This week is National Volunteer Week, so we have two posts focused on London Town's amazing volunteers. Unfortunately, like everyone else, our volunteers aren't currently allowed onsite, so we miss them greatly.
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Volunteer Projects in the Gardens
Tuesday Garden Volunteers
Every Tuesday, a stalwart group of volunteers works magic in the gardens! These are highlights from their recent restoration work:
In 2019, the gardens generously received grants from Stanley Smith Trust, Unity Gardens and Four River Gardens. The project work for these three grants was spread out along the entire spring walk and garden gazebo area, which is approximately close to 5 acres of woodland gardens.The project was divided into three phases: invasive removal; garden bed amendments; and plantings and additional amendments.
We started with two environmental service days to remove invasives. During these days, local groups (e.g., Boy/Girl Scouts, corporate groups, church/religious groups, etc) spend a day helping on a project.
After that initial phase, the last crucial phase of plantings was done in the fall with the help of Tuesday garden volunteers. Their trained eyes, deep knowledge of the site and caring green thumbs were exactly what was needed to install the new tender plants in the right habitat.
These three projects together were a massive undertaking! Without the willingness and flexibility from the Tuesday garden volunteers, London Town wouldn't have been able to accomplish such a fine finished product.
This spring, most of the ephemerals and perennials seem to be flourishing in the spring walk, along with new plantings showing tender new growth.
Plant Propagation Group
In spring of 2019, a new volunteer propagation group was set up to focus on conservation efforts for the gardens.
Their ex-situ conservation efforts for the gardens has mainly focused on London Town's primary collections, which are the key species of the gardens. Most of these were tested onsite as an experiment to check how they fair in the Mid-Atlantic region and withstand the cold temperatures.
The group began their efforts with Azaleas/Rhododendrons, Camellias, and some specimen plants. These were vegetatively propagated (cuttings). Some seed testing and storage was also carried out.
The group was established with volunteers and Master Gardeners from University of Maryland Extension. In a short amount of time, they carried out hands-on propagation and achieved very successful results for cuttings.
London Town also received guidance and materials from the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Azalea Society of America.
Some of the cuttings have rooted already, and more are in progress with a weekly check.
Plant Identification Team
In the fall of 2019, our plant identification volunteers began work on a Living Collections Management Plan. We started condensing and sorting all of the work for three primary collections, as compiled by the Master Gardeners over many years. This included sorting plant identification notes, archived notes and receipts, picture sorting, and much more.
Between the fall and spring of 2020, all Magnolias and Azaleas/Rhododendrons were checked for correct identification tags and health.
In addition to sorting notes and checking plants, volunteers and staff began the massive undertaking of collecting the information and sorting through accession lists for both the Azaleas/Rhododendrons and Magnolias. Accessioning is the formal process of accepting an object into our permanent collection.
During this process, we accessed approximately 80 Magnolias and 120 Azalea/Rhododendrons.
Without volunteer assistance, any accomplishment in the archived notes sorting, data collection and evaluation seemed far off. But with their attention to detail, thoroughness and, using best practices for accession records, this project is an ongoing success and a much needed effort to care appropriately for the "Living Collections" on site.
Learn more about volunteering at London Town at www.historiclondontown.org/volunteer.