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The Winter Garden displays a diverse range of plants to dramatic visual and sensory effect.
The Winter Garden displays a diverse range of plants to dramatic visual and sensory effect.
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Trainee blogpost: working on the Alpine and Woodland section

This month, trainee Robert Bradshaw blogs about the delicate details of plant growth and his observations while working on the Alpine and Woodland section, alongside Paul Aston, Section Supervisor and his Assistant Simon Wallis.
Our seven TraineesOur seven Trainees
December 2016

The Alpine & Woodland section covers various parts of the Garden, including the Limestone and Sandstone Rock Gardens, the Alpine House, Woodland Garden, Bog Garden, as well as the areas of planting by the stream and lake. This month I’ve been working alongside Paul Aston and Simon Wallis amd together we’ve been involved in a lot of seasonal maintenance, which has included cutting back and mulching by the stream garden, and hand weeding in the rock gardens.

One of the trickier jobs at this time of year is looking after the alpines in the Glasshouse Range, and making the display inspiring when only a fraction of the collection is in flower!

The Galanthus species (snowdrops) are the plants furthest ahead in the collection and I’ve really enjoyed seeing their buds emerge. It’s a really nice moment when the bulbs start pushing through the surface and it’s given me a chance to observe them closely and look at the leaf arrangements as they emerge, which is one of the key diagnostic features to the genus. There are three different leaf arrangements for snowdrops – plicates, supervolute and applanate – and it’s these leaf arrangements which help identify which snowdrop species you are looking at. For example Galanthus nivalis (and its varieties) has leaves which are pushed together without overlapping at the ends, this is referred to as applanate. One of the Galanthus species we have growing in the Alpine section is Galanthus 'Richard Ayres' -named after the old Head Gardener at Anglesey Abbey. I’m looking forward to a trainee trip to Angelsey Abbey next year where we will get to see one of the best snowdrop collections and meet the current Head Gardener.

Another alpine I’ve enjoyed observing is Gymnospermium altaicum – I like the way it emerges as if it’s going through a hedge backwards – the stem comes out first, followed by the flower bud. All these are details I wouldn’t have normally have time to see and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to see delicate details close up and watch plants in action through all stages of growth and development.

Other jobs this month have included re-potting parts of the collection to ensure sustained, steady growth, as well as lifting and potting up specific species of Primula from the Garden. This is so that they can be used as part of an exciting new display in spring 2017, which will showcase beautiful Himalayan plants. By doing this I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the ‘drumstick primula’, or Primula denticulata. This is the most common Himalayan primula in the wild, and is just one of a vast number of species of this particular genus to be found in the Himalayas.

One of the most enjoyable tasks in this section has been the re-potting of various species from the collection. This involves inspecting each individual plant, tidying it up, providing fresh growing media and slow release fertiliser, before finally top dressing with gravel. In addition to this, our records of the plants we are working with are updated and the crucial labelling organised. By the end of this meticulous process, all of the plants look smart and are set for the year ahead.

When working in the Garden as a whole, as well as the Apline & Woodland section, it’s great to be surrounded by such a varied plant collection with species from all over the world. Every day there’s always something new to discover and I really recommend a visit to the Alpine House in particular over the next few months!

Robert Bradshaw - Alpine and Woodland
Horticultural Trainee


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Publication Date
22/12/2016