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Leading people up a virtual garden path

REUTERS | Updated: 2020-04-15 08:06
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LONDON-Spring is normally a busy season for Cambridge University Botanic Garden but, as Britain enters its fourth week of enforced lockdown, visitors are absent and the lilacs and daffodils are flowering for no one.

However, the gardeners have found a way to ensure their 8,000-plus species do not go unappreciated-by starting free virtual tours that allow people to download the delights of spring.

Their weekly "wellness wanders" are short videos which "walk" the viewer around the 174-year-old garden.

In a recent video, head of horticulture Sally Petit showed off springtime plants such as Narcissus "Jack Snipe" daffodils and Syringa "Buffon", a type of lilac that is currently in bloom.

Birdsong can be heard overhead as she walks around, describing the smell of different plants in the scented garden.

The next tour featured the strongylodon macrobotrys, a huge jade plant from the Philippines which is kept in one of the garden's glasshouses.

"Everything is still blossoming, blooming-this is a really busy time of year for all things horticulture," Petit said of the tours.

"They are really just to remind people that the garden's still there, that there is some normality in this crazy time," she added.

The garden's learning coordinator, Sandie Cain, will also teach people how to grow their own vegetables at home, with tips on how to use improvised equipment since garden centers are closed.

Britons are only allowed to leave the house for essential purposes like buying food or exercise and the health minister warned in early April that stricter restrictions could be imposed after warm weather led to people sunbathing and gathering in parks.

However, several health experts say any move toward a ban on outdoor activity is worrying and that time outside is essential to well-being.

"The emergence of new life in spring can be really uplifting, giving people an important psychological boost, and we want to share this with everyone, whatever their situation," said Beverley Glover, the botanic garden's director.

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