Category Archives: Volunteering

Information about Volunteering Opportunities at The Hidden Gardens

Volunteering at The Hidden Gardens for Duke of Edinburgh Award

My name is Vicki and as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, I decided to volunteer at The Hidden Gardens due to the unique volunteering experience it offered and how it differs greatly from regular places to volunteer such as charity shops. From gardening to helping out at a multitude of events, I have learned a lot of new techniques and met many amazing and courteous people. I have had an enthralling and enjoyable time whilst participating and helping here.

My name is Eilidh and with my friend, Vicki, I volunteered at The Hidden Gardens for the Duke of Edinburgh as a change to the usual volunteering opportunities available for most young people such as helping at charity shops. At The Hidden Gardens we helped out with lots of fun and educational activities.

We helped at weekend gardening: repotting plants into new pots, labelling plants that needed labels, weeding and so much more that if I put it all in it will start to look like a shopping list!

We helped at the “Into the Wild” outdoor events that took place at The Hidden Gardens such as Bat Night, Coffee and Chocolate and Starry Nights. Our main task for each event was to help serve food to visitors. There was a wide variety of food from curry to cake. If we were there early enough, we gave a helping hand in setting everything up before everyone came. At the bat event we helped visitors of all ages make pin badges.

We also had opportunities to take part in the events. An example of something we enjoyed was making truffles because there was a huge range of flavours to try. For the Starry Night event, we thoroughly enjoyed the planetarium and we learned a lot of interesting facts. For bat night, we used meters to detect the frequencies that bats produced. In the end, we saw two bats! In conclusion, we thought that the Into Wild events were interesting and amazing and we are looking forward to any future events.

Weekend Gardening

Vicki: During the weekends, I helped with the gardening. There were a variety of tasks to help out with such raking and refilling flower beds. I have learned a lot about gardening and different species of plants. I have become more social and happy to talk to new people. In addition it has helped me get fitter as well. I would highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys being outdoors and mingling with new people. It is a hefty job but very rewarding and fun!

Eilidh: I really enjoyed the weekend gardening as I got to meet new people and do things in a different environment. This helped me become a better person and gave me the opportunity to meet many wonderful new people. At some points you really needed some muscle for example when someone put too much topsoil in the wheelbarrow!

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The Faery Trail

Vicki: One of the events we helped set up was a nighttime event called The Faery Trail. We decorated a blackboard to go at the street entrance to Tramway to catch the attention of passersby to come and see the faeries. The faeries were created by a very talented artist Lucas Chih- Peng Kao and were then projected onto different landscapes such as small hills and tree trunks. The Hidden Gardens was decorated with many pretty lights and lanterns to form a fantasy and magical atmosphere. We helped with handing out leaflets and showing people around. It was a fantastic experience!

Eilidh: At the events normally we would help serve food but at The Faery Trail event we were asked to create the sign that people would see when walking towards The Hidden Gardens. At this event we were given the job of showing people which way to go in the dark and helping to keep them safe. To me this is where I really came out of my shell as I had to meet the public. I was the first face they would see before going into The Faery trail and I had to talk to them. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience and after the DofE award, I will probably continue to volunteer here.

Many thanks to our young volunteers Vicki and Eilidh and accompanying adults who reliably turned up for every opportunity, were happy to try new things and turn their hand to any task we asked them. Thank you!


Thanks to our Green Thumbs volunteers, a floral display in our new entrance displays a selection of seasonal flowers and foliage from The Gardens.

In the last couple of months, the entrances leading to The Hidden Gardens have had a makeover. A lovely new large metal sign indicates to visitors coming in from Pollokshaws Road that they are about to enter The Gardens, and our entrance at the back of the Tramway building has been overhauled, with users coming through Tramway and into a kind of foyer, or transitional space, before walking out into the gardens.

The point of this transitional space is to surround visitors with a sense of The Gardens before they actually enter them. The designer of this project suggested that one way to achieve this was by picking and pressing seasonal flowers and foliage from the Gardens, and presenting them alongside the information about the history and role of the space.

Since I have a background in floral design, Paula, our head gardener suggested that this was a project I could take on.Feb_20 (2)

The first task was to create a flower press. Drilling four holes in two pieces of scrap wood left over from building a planter, it was easy to create a large, functioning press. Other volunteers provided bolts, nuts and old newspapers picked up on public transport, with cardboard reused from oversized delivery packaging.

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Paula led the selection of flowers and foliage to be pressed, and we started by focussing on the beautiful hellebores that were flowering abundantly. A quick google established that it was likely to take around three weeks for the plants to be suitably dried out by the press, and so during each weekly Green Thumbs session for around a month I worked to choose, pick and press flowers and foliage that might ultimately look good framed and mounted, as well as changing the paper surrounding them to remove as much damp as quickly as possible.


Last week we decided that the first lot of pressed flowers were ready to go. Assembling our Green Thumbs volunteer team (among whom we have a designer, an exhibition curator, a woodworker and an art historian), volunteer Marion carefully cut out squares of paper, and we each chose flowers and created a design to sit in one of the eight mounted Perspex squares in the Tramway entrance.

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You can see our efforts for yourself as you walk through to the back of Tramway, into the Hidden Garden foyer, and look at the display to your left. Our longer term goal is to create a library of these pressed flower designs, so that they can be changed with the seasons, indicating to our visitors not only what they can expect to see in The Gardens before they walk through the doors, but also demonstrating volunteer teamwork and our pride in showing off what The Gardens have to offer.

Pausing to ask any of the gardeners and volunteers involved in this project how they feel about their display within the new entranceway, it is amazing how often the response is not only a large smile, but also a desire to talk about how pleased they feel about it, the plants we used and the response they had sharing images of the project on social media:

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“The new entrance gives a flavour of what’s to come upon entering the gardens, bringing a little of the outside in.”

“It’s very engaging and help to create a welcoming entrance to the gardens.”

“The artwork helps to highlight the gardens. Gives a bit of identity.”

“It helps us feel a sense of ownership and belonging.”

“The displays of pressed flowers feels a bit like a scavenger hunt, making me want to look out for the living, outdoor versions of the preserved, indoor ones.”

How we volunteers now experience walking into The Gardens, through the new entrance way, has certainly shifted. We see that our display connects the visitor to the garden, reflects the seasons outside and gives a glimpse of what’s growing. We feel proud of what we’ve created, stopping and looking at our artwork before moving outside through the new doors, and it has helped us feel a sense of belonging to the garden we work hard to maintain.

By Ellie, Volunteer

John Muir Award

I am part of a group of volunteers at The Hidden Gardens who are working towards gaining Level 1 John Muir Award.

Named after the Scots born naturalist, who is generally considered to be the ‘Father of Modern Conservation’, the John Muir Trust encourages groups and individuals to become involved with the conservation and protection of wildlife areas.

Following Muir’s principles the volunteers will work to meet the Trust’s four challenges of: Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share to obtain their award.


Guided by two staff members the group surveyed the gardens for pollinators with a particular focus on butterflies. Different species were discovered and identified and research was done to gain insight into the habitats and plants needed to support their lifecycle. Many of us were not aware that some species, such as Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell overwinter in hibernation as butterflies! Other species hibernate as caterpillars and pupa.


We went on to explore the gardens to determine what was needed to enhance the environment for our butterfly population. We carried out a survey of all the plants to establish which were beneficial for adult and caterpillar food and also looked for plants that would be vital as hibernation sites as many of the pupa secure themselves to plants over winter. Wild areas in the garden were explored to see if there were places, such as log piles, where adult butterflies could hibernate.


Our present and ongoing task is to conserve and develop the gardens so that they become a haven for butterflies! We have a dedicated meadow area which contains many native species such as nettles, meadow grasses and vetches that can often be seen as weeds but are the vital host plants for the eggs of Painted Lady, Ringlet, Orange-tip and many others. This area is managed to maintain a good diversity of plants by selective ‘weeding out’, plant division and seed collection. We learned that the Cuckoo-Flower is host to Small White, Orange-tip and Green-veined White and are now planning to distribute seedlings into the meadow next Spring. One revelation was that many Red Admiral butterflies migrate to Southern Europe in October! As ivy flowers are a late source of nectar for these and other butterflies we now leave the cutting back of Ivy until late winter.

To allow for successful hibernation we have ring-fenced particular wooded areas to remain undisturbed throughout the winter months.

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By undertaking the Award scheme the volunteers are now able to share their knowledge with the garden’s many visitors and encourage them in the nurturing of butterfly- friendly habitats. Plants that we have divided or propagated from collected seed will be on sale in the kiosk together with information about their pollinator friendly attributes.

We hope that this sharing of information will result in a healthy diverse population of butterflies in the area.

Roll on Spring!

Greenthumbs volunteers


The Gardens has been awarded a multi-annual grant of £149,685 by the Big Lottery Fund towards our volunteering and learning programme. Annually the programme will offer volunteering and learning opportunities accessible to local people of all ages and abilities during week days and weekends. A self-directed volunteering opportunity called Volun-tours will also train and support local people to become story tellers providing guided tours of the gardens revealing their hidden layers of meaning and inspiring visitors to get closer to nature.

The Hidden Gardens is a multi-award winning public greenspace operated by The Hidden Gardens Trust offering free access to citizens of Glasgow and beyond, six days per week. The Gardens also offer a programme of creative and engaging activities to promote community integration and intercultural dialogue.

Over the last 15 years it is estimated that over 800 people have benefited from volunteering opportunities in the Hidden Gardens; encouraging people of all ages, abilities and ethnicity to spend more time outdoors, together and to learn new skills and make friendships along the way. This grant award will help the volunteering and learning programme to grow, increase opportunity for local people to participate in greenspace, learn new skills, make new connections and friendships and improve health and wellbeing.

The Gardens depend on the support of Trusts, Foundations and public funds to be able to deliver a programme of work to engage communities of need and those members of society that are all too easily forgotten or seldom heard.

The Hidden Gardens Trust Chair, Melanie Sims, said: “The Hidden Gardens Trust wants to express their sincere thanks to the Big Lottery Fund for this vital funding towards its expanding volunteering programme for the next three years. The programme will make a significant difference to individuals and groups within the local community.

“The programme will be delivered in The Hidden Gardens, Scotland’s first Sanctuary Gardens dedicated to peace. The upkeep of the gardens is funded by Glasgow City Council, without which this jewel in the city would not be sustainable to deliver what it does in its progressive community engagement programme.”

The Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “I am delighted that The Hidden Gardens has been successful in securing a Big Lottery Fund grant. This is raised through the National Lottery. The funding will make a big difference where it is needed most and I wish The Hidden Gardens every success as it goes on to develop and expand its project for the benefit of their local community.”

Scotrail planters

Bees, butterflies and moths have quite limited options for food in the city but, Pollokshields East train station’s mixed planters are a delectable buffet with their choice of nectar-rich flowers, such as the verbena and lavender. Many of the plants, for example the ivy, provide a helpful habitat for tiny insects and other little creatures.

Our volunteers, who do most of the planting, take great pride in keeping their local train station looking and smelling great – all that lavender and rosemary is quite a treat for the senses! They are keen to play a part in supporting the area’s biodiversity and often comment on this.

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Driven by feedback from volunteers, the planters are all quite visually different. The range of wildlife-friendly plants include pretty flowers and structural evergreens, with grasses and some familiar herbs. There are also plants with interesting textures, such as the incredibly soft lamb’s ear.

Through maintaining the Pollokshields East planters, our volunteers learn how to maintain wildlife-friendly raised beds. That knowledge can then be used in their own garden space. And for those without their own garden, they get the therapeutic benefits of both working with plants and doing something positive for the local community, their community. Passengers sometimes stop and ask us for the names of certain plants, and on occasion we’ve had passengers stop to thank us for what we’re doing

Lynne, Garden Assistant & Volunteer





A Winter Solstice

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Allan Hughes, one of our dedicated gardening volunteers, wrote a piece of prose inspired by seasonal beauty of The Hidden Gardens.

Entitled ‘A Winter Solstice’, it is our pleasure to share it with you:

A Winter Solstice

The Shortest Day

A winter mist silently shrouds the Hidden Gardens. The still white cloud quietly cloaks the sleeping settlement. The air is cold, fresh and moist.

High up, a crow’s caw cuts into the sky as the diffuse glow of morning light begins to permeate the slowly rising haze.

The shimmering shadow of a returning fox briefly disrupts the calm; then fades. The quiet returns.

As dawn gradually breaks, groups of nestling bushes and shrubs awaken with the rustling of rousing wildlife.

Trees stretch with a concertina of balletic branches praising the arrival of the new day. The clinging mist finally releases and ascends, leaving a glistening layer of silvery white frost settling on the emerging pasture.

The delicate blades of grass sparkle in the morning light.

At the far corner of the extending lawn, the solitary figure of a Ginko tree stands tall and proud like a wise tribal elder. Its branches spiral upwards to the heavens. The surrounding congregation bows reverently in anticipation of the winter solstice.

Then, all is hushed. A single track of tiny prints zips through the crisp, white frost. All focus on the track as it makes its way towards the bottom corner of the lawn. Towards the Ginkgo Tree. The footprints come to a halt.

A little Robin Red Breast stands boldly on the cold, glittery grass, arching its head, to address the rising giant.

A loud silence fills the air. The little Robin hops closer, perching on the tree’s knobbly roots. Its tiny beak chirps……the silence gets louder……the Ginko considers the wee postulating creature……the silence intensifies…..then…at last, all is well…harmony prevails as the Robin Red Breast takes off, spiralling upwards, playfully twirling in and around the giants welcoming branches. All is bright.

The Longest Night

It’s Dusk. A single snowflake drops delicately downwards towards Earth, floating precariously with the light breeze, hovering over thousands of orangey-yellow iridescent lights. A dark, imposing, organic shape
appears amongst the opalescent illuminations. As the little snowflake descends, the contours of the mysterious formation slowly expand, revealing a vast landscape surrounded by an abundance of diverse
dense foliage. On entering the grounds, the snowflake gravitates towards the long strip of land. Downwards it falls, steadily descending, prepares to land, then settles safely on the glistening grass.

The little Robin perched up high, shivers as it quietly looks on as more and more fragile crystals parachute by, filling the air with a kaleidoscope of colliding snowflakes forever freely falling. The wind picks up. More
and more frozen flakes are boisterously launched into the air in a sustained onslaught. Myriads of sparkling fragments hurriedly jostle for space, propelling bursts of snow into every nook and cranny. No corner is spared. Then, when the biting gusts of wind, at last, relent, the hail slows up, until, eventually, the invasion finally ceases. The quiet returns.

The Robin peeps out from its shelter. All is clear. The landing is complete. The slumbering garden is now thickly blanketed by soft, pure, white snow. All is calm.

A full moon illuminates the newly colonised terrain. The lunar light diffuses a cool, serene glow over the opulent gardens. The undulating snow softly cloaks the clusters of huddling bushes. Branches bend with lilting leaves. The undergrowth is hidden out of sight. As the last snowdrop falls to earth, the tranquil evening moonlight blesses the winters night. The long, untouched lawn elegantly emerges evenly covered, edge to edge, with a thick coating of soft, fresh, snow. Up above in the clear night sky, the Ginkgo tree is eloquently silhouetted by an aurora of celestial light, as a constellation of stars twinkle brightly in celebration of the solar resurrection. It’s the longest night.

The long silent night encloses in on the world. The Earth is at rest. The garden is sound asleep. The evening is still, quiet, at peace.

Reaching upward, the Ginkgo tree embraces The Heavens. The surrounding ensemble bows as the ethereal cycle unfolds. The tree’s outstretching branches herald the Transformation of Time.

It is a time of change. Seasons change. Dark gives to light. Night to day. What was dormant, will now grow. As the night passes and eventually draws to a close, the passage of Time will bequest its gift to Creation. The hidden world will awaken to the unveiling of the divine light of dawn, radiating with the essence of the suns’ warming presence, that shall transfigure a new beginning, a new day, a new life.

Discovering a Hidden World

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There are lots of artistic ways to interpret the Gardens, such as through drawing, poetry or photography. Prose is a little rarer, but this story by Roots and Shoots volunteer Allan shows that it’s a great way to describe the feeling of The Hidden Gardens.

Discovering a Hidden World

After journeying through endless blocks of busy buildings, I descend metal stairs into a narrow dark corner. A green door stands, waiting. I enter.

Opening into the stillness of a fresh morning, the white sky expands exponentially around the tranquil scenery, revealing a secluded world waiting to be discovered.

A tall tree stands proud on its pristine lawn. The neat lawn stretches like a green velvet carpet. The surrounding foliage encircles the scene in an organic arena. The busy blocks fade into a distant memory as I wander further into the wild. A path invites me to explore.

The rhythmic crunching of my footsteps on pebbles accents the serene quiet. Meandering along the path, the wilderness begins to reveal itself.

A sudden fluttering resonates in the undergrowth as I enter the private sanctuary. Birds twitter and whistle cheerfully up amongst outstretching branches, while a passing seagull jabs high-pitch staccato into the hidden harmony.

I notice some rustling amongst the blanket of crackling leaves. I slowly approach. I follow the sound and peer through the bushes. A blackbird stands still, watching. I move closer. His gentle eyes look at me without fear, allowing me into his hidden world.

Hidden Gardens Volunteers are liking the lichen

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Hidden Gardens volunteers braved the weather to meet at Queen’s park to take part in an OPAL Air Quality survey. This survey uses biological indicators; species whose presence is sensitive to changes in environmental conditions.

Guided by Joanne Dempster from OPAL, we focused on looking at lichens with different sensitivities to nitrogen containing air pollutants and were amazed at how proficient we became in spotting different lichens in a short morning session. Our records will be uploaded to the national survey and will provide valuable information about levels of nitrogen containing air pollutants throughout the UK.

Not only are lichen good indicators of air quality, but they look pretty too!