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Last two months as an AGS trainee

September 29, 2022

The last two months of the AGS traineeship are now over and here are some of the things I got up to

Weeding in the alpine areas and across the rock garden and woodland garden is a never-ending job. The troughs in the Alpine Yard were in urgent need of attention; weeding and thinning plants out that were spreading into others. This was a very satisfying job as you can see in one of the before and after shots.

John Mitchell and I went to visit two amazing growers and their gardens, Ian Christie and Cyril Lafong. Two names which I’m sure many of you are familiar with. It was truly inspiring to see how easy they can grow tricky and unusual alpine plants. Both their collections were impressive, which is no surprise given how great their plants always look on the show benches.

During the last two months I also managed to get over to Logan Botanic Garden for a visit. With its diverse, subtropical plant collection, this is a garden that doesn’t feel like Scotland at all. I was lucky enough to be able to spend the night on site, in the student accommodation. I had the garden to myself for the evening, and it was hard not to camp out surrounded by the plants!

Logan Botanic Garden

Logan Botanic Garden

On route back from Logan, I visited Cally Gardens and National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden. Cally was my favourite of the two because of its ecological and wildlife-promoting approach to horticulture. Kevin, the owner, was very kind with his time and spoke to me for a while about the plants and plans there. I came away feeling positive and hopeful for the future of our plants and wildlife. I do hope I can go back there one day to visit or volunteer.

Back at Edinburgh, I got to do something a bit different and help Scott with some dry stone walling. We built a new outdoor plunge bed – this is for plants from the collection that need full shade, such as Hepaticas.

Outdoor plunge bed for Hepaticas at Edinburgh

Over the summer, on a trip with Kirsty and a couple of RBGE students, I also managed to visit the grand and atmospheric Benmore Botanic Garden for the day. This was the last of the RBGE partner gardens I hadn’t seen yet.

A visit to Kevock Nurseries was also squeezed in before the end of my time at Edinburgh. It was a real treat to see behind the scenes, and I was impressed by the scale of everything that they do there.

One of my favourite things during the AGS traineeship was being involved in monitoring Cicerbita alpina in the wild. I had to travel to two different sites to record and monitor mass plantings of this species. Using a range of equipment, from the Gandalf-like staff that triangulates the coordinates of each plant to tape measures, meant there was always a fun but important role to be had in the recording process. Getting to be a part of this monitoring felt so rewarding. It is something that I would definitely like to do more in the future, especially as reinstating native flora is so important for both wildlife and plant biodiversity.

Cicerbita alpina

I was really glad to be a part of the building of a new tufa bed. It was laid out using different sizes of tufa. The team aimed to create a natural looking landscape on one of the new, undercover plunge beds. This will house duplicates from the collection of potted Dionysias in the cushion house. Once cleaned with a pressure washer, setting the different sized tufa pieces was really insightful and fun. My favourite part was definitely getting to plant lots of one of my favourite genera, Dionysia, into the newly-constructed bed.

Repotting bulbs, along with the usual watering in the high heat, were the main tasks of my final month at RBGE. This brought back memories from a year ago when I started my traineeship at RHS Harlow Carr. Now, I had the chance to repot lots of different species of Crocus, Colchicum, Sternbergia, and Galanthus. Repotting bulbs is a very satisfying task despite having to check for narcissus fly larvae which were amongst some of the bulbs.

Repotting bulbs

Overall, I would like to thank the team at RBGE for looking after me and to the AGS for providing the opportunity to spend a year specialising in these magical plants.

Ed. During their last few months at RBGE, Bertie successfully applied for a position at RHS Harlow Carr in the Alpine Department. They will start work at the beginning of October 2022. We want to wish Bertie good luck and a great career, working with alpine plants.