4 Rhag 2014

An acute case of Gardener’s Tap

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

By Rebecca (aka Dave), December 3, 2014

Welcome to my second blog post. I am enjoying writing these, especially as it is encouraging me to be more observant, rather than just concentrating on the job in hand. By being more attentive I am also expanding my plant knowledge.

As I age (not necessarily gracefully), I have come to learn quite a few things about myself. The biggest shock (or maybe this shouldn’t be the case) is that I am turning into my father! Not only do I sport the ‘family nose’, I have also developed his terrible sense of humour.

I have reminded myself of this over the course of the past week as the weather has turned colder and I have now joined the outside team. The reason this springs to mind is that, as I am bending over to weed and dig, I have developed an annoying case of Gardener’s Tap.

A couple of years back, when I was applying for my horticultural traineeship, I was invited to attend an interview in London. As I sat in front of the panel of three experienced head gardeners, I was asked whether I had any medical issues that may affect my ability to work in a garden. I gave my answer without hesitation: that I suffered acutely from Gardener’s Nose. Upon being met by three bemused faces, I explained this meant that, whether it was hot or cold, dry or rainy, my nose would run regardless.

Perhaps daft humour was not appropriate when trying to sell myself to an interview panel but, thankfully, they still saw the potential in me and offered me the amazing opportunity to participate in this training.

The recent weather has increased my nasal activity but I spent last week working in the Great Glasshouse. One of my last jobs was to plant some Gladiolus priorii and Moraea polystachya. Both plants are in the Iridaceae family and both are providing some more amazing early winter colour in our South African region of the Great Glasshouse.

The photo is of the Gladiolus priorii in all its glory in the Great Glasshouse.

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On Friday evening, I returned to the Garden to visit the Star Party, which was organised by the Swansea Astronomical Society. It was a fabulous opportunity to learn about the night skies and to have a glance through some powerful telescopes. The skies around the Garden are so beautifully clear and my jaw dropped as I was able to see the detail and craters on the moon. There will be another Star Party on Friday February 27, so I shall keep my fingers crossed for another fabulously clear night.

As the weekend came and went, I started this week by joining the outside team for my three-month stint in the wider Garden. I have begun by working in the Double Walled Garden. There is obviously a lot of cutting back and clearing to do now that the weather is changing but I was pleasantly surprised at how many flowering plants are still to be seen.

My attention was firstly grabbed by the Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’ growing up against the south-facing wall.

[nggallery id=663] This plant is in the Solanaceae family, which makes it related to the potato and tomato, and this is apparent by closer inspection of the flowers. When I first encountered this plant, I made the common mistake of assuming it was a Clematis, due to its climbing nature. However, once you examine the flowers, you will clearly be able to see the similarities with the humble spud.

Other beautiful flowers out in the Walled Garden at the moment are the Viburnum farreri ‘Nanum’, which produces scented, delicate pink-tinged white flowers on bare stems in late autumn and in mild winter weather; and Chaenomeles x superba ‘Pink Lady’ (commonly known as Japanese Quince), which is just beginning to break into bud now and looks rather promising. It is said to produce flowers early in the year so it seems a little unusual that the buds are beginning to break now. Only time will tell whether they will survive a cold Welsh winter.

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Although many of the plants are now dying back for the winter, many of these can provide some interesting architectural structure to the garden.

The Cynara cardunculus (commonly known as ‘Cardoon’) towers elegantly over the beds; while the selection of Eryngium variifolium look stunning in the morning frosts as the sunlight catches the crystals.

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While working outside I have also become quickly acquainted with the vast number of birds frequenting the Double Walled Garden. My colleagues inform me that the birds in there are the tamest within the whole Garden, and this claim was supported when a robin came within six inches of my knee while I was kneeling down to weed.

The robins, blackbirds, and dunnock/hedgesparrows seem to be the friendliest and most commonly seen, and my colleague encouraged me to learn more of the birds as the relationship between gardeners and wildlife in the garden is a valuable and varied one.