I think that I am a very lucky person. One of my projects in my retirement is to spend two days a week volunteering at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. And the best part of these jobs is that they involve FERNS!
One of the days I work in the herbarium, with Sally King and others. My project is to begin the daunting task of ‘curating’ the fern collection of Christopher Fraser-Jenkins – something like 40,000 specimens! Yes, it’s unlikely that I will live long enough to complete the project; even if we find another volunteer to help me.
So every week, I examine beautiful preserved ferns – and lycophytes – from places like Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Spain, USA and Canada. Once I have prepared and labeled the specimens, they are sent for mounting, and the results look like works of art. These mounted specimens then must be barcoded and laid away in cupboards – in exactly the right order and place!
My job on the second day is to help in the Arid house and the back-up (behind the scenes) arid house, under the guidance of Gunnar Ovstebo. Among the living collection of arid tolerant plants are the lovely desert ferns. Many of these specimens have been collected by Gunnar on expeditions to Texas and California and grown from spores. This week the glass houses were closed to the public due to broken glass caused by the dreadful winds we have experienced recently – Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jonas …. But we have been able to take advantage of that closure to do some spring cleaning – and weeding! Sadly a few of the ferns don’t look very happy. The winter has just been too extreme with dampness and lack of light as a result of the storms.
But already the Arid house is looking much better. Definitely worth a visit!