'Tis the season of seed cleaning

Weeks ago, Nick suggested I come in on a rainy day to the garden as there was lots of seed cleaning going on in the potting shed. Then it didn’t rain for three weeks. Defeated by the glorious Autumn weather we’ve had, I phoned Froggie, and asked whether I could come in to learn about seed washing…yes, that’s right, I said “washing”. I’m such an amateur! However, Froggie was kind and  refrained from laughing at me and just said, “we don’t really wash the seeds unless they have a particularly fleshy covering”.
We arranged a time for me to come in and, as it happened, it was yet another glorious sunny day. While this made for a nice bicycle commute for me, it meant that the volunteer gardeners were all out in the garden so I would be having an individual, hands-on learning experience with respect to seed cleaning.

So many envelopes

As Froggie and I entered the potting shed, she took me immediately over to a bench lined with trays in which rows of envelopes were stacked up. On the outside of each envelope is written the plant’s latin name, the family name, the year the seed was collected, which collection the plant is from, the accession number and a number that corresponds with its numbered listing in the Garden’s Index Seminum. This is a catalogue of the seeds and spores that have been collected in association with the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. This catalogue goes out annually to the Friends of the Garden, other Botanic Gardens and research institutesRequests can be made for small quantities of seed for the purposes of research, breeding, conservation and education, or by members of the Friends of the Garden (subject to certain conditions).
The Garden likes to keep three years worth of seeds, but obviously different seeds have different storage potential. Some species, such as those in the Apiaceae family, which includes celery and parsnips, are generally only viable for a year, while other seeds have been found in archaeological digs that are estimated to be thousands of years old and have remained viable (see the 2,000 year old Judean date palm as an example).
Separating the seeds of Salvia forsskaolii. 
“We’ll keep back older years from groups such as the cereals, oats and wheat, as well as beans and peas,” said Froggie, “as they will likely remain viable and it’s good to have a reserve.”
Froggie explains that with the Garden’s involvement in the Seeds of Change project, there are even more demands on their seed stores. Though schools and community groups are encouraged to collect their own seed, the Botanic Garden is sending out lots of seed to start the projects off or replenish projects where collection efforts haven’t been successful.
In the little office at the back of the potting shed there are even more trays of seeds. This is where the staff compile all the seeds that go on the Botanic Garden’s annual seed list. Now having a sense of what the end product looks like, I sense that Froggie is about to show me how much work goes into filling each of these envelopes…

Separating the seed from the chaff

Pouring the Salvia seeds into a sieve to get
rid of the chaff.
I’m shown yet more trays of envelopes – but much bigger envelopes this time – many with stems poking out the top. The gardening staff and volunteers have collected the seed heads and placed them in these envelopes ready for cleaning and this is where the work begins. Froggie picks out the first envelope, it’s Salvia forsskaolii, commonly known as Indigo woodland sage.
We sit at the table, each with a white tray nestled within a larger black tray, which I assume is to collect the seeds that catapult out beyond the borders of my white tray. Froggie doles out a few sprigs of dried plant and shows me that the best technique for this particular plant is a simple flick of the seed head to help release the seeds. I flick and my white tray is scattered in small black seeds. Easy.
With the larger unwanted bits removed, we now pour our tray contents into a sieve to clean the seeds of any smaller bits. The clean seed is then poured into a smaller envelope that is placed back into the big envelope with the remaining plant material that is yet to be cleaned. When all the plant material has been worked, Froggie will then process the seed envelope, doing and final quality control check on the seed and making sure all the information is clearly written on the envelope.  
Nigella damascena before we begin to collect the seed.
We wipe down our trays and spray an anti-static spray to ensure there is no contamination as we move on to our next species – Nigella damascena. This too requires a tapping method, though some persistent seeds need to be squeezed out. There are numerous implements on the table for crushing plant material to get at the seed, but Froggies says they try to discourage crushing as much as possible as it makes for a lot of fine chaff that is difficult to separate out later.
As we work, Froggie fields questions from the volunteer gardeners who are looking for equipment or just confirming that what they’re doing is right. As we work, Froggie relays a few stories about misguided efforts of volunteers – stories of pruning gone awry or cutting back incorrect species – she chuckles about it all and has an ‘it all grows back’ sort of attitude about it. I know Froggie no doubt has a mill
ion other things she needs to be doing, but she gives me her full attention and focus and makes me feel as though she has all the time in the world for me. She creates a calming atmosphere, which no doubt comes in very handy when coordinating the efforts of so many volunteer gardeners and teaching new skills.
What my tray looks like after I’ve removed the Nigella seeds
from the seed heads. 
There is quite a bit of fine material mixed in with the Nigella seeds and so Froggie introduces me to another technique for separating seed from chaff. She takes some newspaper and folds it in half and pours seed and fine chaff together onto the paper. Then with a motion not dissimilar from a chef tossing almonds in a skillet, she carefully tosses the seeds in the paper. The fine, lightweight chaff moves to the top of the crease in the paper, while the heavier seeds move down. She can then simply give a very gentle blow to get rid of the chaff off the top of the paper. In the end she’s left with just the clean seeds.
We start on the last one – Avena orientalis – a grass. For this seed you hold the spikelet in one hand and flick the seed out. This particular species has a lovely dark seed, so it is very clear when you’ve got it all separated. 
Froggie uses newspaper to separate the lightweight chaff
from the heavier Nigella seeds.
Not all the seed cleaning is this easy. There are dust masks as some can be particularly dusty – but the staff tend to do the really nasty seed cleaning themselves, letting volunteers do the easier ones. If this were a rainy day, there would be volunteers everywhere working on this and having a good old chat.
Looking at the stacks of envelopes, I ask Froggie when seed cleaning needs to be finished.
“We need it all complete by February at the latest,” Froggie replies. “The seed list goes out in February and people will start to put requests in. We also start sowing at the end of February, beginning of March.”

Checking the lists

Cleaned Avena orientalis seeds with the
lighter leftover spikelets in the background.

In many of my excursions to the garden, the staff have introduced me to the many lists that they keep. There is a seed sowing list, a putting the garden to bed list, and now, I have seen the seed collecting list. This is where the staff make notes against each species – for example, if a plant was too small or late to come into flower. These notes are kept year to year and so if a species is less productive in one area of the garden than another or from one year to the next, all of this information is captured.
“The list is never finished,” says Froggie. “I will just update it when something else changes.”
In years where they are unable to collect seed for a particular species, they draw upon their reserves from previous year so that it can remain on the seed list. Annuals tend to be a priority, but also shrubs. The Garden works hard to insure that there is variety on the seed list.
As a member of the Friends of the Garden myself, I now look forward to receiving the seed list next year and I will have a much better appreciation of the work that goes into collecting the seeds for each of the nearly 200 species listed.

Seeds of Change volunteers get down and dirty

Last month Alex and Rhiannon wrote about the ballast seed collection at the Botanic Garden and hinted at a new project, called “Seeds of Change: Growing a Living History of Bristol”. The Seeds of Change project provides Bristol schools and community groups with an opportunity to grow ballast seed gardens of their own and link the plants that they grow to the maritime history that is integral to Bristol’s heritage.
The partners on this project, the University of Bristol’s Centre for Public Engagement, Botanic Garden, andArnolfini have all been working hard on different aspects of the project to prepare for its launch, including developing creative workshops in partnership with artists and academics, building relationships with schools and community groups, sorting out the logistics of planting ballast seed gardens all over the city, and recruiting a troop of student volunteers to go out into the community and help build the gardens. The project is well underway and I recently joined the student volunteers on a training session at the Botanic Garden as they prepared to head out to the schools and community groups.
The day’s training covered everything from advice on how to draw out the many themes of the Seeds of Change project and managing enthusiastic school children to tips on turning soil. However, like all good training, there was a practical component that allowed the volunteers the opportunity to get their hands dirty and pick up some great tips from the staff at the Botanic Garden at the same time!

Avoiding the ‘Tom and Jerry’ style of tool storage

Botanic Garden Curator, Nick Wray
explains tool safety.
After a brief introduction to the day by Seeds of Change Coordinator Martha Crean, and Botanic Garden Curator Nick Wray, the volunteers were divided into two groups. I followed Nick’s group out to the vegetable patch where they were to practice preparing a bed and sowing seed.
After the volunteers put down their gardening tools and gathered around, Nick starts with some basic health and safety. He points to rakes left in what he refers to as the ‘Tom and Jerry’ style. I’m sure you can picture it – stand on the upturned teeth of the rake and the handle springs up to crack you in the nose in a perfectly choreographed slap-stick comedy sketch. Only it’s not slap-stick and it’s school children rather than a cartoon cat and mouse.
Nick masterfully divides and designates, showing how to handle groups by example and taking the volunteers through every step that they will need to do when they go out to their schools and community groups. The volunteers range in gardening experience and so Nick doesn’t miss a single detail, explaining how to handle the tools without breaking your back, how to prepare soil that has been turned and broken down to just the perfect particle size, and even how to clean your boots when you’re done.
There are also tips about keeping school children engaged and busy. After he uses the draw hoe to mark out a furrow in the ground that marks the border where they will be planting, Nick says, “Now, you and I can see that but a child won’t. They’ll step right over it.” As a mother, I can immediately see his point, but I wouldn’t have thought of it had he not mentioned it. He suggests that the volunteers keep the children busy by getting them to collect pebbles or sticks to lie in the furrow and mark out the planting bed. Simple, but an effective way of keeping everyone engaged with the project.
Nick even manages to work in discussions of evolution as he points out that most of the seed is dark against the soil in order to avoid predation. These are tidbits of information that I would be storing for later if I were one of the volunteers.

And in the potting shed…

Froggie works with Seeds of Change
volunteer Alex in the potting shed.

With Nick’s group all busy sowing seeds, I decide to head back to the potting shed to see what Froggie’s group is doing in the potting shed. I walk in and it’s very quiet and the volunteers are all very busy filling small pots with soil, placing the pots in large trays and using other pots to level the soil, then planting the seeds, watering and placing the trays outside.  I’ve unfortunately missed the instructional part.
Some of the community groups and schools won’t have garden space, and so they will instead be doing some container gardening with their ballast seeds. The volunteers will have to be prepared for both situations.

Student volunteers share an interest in gardening and children

For the volunteers, Seeds of Change offers a wonderful opportunity to be involved in a city wide project that ties gardening in with themes related to art, history and science, while also building their skill set and network for the future.
While there are many benefits on paper to volunteering, I decided to chat with a number of the volunteers to find out what really brought them away from their studies and research to play in the dirt on a sunny March day.
Seeds of Change volunteers sowing ballast seed in pots.

When I approached Camilla, a second year undergraduate student in Biological Sciences, she was busy breaking down clumps of dirt with a rake in the Garden’s vegetable patch. Camilla worked at the Botanic Garden last year and
really enjoyed it, so when the email about the Seeds of Change opportunity hit her Inbox she embraced the opportunity, “I was looking for something to do outside of my studies, but still related,” said Camilla. “It’s a chance to give something back while still learning.”
On the way to the potting shed, I walked with two plant ecology PhD students who are also volunteering for the project. After joking that the project would be a good distraction from their research, they admitted that it was the idea of growing gardens with children that appealed to them.
In the potting shed, Alex, a History of Art student, was busy patting down soil in little pots to provide an even surface for sowing the seeds. Alex is thinking about going into teaching and found the aspect of working with children appealing, but also comes from a family of gardeners and in her words, “is quite used to messing about in the dirt”.
For others, like Nicola, another History of Art student, it was the prospect of making contacts and working with Arnolfini that drew her into the project.

Next steps for the volunteers

Seeds of Change volunteers turning soil, preparing for
when they will help schools and community groups plant
ballast seed gardens all over Bristol.
After the day of training at the Botanic Garden, the volunteers are going out to the site location that they’ve been assigned to with Kasha Smal , who is both a horticulturalist and former primary school teacher.  Kasha has helped produce a workshop program for the Seeds of Change project directed at years 4, 5 and 6 (keystage 2). The workshop includes a 30-minute activity as well as 30-minutes of thinking about the origins of the plants and places they might know as well as uses of the plants.  Kasha will then introduce the idea of planting the ballast seed garden and introduce the volunteer.  The volunteers will take the opportunity to assess what the garden situation is – pots versus a plot, well-worked soil versus needs some work, tools on hand.
After the introductory session, the volunteers will return to their groups on their own and plant the gardens.  Then, a few weeks later, they will do a follow-up session to see how things are getting on and maybe take the opportunity to talk more about the plants that have germinated and link them to the themes of the Seeds of Change project.

Ballast seed garden is only one strand of the project

The project is ambitious. Gardening is only one component of the project as each of these groups will also do a creative workshop alongside the ballast seed garden. There are three workshops to choose from and each one combines an artist and an academic working on some aspect of the Seeds of Change project. When Martha explained each of the workshops to me, the one that caught my attention investigates the sounds of plants and involves a sound artist as well as a scientist. The idea is to explore the sounds you hear when you put a microphone up to a plant and investigate the biological processes that underlie those sounds.  That is most certainly the subject of a future blog post!

There will be a website that will be associated with the Seeds of Change project, and each of the 16 ballast seed gardens being built around the city will have a page within that website with pictures and anecdotes documenting their experiences. I’ll be sure to follow how the project is progressing and report back with news of how the volunteers are getting on.

The Seeds of Change project is still in need of some volunteers, so if you’re interested, please contact Martha Crean at 0117 33 18313 or martha.crean@bristol.ac.uk.

Volunteers in the spotlight

This is my first day visiting the garden on a Tuesday. It’s a whole new set of faces around the coffee table as each day of the week brings with it a new set of volunteer gardeners at the Botanic Garden.  I’ve brought some home-made cookies – a sort of bribe or peace offering I suppose. You see, I want to drag a few of these lovely volunteers away from their work for a few minutes to ask them about what motivates them to keep coming back to the garden, donating their precious time, week after week, year after year.
Colin Bolton has been a volunteer gardener for nearly
ten years.

After some discussion around the coffee table, Colin Bolton becomes my first volunteer interviewee. I’m not entirely sure he has actually volunteered himself…it rather seems that his fellow volunteers around the table have ‘volunteered’ him. He’s willing to go with the flow though.

Colin has been a volunteer gardener at the Botanic Garden for nearly ten years, coming in one morning a week. He is a chemist by training and is a retired lecturer from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Medicine. He heard about the opportunity to volunteer through his son Mark Bolton, who is a well-known garden and flower photographer and has worked with a number of people in the Botanic Garden for various projects. Colin thought he would give volunteer gardening a go.
However, immediately before he was about to start, Colin was struck with meningitis and was very seriously ill in hospital for about six weeks.
“The medical staff were amazed that I came out of hospital, I was so ill,” Colin tells me. “I began volunteering for the garden right after that as a bit of therapy.”
For Colin, it seems to be the people in the Garden that he works with that have kept him coming back all these years.
“They are such nice people to work with and it’s lovely to work with people who know what they’re doing. They’re good teachers and everyone is very friendly, right from Nick [the curator] downwards.”
Colin began volunteering a couple of years before the Garden moved locations and he recalls the move well.
“The move was quite a performance…moving so many plants that were really well established. I can still remember seeing Andy digging around the roots of a really well established tree. He was digging down six feet and across just as much.”
When I ask him whether he was a big gardener before volunteering here, Colin tells me that he and his wife do have a fair size garden at home. He claims that his wife is really the creative genius in their own garden though. Then with a smile on his face, he describes his role as the unpaid labourer.
Judith Moore (second from the left) started her own
gardening business after she became a
volunteer gardener.
Next, I head off to find Judith Moore. She is sweeping leaves with a few of the other volunteer gardeners, Judy, Zaria and Marion, and I can hear the laughter and chatter long before I spot them.
Judith began volunteering as a gardener just after the garden had moved. She was a social worker and found herself between jobs and looking for something to do. Having visited the Garden at the old site quite a lot, Judith felt quite an attachment to it. She had always had an interest in gardening, so she began volunteering one morning a week. That was over seven years ago.
Volunteering in the Garden inspired Judith to start her own business and become a self-employed gardener, which she’s been doing now for about six years.
“I’d never thought about doing paid work as a gardener, but being here made me think about it. It just made me think, ‘well yeah, I could do this’. So I did.”
Judith completed horticulture training courses through the Royal Horticultural Society at the Botanic Garden and spoke to me about many of the other benefits she receives being a volunteer gardener: “It’s a fantastic network here. [The Botanic Garden] is a source of lots of things – information and ideas, but also work.”
People often phone the Botanic Garden inquiring about gardeners and they refer them to Judith. She’s acquired two of her clients this way. But, it’s more than this that has kept Judith coming back over the years.
“I’m sure everyone will say this to you, but the paid gardeners here are such nice people. Day to day it is just such a pleasant environment to be in, but also you feel that they’re all very supportive of us.”
When I point out that Judith’s volunteering commitment means hours that she can’t put toward building her business and her paid work, she simply replies, “I think that highlights how good it is coming here, because I really didn’t want to stop this connection. It sort of feeds you.” 
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Iris unguicularis in bloom in the garden on January 15th.
Before I leave, I take a whirl around the garden to see what’s going on. There are some irises in bloom, which offer a beautiful splash of colour against the winter back drop and I stop to take a photograph. I run into Martin Webb who is working hard. Martin and his wife Carole started volunteering with the Botanic Garden about seven years ago, when it moved to its current location. Like many of the volunteers, Martin and Carole span the different groups of volunteers and are volunteer gardeners, volunteer guides and are also very involved with The Friends.
“ We’ve seen the garden grow up in this location,” says Martin, “which means that from a gardening point of view you feel as though you own a little bit of it because you can say, ‘I did that’ or ‘I helped with this’. It also helps with
the guiding because when people ask questions you can tell them an anecdote because you know where things have come from and how things used to look before.”
Martin immediately slips into his role as a guide without knowing it and points to an area beyond where we’re standing and starts drawing upon his anecdotes: “When we first came, all of this wasn’t planted and you had to take your cue from Nick, who painted a picture of what things were going to look like and then we had to try and see what he was seeing.”
Martin enjoys being on the interface between the garden and those who come to take pleasure in it. He and Carole both give tours for both adults and children and he spends some time telling me about how touring children about the garden requires completely different techniques.
“You get them to pick up a few leaves and have a look at them – some are glossy, some are prickly, some are waxy, some are furry – and you get them to have a feel. We talk about why the leaves are different and we basically have a mini botany lesson.”
Martin Webb is both a volunteer gardener
and a volunteer guide.
Martin says that the worst fear among the volunteer guides is that they will be asked a question they can’t answer. However, he claims that almost never happens.
“Even if they’re a very well informed group, you can always explain things in the context of this garden and what’s going on here. A good disclaimer is to just say up front that you are a keen amateur and encourage others within the group that might be more knowledgeable about specific areas to speak up and share their knowledge.
“In the end, you usually come off a tour on a bit of a high because you feel as though people have appreciated it, asked good questions and learned something.”
Martin and Carole decided to start volunteering after they retired. They were looking for something to do together and they were both interested in gardening and seven years later they are both very involved volunteers at the Garden. Martin pauses just long enough for me to take a picture of him in the winter sunshine before heading back to work.
So there you have it – a few of the stories behind the volunteers who are so integral to the Botanic Garden. I’m sure that every volunteer at the garden has a different reason for why they started volunteering and a unique motivation that keeps them coming back. However, as an observer, watching them work away on a cold winter day, I can safely say that all the volunteers look happy doing what they’re doing. And quite frankly, there’s a lot to be said about being somewhere that brings you happiness.   

Love, hard work and a lot of volunteers…that’s what makes the garden grow

Two weeks ago when I was at the Botanic Garden learning about the tremendous amount of work involved in putting the garden to bed, I was invited to join the team for morning tea. Of course, I leaped at the opportunity to warm my hands and to meet some of the other staff and volunteers. It was a Friday and there were about 8 or 9 of us sitting around the table. After introductions were done it took no time at all for the conversation to return to a friendly banter that put me in mind of a family gathering. It was all very insightful. There was talk of books, movies, a case of being mistaken for a celebrity, the perils of driving an E-Type Jag with a heavy foot, and cakes…there was lots of talk about cakes. You see, it would seem that as well as all the other things the volunteers do at the Botanic Garden, many of them can also bake a mean cake.
Volunteers helping at a fundraising event.

However, one of the most interesting things I learned that day was that some volunteers have been with the University of Bristol Botanic Garden for more than 20 years. That’s an impressive retention rate even for paid staff, let alone volunteers. I had to find out more about the role of volunteers in the Garden and the ethos that manages to cultivate such loyalty.

First, some history…
Volunteers have been a part of the culture of the Botanic Garden for a very long time. There’s photographic evidence of their role dating back to 1970 and when curator Nick Wray joined the garden permanently in 1984 there were a handful of volunteers.
However, in 2002, when it became clear that the garden was going to move location, the volunteer numbers grew dramatically.
“We needed to increase the number of people to help us prepare for the move,” said Nick, “to propagate plants, lift and care for plants. It was clear to me that we were going to end up with thousands and thousands of plants in pots, bags and sacks. Just the shear job of watering in dry weather was going to take a vast amount of time.”
So, with one advertisement in the Friends of the Botanic Garden newsletter, the volunteer numbers grew from a dozen to twenty-one.  Those volunteer gardeners assisted with the preparation of the move as well as carrying out the move itself. It was four years of preparation and eight months of driving back and forth between the two sites to move 12,500 plants, all during a drought year. Volunteers supported all of it.
Volunteers planting on the ballast seed garden barge.
Where are we today?
Today, volunteers at the Garden take on any number of roles and often multiple roles, though gardening is still the most popular. There are currently between 41 and 43 volunteer gardeners working each week, which will probably drop to about 35 in the depth of winter. However, by next Easter there will be a four month waiting list of ready and eager volunteer gardeners, looking for the opportunity to get their hands dirty.
Besides volunteer gardeners there are about 30 volunteer guides who have completed a 10-session training program, which gives them the knowledge and confidence to guide groups around the garden. This training alternates each year and so the Garden will be recruiting and training a new set of volunteer guides in 2013.
There’s also a dedicated group of volunteers that welcome visitors to the Garden. They run the welcome lodge where they hand out leaflets, let people know what’s going on, what’s relevant for their visit in the garden that day and collect the small administration fee. They are on the front-line if you will and are the friendly faces that welcome and point people in the right direction at events throughout the year. There are about 35 people on the welcome lodge roster. 
So, by my count that makes over 100 volunteers and I haven’t even mentioned the volunteers that help in the office, mail out newsletters, distribute leaflets through doors, fundraise, work on plant records, tweet on Twitter…the list goes on!  Whatever the exact number, it is certainly more than a handful. 
To provide some perspective, there are ten paid employees, which equate to seven full time equivalents at the Botanic Garden. They are vastly outnumbered by their volunteers. This clearly has the potential of being a management nightmare. However, whether it’s the quality of the volunteers, the skills of the staff or some combination of both, it all seems to run very smoothly.
Creating the right culture
From an outsider’s perspective there seems to be a few key ways in which the Garden has created a culture that nurtures the growth and retention of volunteers:
  •          Every job is important – This philosophy seems to be instilled throughout the Garden team. Basically it doesn’t matter what people do, from washing pots to propagating plants, it’s all equally important in the bigger scheme of things because it all needs to get done. This is also reflected in the distribution of work, with everyone having their share of the monotonous as well as the exciting.  
  •            Self-sufficiency and autonomy are supported– Many of the experienced volunteers mentor those that are less experienced. The volunteer guides and welcome lodge volunteers are coordinated by the volunteers themselves, which shifts the responsibility of day-to-day management away from paid staff and gives the volunteers some autonomy as well as additional responsibility.
  •          Confidence is instilled through training – Whether the volunteers are pruning, or touring a group of enthusiastic gardeners about the garden, the staff at the Botanic Garden have put in place practices that give the volunteers the skills they need to be confident in what they do. This
    also means having the flexibility to let people learn through their own mistakes. Nicola Rathbone, better known as Froggie, manages the volunteer gardeners on a day to day basis and was telling me about her approach to providing instruction on pruning. She gives a summary that makes clear what needs to be done, but with enough flexibility that the volunteers have to exercise their own judgement and creativity, which helps them develop their own skills. She said, “Things always grow back. It’s more important that the volunteers are reassured about what they’re doing.”
  •          Volunteers are valued – If you read last week’s post you’ll know that Andy Winfield claimed that without volunteers he’d be curled up exhausted in a corner of a mud heap somewhere. This attitude seems to be shared among all the staff I spoke to. Nick said, “They are the life blood of what goes on here. We simply couldn’t operate without them.”  

Why do they keep coming back?
So what keeps someone coming back at their own expense, on their own time, week after week, year after year?  I asked Froggie what she thought kept the volunteers coming back.  Her reply, “It’s a family. The volunteers are part of this big team and we’re all working towards the same goal. The volunteers are amazing and they look after us, as much as we look after them.”
The notion of a team of employees and volunteers being a family is often rhetoric rather than reality. However, sitting around that table for tea, I couldn’t differentiate between staff and volunteer – everyone was equal – and everyone felt like family.
Of course to really understand why people commit so much of their time to volunteering, you really need to ask the volunteers themselves, which I intend to do for my next post. Besides, I need an excuse to go back and try some of those cakes everyone was talking about!
If you are interested in volunteering with the Botanic Garden, please click here, however, be aware that there is already a waiting list for volunteer gardeners.