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You may recall about a month I go I posted about helping the Alpine Garden Society’s seed exchange by sorting donated seeds into smaller packets.  Today I helped with the next stage – making up the orders.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and if I am really honest making up the small packets was quite a challenge for tired eyes at the end of the working day but making up the orders was an occupation much more suited to me.  It is so well organised that it runs like clockwork, obviously the result of years and years of fine tuning.  There were 5 of us making up orders in the back room at the Alpine Garden Society  headquarters in Pershore.
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This year the society offered just under 6000 different varieties of donated seed for its members to select from.  This is one of, it not the biggest seed distribution scheme in the world and it not only receives donations from around the world but also dispatches seeds to all four corners even the USA (although there are special  rules for the exporting of seeds to the US).  Each member can choose up to 23 packets of seed for a small sum of £7.00.  Due to the unpredictability of demand and supply once you have selected your preferred 23 from the catalogue you are then asked to select up to another 48 alternatives.  If you have donated seed or helped with the packing you get an extra 7 packets.

As you can see from the photos the rooms is highly organised with boxes of seed organised in seed order.  You start by taking an order out of the box along with the addressed envelope.  You then work through the first choices trying to get as many as possible.  There are some very rare or scarce seeds and members are only allowed up to 3 packets from this category.  Then you move on to the alternatives to make up the number to 23 moving more randomly through the numbers so you don’t end up using all the Alliums up first.  The packing had been going for about 2 weeks so  there weren’t any that got their full 23 first choices, although I had at least 1 that got 21.  As with anything the sooner you get your order in the better chance you have, plus donors orders get picked first.

The variety of plants is surprising if you haven’t already embraced the wide remit of the Alpine Garden Society.  It is not all tiny Saxifraga and Androsace, you move through Primula, Fritillaria and onwards to Peonies, there are also trees and shrubs.  Some members obviously have particular interests and their orders are all based around a small group of numbers such as the Fritillaria whilst other are more wide-ranging and therefore take longer to pack as you have to waunder back and forth more!

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When you have picked your order you put it in the checking tray and then select  someone else’s order to check.  That way mistakes shouldn’t happen.  They do happen as you find yourself going a bit number  blind at times, transposing numbers you are looking for in your head and generally getting a little befuddled at that point it is time to go and have a cuppa and biscuit  or maybe cake in the other room.

I think I picked somewhere between 15 and 20 orders  which wasn’t bad for about  5 hours and it is around the average speed but it just shows you how labour intensive it  is.

I can say that it was an enjoyable day, the company was good and I even learnt something about seed recognition.  I will definitely volunteer to do packing again next year.

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