Thursday, August 28, 2014

Week Ten

There's only one more week left in this internship with Kew.  Wow!  That's hard to believe.  This week was a short week because there was a "bank holiday" across the country on Monday.  I spent the weekend touring some really fantastic Hosta collections near Wokingham and visiting with some friends from Tennessee.

Tuesday we were back to work.  As you know, Monday is normally our edging day, and the grass had gotten a bit shaggy.  Shelley decided to have the whole lot of us tackle edging in the order beds and grass garden and get it done that morning.  Our crew was back up to seven people, because we got a new apprentice and Martin returned from paternity leave.

Daisy and I were hard at work digging
Hemerocallis in the peony border
It was a bit rainy that day, and both of our normal volunteers called in because of the poor weather.  We finished by lunch time, and then the skies opened up and began to really "chuck it down".  There just wasn't enough room for all of us to be sharpening tools in the shed that afternoon, so Daisy and I spent the rest of the day working on internship assignments from the School of Horticulture computer lab.

Nearly all of us spent the entire day Wednesday working in the peony beds.  The peony beds are large mixed borders that contain a great deal of Paeonia between the order beds and the woodland garden.  We were doing what Shelley calls a "general tidy", which means we were weeding, deadheading, and removing dead foliage and spent biennials.

Leadership Experience
Shelley used the time to encourage Beth, one of the horticulture students, to get some personnel management experience.  Beth oversaw Daisy and me for a while, which involved explaining the tasks we were needed to do, how to do them, and why they needed to be done.  My understanding was this is a normal part of the students' work experience placement, so they're not only learning how to be horticulturalists, but also leaders in horticulture.  Beth did a great job!

Dealing with Daylilies
While Daisy and I were working under Beth, I overheard Shelley and India discussing the layout of an adjacent bed.  It was interesting to hear them work through the changes they would be making to improve a few spots.  There was one section that had a huge patch of Hemerocallis flava (1998-2335, MAFA).  India and I had recently spent some time removing the dead foliage and pulling the old flower stalks.

Kew staff decided to add some
splashes of color and texture at the
corners of this bed by removing
daylily  and planting Heuchera
Shelley and India decided the area would be more attractive if there were something a bit lower and more evergreen towards the front rather than just daylilies.  Shelley later explained that something perennial and evergreen, like Heuchera, would also help control some of the soil erosion in the bed.  She pointed out the plants that they had decided to remove, gave some guidance on the method, and let us get to it.

As someone who trained in horticulture in Knoxville, Tennessee, I didn't feel that I needed a great deal of oversight on this task.  If there's one thing this Tennessee girl knows how to do, it's digging and dividing Hemerocallis.  The H. 'Stella D'Oro' craze hit our area pretty hard, which made these plants wildly popular in residential and commercial landscapes.

But Shelley wouldn't be doing her job if she just let two interns loose in the garden without more specific direction, so she walked us through the following steps.  First we removed all the old, strappy foliage so that digging would be cleaner and easier.  However, these plants would be planted elsewhere at Kew, so the second flush of new growth needed to be kept intact as much as possible.  Then we had to use our forks to maneuver the plants loose of the soil.  Shelley suggested we work a circle around the plant before digging up so that we wouldn't break the shaft.  We set the plants in a secluded area near the tool shed, then leveled the soil in the beds and swept the paths.

If there's one thing this Tennessee
girl knows how to do, it's digging
and dividing daylilies.  These will
be planted elsewhere at Kew.
Daisy and I spent the day continuing to tidy up around the order beds.  There were some plants that had "gone over", which means they were done for the year.  We cut back perennials and pulled up annuals.  There was a large Euphorbia that had completely flopped.  We cut it back to some new basal growth, and it may pluck up a bit before the end of the season. Euphorbia sap is a skin irritant, so Daisy and I wore gloves and handled the trimmed branches with care.

Tomorrow, the whole cohort of interns is heading to Wakehurst Place for the entire day.  Unfortunately I won't be able to attend.  The date of the trip had to be rescheduled, and I had already gotten nonrefundable or exchangeable train tickets to see the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh that day.  Kate and Shelley made arrangements for me to go last week, but I'm still a little bummed that I'm missing out on seeing Wakehurst with the rest of the group.

Thanks for reading, and check back to read what happens the LAST week of my internship with 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 Ten" on the Plante on Plants Facebook page.  "Likes", shares and comments are appreciated. 

This week's British treat a cup of English breakfast tea and a Hobnob biscuit. You just can't get more English than that...

Believe it or not, this is also the first cup of tea I've had in England.  Consumed reluctantly at the insistence of a coworker, this was actually quite good.  I still prefer coffee though.

All photos were taken by Amanda Plante at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew unless otherwise stated in the caption.


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