Latest News

Next meeting

FOBS Christmas Social - Tuesday 11 December at 11 am

Mike Thewles will give a PowerPoint presentation of FOBS activities throughout the year. Members are asked to bring a variety of treats (both savoury & sweet) to share. Please note the later start time.

Volunteer Appreciation Day - 19 December 2018

After the gardening session mince pies and hot drinks will be served at 12 noon to all our wonderful volunteers. Just a small way of saying thank you for all your efforts to keep the Gardens looking beautiful. This will be the last working day of the year.
Volunteer sessions for 2019 will start on Wednesday 9 January with a short meeting in the Education Centre to discuss health & safety issues, followed by a tour of the Gardens when plans for 2019 will be explained. First working day will be 16 January - weather permitting.

FOBS Christmas cards now on sale (posted 29 October 2018)

FOBS Xmas card1
Reproduction of an original vintage watercolour
©Andrew Shorthouse ARBSA
FOBS Xmas card2

©Alison Gregg
All proceeds go to support the Sheffield Botanical Gardens.
In addition to sales by FOBS at meetings and events,
the cards may also be purchased at the following outlets:

Progress on 'Early Wins' Projects - 25 October 2018

The second round of 'Early Wins' projects have been agreed with the City Council' Park's Deparment and are being tackled this autumn/winter. Work has started with ground clearance, prior to replanting. These activities are being carried out in advance of a more strategic plan for the whole of the Gardens and were suggested, supported and partly paid for by FOBS.

AGM Bed 1 - R Egglestone
AGM Bed 1
©R. Egglestone, 25 October 2018
Lucombe Oak - R Egglestone
Lucombe Oak, West Lawn
©R. Egglestone, 25 October 2018
Osborns Field - R Egglestone
South African Bed, Osborn's Field
©R. Egglestone, 25 October 2018
Behind Victorian Bedding - R Egglestone
Behind Victorian Bedding, downhill from the Curator's House
©R. Egglestone, 25 October 2018
Lucombe Oak - R Egglestone
Dorothy Fox Education Centre steps
©R. Egglestone, 25 October 2018

Planting out the new 'Crevice Beds' in the Marnock garden - 10 October 2018

The Friends are working with the Parks Service on a series of projects to improve the Botanical Gardens, where we are providing horticultural knowledge, volunteer support and funds. One of the projects is the creation of a new Crevice Bed to display choice alpine plants, replacing the overgrown and dangerous little pond in the Marnock Garden. Tiny plants have been installed in cracks in the rocks over the past few days, with expert help from the Alpine Plant Centre in Calver, and will now gradually mature.

Crevice beds - J Dykes
©J Dykes, 10 October 2018
Crevice beds - J Sinclair
©J Sinclair, 21 October 2018
Crevice beds - J Sinclair
©J Sinclair, 21 October 2018

Repton and Horticulture conference

Repton conference

FOBS and the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield organised a two-day conference in September to examine Reptonian and late Georgian horticulture. The event included talks from a panel of national and international garden history experts, plus a private tour of the nearby Repton landscape at Wentworth Woodhouse.
The conference was extremely well attended and much appreciated.

Day trip to Burton Agnes - 26 July

Burton Agnes
Burton Agnes
Burton Agnes

Local garden Visit - 14 July

Local Sheffield Garden
Local Sheffield Garden
Local Sheffield Garden

Day Trip to Trentham Gardens - 31 May 2018

Local Sheffield Garden

Juliet Sargeant - 12 March 2018

A very well attended meeting with Juliet talking about her Chelsea gold medal garden

juliet & jill
It was also an opportunity for FOBS members to get tips from the expert juliet

Tour Guide training day - 14 March 2018

The tour guides and assistants, the latter affectionately known as 'sheepdogs', met over tea and a quick packed-lunch in the Education Centre to discuss the programme for the year with organiser, Kay Keeton. 16 tours have been confirmed with a potential total of around 500 visitors expected to date, one had already taken place. Responsibility for the individual tours was duly allocated.
All photos ©A. Hunter, except where noted.

Acacia baileyana
Acacia baileyana
Curator, Ian Turner, then led the team on a tour of the Gardens pointing out new developments and area of particular interest to our visitors.
Acacia baileyana is a native of Australia, but seems to be doing very well here in Sheffield. The recent cold weather has resulted in the browning of a few leaves, but the tree has been flowering over the last couple of months. It has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS and can be seen in the AGM bed, near the gate leading to the Education Centre.
Ian explained that in the past A. baileyana had been confused with A. dealbata, nurseries had mixed up the two species and even the RHS had occasionally got them wrong. However, A. baileyana grew into a broad spreading tree, whereas A. dealbata was much more upright in habit. He used this example to ask the tour guides to help with the Gardens' database. If any visitor queried a plant label, please notify him or the staff member in charge of the database, so that details could be checked.
Marnock Garden
Marnock Garden
Marnock Garden
Marnock Garden
The central bed in the Robert Marnock Garden has now been totally cleared of tree roots and thoroughly dug over. It will be left for new growth to come through before being cleared again. The wall will be repaired and a scree garden installed. It will be replanted with alpines and small perennials.
Cercis siliquastrum
Cercis siliquastrum FOBS Archives
Rock Garden
Cercis siliquastrum
Cercis siliquastrum FOBS Archives
Rock Garden
One obvious absence in the Rock Garden was the beautiful 'Judas Tree', Cercis siliquastrum, always a favourite with our visitors when in full bloom. One of this winter's casualties, it fell over and had to be cut down to leave the stump and perhaps it will regenerate by suckering.
Rock Garden
Ground cleared except for spring flowers
Rock Garden
Work is ongoing in the Rock Garden to try to eradicate the horsetails. The spring bulbs are now through and will be transplanted to other areas. After clearing, the ground will be treated with glyphosate, it will not be an easy task as Equisetum is a highly resilient plant.

In the Victorian Garden, research has shown that the path from the café follows the plan laid out by Robert Marnock. In order to deter visitors from taking a short-cut, a small knee-high fence will be installed and the area around the holly will be planted up with low growing plants.
Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'
Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'
Victorian Garden
A new flagpole has been erected on Birch Hill to display the Green Flag, an award which recognises well-maintained parks and gardens throughout the country. Sheffield Botanical Gardens first received the award in 2007 and has maintained the standard ever since.
This is also a reminder of the historic past, there was a flagpole on Birch Hill depicted in the frontispiece of our third curator's catalogue of plants in the Gardens published in 1849.
Flagpole on Birch Hill
New Flagpole erected 2018
Birch Hill
Flagpole on Birch Hill 1849
Detail from John Law's 1849 Catalogue
FOBS Archives
Psoralea pinnata
Psoralea pinnata (left) in a sorry state
South African Bed
Mediterranean Climate Garden
The cold, wet weather we have endured since January has taken its toll on some of the tender plants in this area, most notably the Psoralea pinnata or South African Fountain Bush. As the plant has had several years to develop a good root system, it will be cut to the ground to see if it might rejuvenate from the base.
The echiums in the Mediterranean bed have also suffered damage - it is a case of wait and see if they will recover as they are biennials and were due to flower this summer.
On the other hand, the plants in the Australian section have done well, the Banksia marginata, Correa 'Marian's Marvel' and Acacia dealbata survived intact, but the Acacia longifolia leaves were somewhat brown.
It seems that the microclimate of this area did offer protection, the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) and the Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis), also survived unscathed.
Echiums, Mediterranean Garden
Wollemi Pine 2010
Wollemia nobilis 2010
Wollemi Pine 2018
Wollemia nobilis 2018
The Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) is regarded as a living fossil, like the ginkgo, as it was known first from fossil records. The living plant was only discovered in 1994 in a deep canyon in New South Wales, Australia. The same plant may produce both male and female cones. The specimen in Sheffield was nurtured by FOBS volunteer, John Stirling and planted out in 2010. Its growth since then can be measured relative to the Giant Redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum, in the Evolution Gardens
Puddle between the Prairie Garden and Woodland
Looking west along the Long Border
1889 Lake
Marnock's Pond
In same place - detail from
Ordnance Survey map 1889
Robert Marnock, the Gardens' first Curator, took advantage of this natural low drainage spot to create a large pond, complete with a 'rustic' wooden bridge. This area always floods in wet weather and the drain gets blocked with silt washed down from the rest of the gardens.

It was also noted that the Prairie Garden had already been burnt off to deter weeds and allow the perennial plants to emerge once the weather warms up!

Wednesday Morning Volunteers - Curator's Briefing Day 10 January 2018

Ian Turner started the meeting in the Education Centre by expressing his appreciation for the work done by volunteers. The Wednesday morning session group amassed 3276 hours of work in 2017, only 6 hours short of the previous record set in 2016 – however, the number of volunteers who had attended throughout the year marked a new record of 99 individuals. The highest attendance on any one day had been 44 and the lowest 6 on an extremely wet day. The hours worked could be compared to that of two full-time gardeners and represented a huge contribution to the maintenance of the Gardens. In addition to the Wednesday morning group, there are many other volunteers who carry out research and work in other ways to support the Gardens

He was pleased to announce that Lindsay Berry, head gardener at Ordsall Hall in Salford had been offered the job as Head Gardener, and would let us know when a starting date had been agreed.

In his annual health and safety message, he stressed the importance of risk assessment – no harder than crossing the road. Take care of yourself, be aware of personal limitation and if in doubt - don’t do it. This was relevant for lifting, digging, choice of appropriate tools, working in a tidy manner and considering the other people around – a major cause of accidents was tripping over tools or debris left lying around. Just a reminder not to fill the dumpy bags too full so the garden staff were unable to lift them onto the truck.

The tour started in the Nursery area where a new path had just been tarmacked. There were plans to reconstruct the compost heaps so that they would have a concrete base to enable easier access and turn over, and that it was hoped a reduction in bin area would enable higher temperatures to be achieved. Not all weed seeds were being killed in the present circumstances and he asked that all pernicious weeds, such as bindweed, be put in the rubbish bins and not in the dumpy bags.

Volunteer Briefing
Compost heaps, ©A. Hunter

Next was the Marnock Garden where a large pine tree had been removed, thus allowing more light into the area. The next project here was to clear, renew and replant the gravel beds.

Volunteer Briefing
Marnock Garden, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Osborn Field, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Rock Garden, ©A. Hunter

Moving on to Osborn’s Field, a large area had been cleared in order to create a new bed for the Weigela species display. As the Gardens are the home of the National Collection of weigelas, it was desired to demonstrate the original 10 species individually, so as to compare the characteristics that have been used to create the wide range of hybrid cultivars displayed nearby along the edge of the East lawn. The Rock Garden is infested with the highly resilient Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) or Mare’s Tail. The plan is to clear the area of desirable plants, which means waiting for the spring bulbs to come up before removal. It is then proposed to let the ground lie fallow and treat with glyphosate until the weed is defeated. It is not usual practice in the Gardens to use chemicals but in this case there is no other remedy.

The pathway from the café to around the base of the large beech tree, needs to be redesigned as people are taking short cuts across planted areas around the Victorian beds.

Ian picked a small flower from the Prunus ‘Autumnale’ tree near the top of the east lawn and showed us that it had no stalk. This tree will flower from October to March – however, he had observed that in the later flush of blooms the flowers do have stalks.

Volunteer Briefing
Entrance Area, ©A. Hunter

At the Himalayan Garden, a huge ash tree that had become unstable had been removed, opening up the area to light. Eric Lee, volunteer manager in charge of that section, asked if an information board explaining that significance of the Himalayan Garden could be erected. Volunteer Briefing
Himalayan Garden, ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©A. Hunter

In the Mediterranean Garden, the acacias and banksias are flowering beautifully. It is a source of amazement that such plants have done so well in Sheffield since planting in 2013. There is still the concern that a really cold and prolonged hard winter would kill many of these plants, but up to now they have survived to surprise and delight visitors. Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©A. Hunter

Removal of a large yew opened up the view of the Handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata, in the Asia Garden – that will be a spectacle later in the year. Volunteer Briefing
Asia Garden, ©A. Hunter

The Evolution Garden, which has a guided walk with information boards explaining the evolution of plants, needs some maintenance. Some vandalism of the boards has occurred. The good news is that the squirrels, which infest the area, seem to have finally lost their taste for the Drimys winteri, which was planted in 2010 and had to be caged in heavy duty plastic fencing to protect it from their depredations. The shrub now looks healthy with strong shoots; the top of the cage has been removed and, so far, there has been no new damage.

Ian finished the morning by thanking everyone again for the hard work that all volunteers do to support the Gardens.

Alison Hunter 10 January 2018

Volunteer Briefing
Evolution Garden, ©A. Hunter


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