how to build one in their own garden.

Essentially, we were given a bundle of Hammamelis branches, and we bent them into small or large structures to support leaning plants in an attractive way.  Although I really enjoyed this task, I'm not very good at it yet.  I needed a lot of guidance from Chrissy, and it took me much longer to finish mine.  I think Daisy averaged about five fences for every one that I built.  I'm sure I'll do better next time.

Grass Garden

Couch grass (Elymus repens) is a really
troublesome weed in Kew's Grass Garden
The BBC planned to do some filming in the grass garden on Thursday, so we spent Tuesday weeding.  Shelley suggested we wear long sleeved shirts, because the grasses are very sharp.  Chrissy and India were telling us that often the scratches won't actually appear on the skin until later on.  They've left work before with healthy looking skin, but when they got home before their arms would be totally scratched.

Shelley paired interns with students so we would have guidance nearby.  I was paired with Martin, and even then it could be an ordeal struggling through the grasping foliage to ask him a question.  We worked on two beds which are primarily Miscanthus -- a sharp and vicious grass.

The main weed problem in the grass garden is also a grass -- Elymus repens or couch grass.  Any gardener will tell you that weeding in and of itself is quite a chore.  Distinguishing one sprig of couch grass poking out of a giant tuft of Miscanthus and finding a way to get it out is another thing altogether.  We worked in the garden the entire day, and just nearly almost finished by 4:00 p.m. 

Water Garden

Duckweed  (Lemna minuta) is needs
to be scooped out of the Water
Garden fairly regularly
This task was the most fun so far.  Daisy, Simon and I put on waders and went into the water garden to scoop out blanket weed (algae) and duckweed (Lemna minuta).  There are old pipes to watch out for on the floor.  In the past, the water had been heated by these pipes below the surface.  Although they're not in use now, they're historic and, well, there already, so staff just need to watch their step when in the water.

If you look close, the water in the garden is actually dyed blue.  Shelley said that makes the environment below the surface much darker, and that makes it more difficult for algae to thrive.  It was certainly working in the center pond, but the border ponds still had a lot of green floating on the surface.

Staff Meeting

I'm really fortunate to be an intern at Kew during what may prove to be a pivotal time in their history.  The top three things that could be said to affect Kew right now would be 1) The gardens are guided by a relatively new director, 2) There have been cuts in funding, 3) The organization is being restructured.  Thursday's meeting was about the restructuring.  I won't go into the details, but this was a really interesting meeting.  The staff in attendance nearly filled the Jodrell Auditorium.  I was sitting with some familiar faces from my section, but I had never met most of the staff, even in passing.  The interns were really fortunate to be present and get a glimpse of what's next on the horizon at Kew.

Friday Afternoon

The Rock Garden and Alpine House
Just now, all of the interns got together for a tour of the rock garden, alpine house, and alpine nursery areas.  Although I'd walked through the rock garden a few times, the tour was packed with loads of information I would have never have gotten on my own.  For instance, Kew cultivates several species that are endangered or even extinct in their natural habitats.  The affected countries have been able to get that plant material back, that would have otherwise been lost forever, to reintroduce to the environment.  Really exciting stuff!

Thanks for reading, and check back to hear about my third week as an intern at Kew.

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 Two" on the Plante on Plants Facebook page.  "Likes", shares and comments are appreciated. 

This week's British treat of the week is steak and ale pie. Tasty!

Cleaning the Water Garden Friday afternoon.  Daisy and I are fortunate to be the only interns paired in the same area.  Photo taken by Simon.  Thanks Simon!
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 Plant List website
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew website and staff

No comments:

Post a Comment