Four weeks ago I signed up with Mt Edgcumbe as a volunteer. Volunteers are it seems, making an increasing contribution to keeping public parks going in these days of austerity. I suppose it would be difficult to make a case for public money to be spent on maintaining a national collection of camellias when, in all honesty, they are very much a minority interest.
It wasn’t always so, there was a time when local authorities regarded maintaining a pleasant environment for their citizens to live, work and play in as worthy. The time seems set to arrive quite soon when public parks receive no funding at all and must earn their revenues by whatever means they can.
For me, volunteering one day a week is more than a pleasure. It is a source of great satisfaction to be able to be able to make a meaningful contribution when the full time staff of the park, so few in number, are so overstretched.
On each of my four days I have had a volunteer helper and we have focussed on checking labels – that they are present and correct, hanging where they can be found and their attaching wire not cutting into stems. New additions to the collection have been protected from deer with 1m high wire mesh circles, some of which are still there long after the plant has grown out of the top. Those we are removing. Photographs are being taken of every plant, as part of the records.
Pruning will follow. Propagation has been mentioned. Who knows where it will all lead.