Joys of (virtual) Spring: Cambridge University streams online garden tours

LONDON (Reuters) – Spring is normally a busy season for Cambridge University Botanic Garden but as Britain enters its third week of enforced lockdown, visitors are absent – the lilacs and daffodils flowering for no one.

But 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 take the viewer around the 174-year-old garden.

In last week’s video, head of horticulture Sally Petit, showed off springtime plants such as Narcissus “Jack Snipe” daffodils and Syringa “Buffon”, a type of lilac now beginning to flower.

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

The next tour will feature 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 really busy time of year for all things horticulture,” Petit told Reuters.

“It was just really 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 centres are closed.

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

But several health experts say any move towards a ban on outdoor activity is worrying and that time outside is essential to wellbeing.

“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.

Reporting by Natalie Thomas; writing by Elizabeth Howcroft; editing by Stephen Addison

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