Amgueddfa Blog

Our Plants Are Flowering

Penny Tomkins, 29 March 2023

Spring has arrived Bulb Buddies,

I’m sure we’ve all noticed signs of spring, including crocus and daffodil plants in full bloom! Have you ever wondered why these plants flower, and how to tell when they have flowered? Let's explore this together. 

Daffodils and crocuses are both bulb plants, which means that they grow from bulbs that are planted in the ground. These bulbs store energy for the plant to use when it's ready to grow. The bulbs stay dormant through most of the winter and begin to grow as the weather warms, which is when their shoots first emerge from the soil. Shoots appear first, so that the leaves can produce food for the plant through photosynthesis, where energy from sunlight is used to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. The plants use the sugar as food, to provide energy to continue growing and to replenish their bulb ready for the following winter. As the plants continue to grow, they produce leaves, stems, and flowers.

You can tell when these plants have flowered by looking for the blossoms on the stem.  Daffodils usually have one yellow or white trumpet-shaped flower on a long stem, while crocuses have smaller, cup-shaped flowers that come in a variety of colours like purple, white, and yellow. These bright, colourful flowers attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. Pollen is sticky, so it attaches to pollinating insects and is taken by them to different flowers. Pollination happens when pollen from the male part of a flower (the stamen) is transferred to the female part of a flower (the pistil). Once this happens, the flower can produce seeds.

After the flowers have bloomed and the seeds have been produced, the plants start to die back. Our little bulbs will then go dormant again, until the next growing season.

Some schools have shared that their plants have flowered. You can see which schools have sent in flowering records by looking at the project map and the flower graphs. Remember, you can also look at results from previous years to compare. Why not have a look to see if your school has taken part in the project before? 

I’ve attached the Keeping Flower Records resource to the right of the page. This looks at how to take height measurements for your plants and how to tell when the flower has fully opened. It also lists some resources on the website, like the activity sheets for naming parts of plants. 

We ask that you note the date that your plant first flowers and the height of your plant on that date to your flowering chart. You can then upload this information to the website when next entering your weather data. Remember, we ask for measurements in mm. If you accidentally record your height in cm it will show on the website in mm. This means that a 15cm daffodil becomes a 15mm (1.5cm) daffodil! 

I’ve attached some botanical illustrations we’ve been sent by schools in previous years. Why not make a study of your plants and draw what you see? It can be interesting to make regular drawings of your plants, to see how they change over time. 

We’ve watched our plants from bulb to flower. I have seen from the comments that many of you have been fascinated by the changes you’ve seen. I’ve attached an activity sheet for creating an Origami booklet that explores the life of a bulb. There is a version that you can colour in yourself and a version that is already in colour. 

We are in the last week of weather data collection. We ask that schools upload all of their weather data to the website by 31 March. If your plants have flowered, please upload your flowering data by 31 March. If your plants have not yet flowered, please let us know in the comments. There is further guidance around this in the attached ‘Keeping Flower Records’ resource. 

Please share photos with us by email or Twitter, it’s always lovely to see the plants in bloom. Please share your thoughts on the project in the comments section when uploading your data, you could also let us know what you think the mystery bulbs were this year!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb

Lambing in the life and economy of rural Wales and its farming families

Gareth Beech, 24 March 2023

Farming families in Wales who primarily keep sheep are dependent upon lambing for their main income for the year. A successful lambing season is essential for their farming livelihoods. A large proportion of the farm’s income will be from the sale of the lambs for meat. It’s a period of bringing new life on the farm, of care and nurturing the new-born lambs, long hours, sometimes in difficult conditions, to generate income for the farming families. 


The family farm still retains great importance in the Welsh rural economy.  

Many farms have sustained generations of the same families and have been an essential part of the Welsh rural economy and life through producing food, employment, and supporting ancillary rural industries and crafts for equipment, supplies and machinery.  


Lambing and harvesting, the busiest periods on the farm, still often include all the members of the farming families. Everyone is part of the care of the flock, delivering the lambs, their care and rearing, along with the essential tasks of feeding and watering, clearing out pens, applying treatments, and driving the ewe mothers and lambs out to the fields when strong enough. It is now common for a partner to have employment elsewhere with a separate income from farming. They still often work on the farm as well. Lambing continues twenty-four hours a day. It is unpredictable at what time of day or night a sheep might give birth during the lambing period.   


Traditional husbandry skills and knowledge, passed down over generations are combined with modern nutrition and animal health treatments.  The satisfaction, pleasure and relief of seeing new life arrive and flourish, is combined with the tiredness of long hours and night shifts, working in muck and mud, or in cold and wet conditions outside. There are the disappointments and frustrations of losses, which will directly affect income and profitability. The regular, repetitive tasks of clearing out pens, spraying disinfectant, laying new straw bedding, are essential for preventing diseases such as E-coli amongst the vulnerable new-born lambs.   


Modern lambing more likely to be done inside now in large sheds, rather than out in the fields as in the past. Lambing can take place in batches, timed by when the rams released to groups of ewes, to spread the work and lessen the intensity. Scanning ewes in advance will show which ewes are pregnant and with how many lambs, so they can be grouped and given the necessary attention and care. Ewes not pregnant would be kept on the fields. The timing of lambing takes place in Wales can be influenced by location, altitude and weather conditions, or whether aimed to sell at a specific time or for a particular demand.  


Welsh breeds such as Welsh Mountain and Beulah continue to be popular in upland and mountainous areas. The drive for better quality lambs to meet tastes at home and for export markets in Europe, the Middle East and Asia has included using continental breeds such as Texels originally from Holland. Breeds on upland and hill farms in particular need to be hardy and be able withstand cold and wet conditions. Some new breeds haven’t flourished, being vulnerable to conditions such as foot rot because of the not being resilient in a damp climate.  


Lambing, like all aspects of modern agriculture, has evolved considerably based on the application of science and technology. The body for promoting the sale of Welsh lamb, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, describes the contemporary approach: ‘As one of the world’s leading producers of lamb, Wales has been at the forefront of developments in the sheep industry. As consumers’ tastes change, so has farming. Agriculture has also evolved, combining traditional husbandry passed down through generations in tune with Wales’s outstanding natural environment with new innovations to make the most of best practice in terms of nutrition and animal health.’  


Nutrition and animal health treatments aim to maximise carcase value, and new methods based on the results of research and development. One method is that of ‘sponging’, using progestogen, a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone. Flocks can be brought into season earlier and at the same time, lambing at a very specific time period, and earlier in the year. It can allow for more planning of labour and resources, and to produce lambs when there may be fewer new lambs for market. It can also mean a very intense, short period, especially if there are twins and triplets requiring more time and attention, or ewes with complications. 


The total value of Welsh lamb exports in 2022 was £171.5 million, an increase from £154.7 million in 2013. 


The number of sheep in Wales went over 10 million in 2017 for the first time in the twenty first century. Sheep numbers had previously fallen from about 12 million after the end of government payments to support agriculture based on the number of animals kept.  


How lambing in Wales will be in the future could be influenced by several factors: the number of sheep; consumer preferences; sustainability; and climate change. New trade agreements might offer new possibilities but also increased competition from cheaper imports. Exports of Welsh lamb to the Unites States finally resumed in 2022, and the countries of the Gulf and China are thought to have potential for increased exports. Changes to government payments in Wales to the Sustainable Farming Scheme will be based on environmental benefits and restoring bio-diversity, as part of a sustainable agriculture industry. Perhaps it is still partly a way of life, with a professional business approach, adapting to meet the nature of markets, with entrepreneurship to create new products for a sustainable and profitable industry.  


Most lambs will be sold for meat from 4 to 12 months old. At St Fagans, most of the female lambs will be either sold or kept as pedigree breeding stock. Most of the males will go for meat with a few of the best sold as breeding rams.  


In 2020, Welsh lamb was given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the UK Department of Food Rural Affairs and Agriculture (DEFRA). Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is a status awarded by the UK Government that protects and promotes named regional food products that have a reputation or noted characteristics specific to that area. It means that only lambs born and reared in Wales and slaughtered in approved abattoirs are legally described as Welsh Lamb. This superseded the previous EU PGI status awarded in 2003.  


In an upland and mountainous country unsuited to many types of agriculture but where the keeping of sheep flourishes, the annual lambing will always be an important part of it, for introducing new life, providing a viable farming business, and sustaining family farms. 

Museums Inspiring Memories – our first year!

Sharon Ford, Gareth Rees & Fi Fenton, 22 March 2023

In April 2022, we launched Museums Inspiring Memories , a three year partnership project between Amgueddfa Cymru and Alzheimer’s Society Cymru. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it aims to explore how we can use our seven museums and collections to improve the health and wellbeing of people  affected by dementia.

Why this project is important

Museums Inspiring Memories

 People living with dementia and those supporting and caring can often experience reduced social contact, social isolation, low confidence, anxiety and other mental health concerns. In response, research has shown that museum-based interventions are an important way of promoting the engagement and well-being of people living with dementia.[1]

There are feelings and emotions I get from seeing things in museums, like the terraced houses here at St. Fagans. There is an overwhelming feeling you only get when you can physically touch or see real life things – like the memories of my grandparents that come back. Museums are so important for people with dementia. They are wonderful places and overwhelming at the same time.”

Person living with dementia

What has been done already?

Amgueddfa Cymru began it’s journey to become more dementia-friendly back in 2015. Between then and 2018, people affected by dementia were invited to take part in accessibility audits across three of our museums. Following this, our successful dementia -friendly underground tours at Big Pit were developed, both with and for people affected by dementia. Other pieces of work include a Young Onset Dementia Walking Group at St Fagans and an Intergenerational Group at Big Pit: National Coal Museum. 

This work reflects our commitment, made in Amgueddfa Cymru’s Strategy 2030, to support well-being through the creation of inspirational spaces and experiences, putting people at the heart of what we do so that our museums are inclusive and accessible places for everyone

Our Consultations

Museums Inspiring Memories
Museums Inspiring Memories

Between December 2022 and March 2023, the Museums Inspiring Memories team  have been inviting people living with dementia, carers (both unpaid and from the sector), colleagues from the heritage sector and from representative organisations to join us at gatherings both in our museums and at community venues across Wales. The team have also been out and about speaking with community groups and care home residents. So far, 183 people have joined us. 

These conversations have been a real opportunity to draw upon and capture the lived experiences of people affected by dementia and those within the heritage sector, finding out more about the barriers faced by people affected by dementia in engaging with museums, and looking at how we can develop our sites and staff to become more dementia supportive. 

Here are just a few quotes from those who joined us, when asked what they enjoyed about the consultation:

“Hearing the views of people living with dementia, their carers and those working with those with dementia, informative and thought-provoking" A member of a representative organisation

 Meeting other people and comparing their needs and problems with ourselves” A person affected by dementia

 “I have enjoyed meeting everyone and the enthusiastic staff leading the project. I feel extremely pleased to have been able to contribute. I look forward to hearing how the project develops” A Carer

“The range of the project is impressive with all the facilities of the Museums available but I found that it was one simple object that triggered memories and conversations at the event I attended in Blaenavon. This was an old postcard with some photographs of Porthcawl on the front. This immediately opened up so many memories of summer holidays, Sunday school outings, day trips. One of the group remembered the taste of the deep fried donuts! One simple postcard and we were back there…all talking about it, carers and people affected by dementia alike.

“I hope this project thrives as it will make a difference to people’s lives. I am pleased to support and promote it when I work across South Wales.”

Chris Hodson, Information Worker at Alzheimer’s Society Cymru

Next steps

Over the next few months we will be inviting people to join our Dementia Voice in Heritage Group. This will include people living with dementia, unpaid carers, care sector staff, heritage sector colleagues , who together will help to steer and shape the work of the project over the next two years as we develop and deliver a meaningful programme of activities, both at our museums and within communities.

Who to contact

The Museums Inspiring Memories Team at Amgueddfa Cymru are: 

Sharon Ford

Sharon Ford – Programme Manager

Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees – Dementia Voice Lead

Fi Fenton

Fi Fenton – Administrative Officer

If you would like to learn more about the work of this project, or find out what opportunities there are to being involved, please email Gareth on or phone 029 2057 3418, or you can email our team 



[1]  Zeilig, H, Dickens, L & Camic, P.M. “The psychological and social impacts of museum-based programmes for people with a mild-to-moderate dementia: a systematic review.” Int. J. of Ageing and Later Life, 2022 16 (2); 33-72

March is for mulching

Luciana Skidmore, 16 March 2023

If you are visiting St. Fagans this month you will notice an army of gardeners and volunteers marching around the gardens with wheelbarrows full of organic matter to condition the soil of our beautiful gardens. As winter comes to an end, spring arrives with a promise of growth. This is a crucial moment in the gardening calendar to prepare for the warmer months ahead. 

Because of the over-emittance of greenhouse gases, the Earth’s surface temperature is increasing rapidly. We are noticing summer months that are hotter and drier than ever, only last year we witnessed temperatures around 40°C in some areas of the UK. The excessive heat and prolonged drought have devastating effects on our local flora and fauna. 

One of the most important tasks for this month is to mulch the soil by adding a layer of organic matter to the soil surface. Mulching brings numerous benefits to plants including moisture retention in periods of drought, weed suppression, improvement of soil structure and fertility, reducing the need for artificial fertilisers, prevention of soil erosion, and encouragement of beneficial organisms such as earthworms, soil bacteria and fungi. Additionally, it attracts wildlife to our gardens, one of my favourite memories is of being followed by Robins as we mulch the garden in spring. They patiently wait for a feast of earthworms, while gifting us with their beautiful bird song announcing the arrival of spring. 

There are many different types of mulching materials and each with their own benefits and uses. Most of our gardens are mulched with well-rotted farmyard manure sourced from Llwyn-yr-eos farm in St. Fagans and from a local farmer. The manure is gradually incorporated into the soil by the activity of earthworms and other microorganisms, which improves the soil structure and supplies the plants with nutrients. This nitrogen rich material is ideal to be used on herbaceous borders, vegetable beds, roses and newly planted trees and shrubs.

However not all plants like nutrient rich mulches, plants that are adapted to growing in hot and dry conditions often do not cope well with excessive moisture and high fertility. For example, in the Herb Garden where we have Mediterranean plants such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme we have opted for mulching the beds with gravel. This is an inorganic material that does not break down; therefore it does not release nutrients to the soil. In addition, gravel is great at promoting good drainage, suppressing weeds, and adding aesthetic value to the garden.  

This year we are trying new methods of mulching as a sustainable way to utilise the maximum of our local resources. We have started using raw wool provided by the Llwyn-yr-Eos farm to mulch the vines in the greenhouse. This will help with water conservation and prevention of weeds. Besides the wool fleece degrades slowly releasing nutrients into the soil and feeding the vines. Another advantage is that wool can help retain heat during colder months, keeping the root of the vines warm in winter. 

In March we cut back the ornamental grasses and perennials of the Dutch garden and a large amount of material usually ends up in the compost heap. This year we decided to skip this process and instead we added the dried grass clippings directly to the surface of the pumpkin patch. We have sprinkled a fine layer of manure on top to weigh down the grasses and prevent them from blowing in the wind. This will also aid the process of decomposition by introducing nitrogen to this carbon rich material.  While the farmers make hay for a rainy day, the gardeners mulch with hay for a hotter day.

When choosing mulches or growing mediums for your garden, prefer materials from sustainable and local sources in order reduce the carbon footprint from transportation. It is also important to avoid peat-based composts at all costs. The extraction of peat has a negative impact in the environment, it destroys the natural habitat of many species that live in peatlands, besides it releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect. 
For the home gardener the most sustainable and cost-effective option is to mulch using homemade compost or leaf mould. Why not try making your own compost using kitchen and garden waste? You will be surprised at the benefits you can reap from your compost heap. 




How to measure snow

Penny Tomkins, 8 March 2023

Hello Bulb Buddies,

Thank you for the comments and observations you sent in with last week’s weather readings. I’m expecting that some of Friday’s weather comments will mention snow, as many areas across the UK will have woken up to snow and ice this morning. I thought this might be a good time to look at how Meteorologists (weather scientists) measure snow. 

It is a lot trickier to measure the amount of snow that falls than it is to measure the amount of rain. This is because snow misbehaves! Snow is often blown by the wind into drifts, which causes some areas of deep snow and less snow in the areas around it. Because the snow fall is uneven the measurements from these places will be wrong. This is why we have to measure snow on flat surfaces, in the open and away from areas where drifts happen. Snow also likes to play games with Meteorologists who want to measure it, it melts into water and re-freezes into ice. This means that the snow measured on the ground isn’t always the same as the amount of snow that has fallen. Another problem is that new snow settles on old snow, so it is difficult to tell how much snow has fallen in one day from the snow that fell the day before.

Meteorologists have to take all these tricks the snow plays, and work around them to discover how much snow has fallen. They look at snow fall (the amount of snow that falls in one day) and snow depth (how deep the total snow level is, old snow and new snow). One way that Meteorologists measure snow fall is to use a piece of ply wood. They place the wood in an open location away from areas where snow drifts occur, and measure the snow on the board at 6hr intervals, clearing the snow from the board each time they measure it. This means they are only measuring the snow from that day, which will tell them how much snow has fallen on that day in that area.

Snow fall can also be measured in its melted state, as water. This means that you can use your rain gauge to measure the water equivalent of snow fall. If you only get a bit of snow then it should melt in your rain gauge anyway. But if you get a lot of snow, take your rain gauge inside to the warm and wait for the snow to melt into water. Then measure the water in the same way as you have done each week and report this as rain fall in your weather logs. 

If you have snow and enough time for an extra experiment – why not have a go at measuring snow depth? To do this all you need is a ruler (also known as a snow stick!). Place the snow stick into the snow until it touches the surface underneath and read the depth of the snow. Take these measurements from flat surfaces (benches work well) in open areas and away from snow drifts. You need to take at least three separate measurements to work out the average snow depth in your area. You work out the average measurement by adding the different readings together and dividing them by the number of measurements. So, if I measured the snow depth of three surfaces at 7cm, 9cm and 6cm, I would add these together (7+9+6 =22) and divide that by three, because there are three readings (22÷3=7.33). So, 7.33cm would be my average reading for snow depth on that date. 

Weather stations such as the MET Office have come up with new ways of measuring snow depth, using new technologies. The picture on the right shows one of the MET Offices snow stations. These use laser sensors to measure how deep the snow is on the flat surface placed below it. This means that Meteorologists can collect readings from all over the country at the push of a button, which is far more reliable and a lot easier than sending people out into the cold with snow sticks! The map on the right shows how many snow stations the MET office has and where these are, is there one close to you? 

If you have snow and measure the snow fall with your rain gauge or the snow depth with a snow stick, then please tell me in the ‘comments’ section when you are logging your weekly records. I would be very interested to know what the snow depth is compared to the snow fall collected in your rain gauge.

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant