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March highlights

April 1, 2022
Bertie Swainston on a visit to Haweswater

AGS Trainee, Bertie Swainston on a visit to RSPB Haweswater

At the start of March, I had the pleasure of visiting RSPB Haweswater for a couple of days. Jo, the Tree Nursery Officer, gave me a scenic tour of some of the surrounding areas that they look after. It was really inspiring to hear about the work they are doing, especially growing and re-establishing of the native flora.

The development of the nursery is ongoing, but already so much has been achieved in a short space of time. I enjoyed seeing some of the juniper seedlings beginning to germinate in the sturdy, animal-proof seed frames and thinking of the future of when they’ll be big enough to be planted out! During my visit I also helped Jo to plant up some young, small birch trees in the tree nursery frames for them to grow on.

At the start of March I also took part in Young Horticulturist of the Year – Northern Branch Regional Final.

This was held back at RHS Garden Harlow Carr on a sunny Saturday. It was really nice to see some friendly, familiar faces along with new ones at the event. I was very happy to receive the Derek Hargreaves Memorial Award for the highest score in the plant, pests, diseases, and weed identification round, and to achieve second place in the final. Not bad for my chance of being young enough to take part!

The main event this month, was of course the start of my placement at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

In the Rock Garden here, I had the chance to help the team with lifting, dividing, and replanting different Galanthus bulbs. This was due as some clumps were becoming congested. Other areas in the garden were planted with spare bulbs – despite the showers this was great fun!

Dividing snowdrops on the rock garden

One of the main tasks in the alpine department has been repotting a lot of the Saxifrages, Primulas and other pot-grown species in order to rid of the pesky vine weevils. Once removed from their old pots, the roots had to be thoroughly inspected in order to fish out any over-wintering vine weevil larvae that might have be lurking. I also helped pot on young plants that had started to outgrow their pots.

Repotting Saxifrages

With the surprising heat we’ve had, I’ve also been doing various bits of watering of the behind-the-scenes collections as well as the alpine display frames. Weeding and clearing has been another task; keeping the landscaped tufa beds, crevice garden, and troughs looking tidy.

I’ve also got to help out in the alpine display house. Every Friday morning, before the public arrives the display house planting is updated. It was great fun getting to help pick out the best of the plants behind-the-scenes and get them into the sand plunge for the visitors to enjoy.


At the end of the month, I attended the joint AGS/SRGC show at Hexham which had so many fantastic plants on display. There were also many alpines for sale by  nurseries and on the members’ stall. It was great to finally meet knowledgeable people in a face-to-face environment too!