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

Trainee Graham Hale blogs about his month spent working on the Garden's Experimental Section alongside Section Supervisor Pete Michna and his assistant Katie Martyr...
March 2017

The work carried out by the Experimental Section is varied and includes providing and caring for various plant materials for use in research and teaching. These materials may be outside e.g. the National Collections of Lavenders and Geraniums used mainly in taxonomic research, or inside in the dedicated Experimental glasshouses where the way plants function is investigated.

Work for the trainee on section in the glasshouses involves daily tasks such as watering, feeding and looking for signs of pests and diseases. Dead material is removed from plants and the houses are kept clean and tidy to minimise infestations, but when detected the appropriate treatment must be carried out. Treatment varies but may include spraying with a suitable fungicide or pesticide, or use of biological controls where predator insects control the pests. The environment in the glasshouses is computer controlled, with heating, ventilation and humidity being continuously varied to provide the best possible conditions in each house and an overview of the basics and how to monitor the system is included in the training. The trainee is responsible for 2 houses where tomatoes are the main plants being grown and all aspects of their care and monitoring of environmental conditions is part of the daily routine. It has been rewarding to take ownership of this area for a short time and with the support of supervisor Pete Michna and assistant supervisor Katie Sarll, I have gained invaluable experience in glasshouse management and grown in confidence, particularly in the identification of pests and diseases.

Outside in the garden, as well as maintaining National Collections, the Experimental Section is responsible for the Understanding Plants area. Here, plantings aim to reflect the work being done by researchers with interpretation boards being provided to explain the nature and purpose of their work to visitors. This month, work on the area has involved mowing and preparing beds for planting by tidying perennials, weeding, digging over and edging. Work has also been done on the Cory Lodge Borders with weeding and edging as well as moving plants away from the edges to prevent overhang on the lawns which damages the grass and makes mowing more difficult.

Other areas which the section is responsible for include the Fen Display and the Ecological Mound and also the research plots where crops are grown for use in studies. The section is also responsible for taking daily readings from the onsite weather station which are then provided to the Meteorological Office. Various instruments provide readings such as rainfall, minimum temperature at ground level and various levels below the surface. Other readings captured include visibility, cloud cover and wind direction.

It has been a great month working on the section with varied work and Pete and Katie always willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Graham Hale - Experimental
Horticultural Trainee


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Publication Date
31/03/2017