Monday, 3 December 2018

Creating A Cascading Rose

Unruly, vigorous annual growth

The climbing rose that grows in the garden above the herbaceous border, affectionately known as the Secret Garden due to its hidden position behind a wall, has been causing the gardening team a bit of a headache when dealing with it's unruly, vigorous growth that it produces every year. Two years ago the way it was pruned was changed and, to make use of the long stems, wires were added to the wall for support. 

Last year's long, vigorous stems tied to the wires.

Planted against a small wall, waiting to be pruned

Planted in the garden, up against a wall of only four foot in height, the rose's vigorous stems are between 10 to 15 foot long, far too tall for the wall, hence the problem, a very messy looking rose producing very few flowers. By adding horizontal wires to the other side of the wall, the very tall side, the long stems could be bent over the top, down the wall and tied on to the wires. 

Last year's flowering stems

When the rose is pruned each winter the previous year's stems are removed to clear the wall and the strongest, new stems are bent down on to the wires to replace them. The remaining, unwanted stems are cut off and a few old, woody stems are cut out to encourage new growth for future years. 

Last year's stems cleared from the wall

Stems bent over the top of the wall

New stems bent down on to the wires

Pruning the rose today, a dozen stems, no longer flapping about in the breeze as in the past, now cascade over the top of the wall. The pressure from the bending of the stems over and down the wall will cause the many buds to burst into life and produce the flowering stems for next years flowers.

Stem tied to the wire with a bud waiting to burst

New stems tied to the wires

Pruned rose, Secret Garden side

Friday, 30 November 2018

The Daily Chore Of Clearing The Autumn Leaf Fall

Autumn leaf fall

Leaf blower

The prime objective for the team throughout November has been to keep the gardens from being buried beneath a torrent of leaves that have fallen from the numerous trees within the college grounds, and those that have blown in from the trees that grow in the surrounding area.


On a daily basis at least one member of the Gardens and Grounds team could have been found somewhere in the college tackling this invasion of leaves clearing them from the paths, lawns, borders and the sports field. This year's autumn leaf fall has been mainly steady and controlled when there has been little wind but erratic and swirling in the stormy days. Mother Nature has been quite kind to the team this year with her trees dropping their cargo at a mostly manageable rate but she still likes to have the occasional game of 'chase the leaf' by moving them from the carefully constructed piles before they can be picked up! As the month draws to an end so has the leaf fall with most of the trees now empty, only the wisteria still have their leaves on which, hopefully, will fall in the coming weeks.

Cleared (for now)

A growing leaf pile

Keeping the paths clear

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The First Small Step For The Cuttings

18th October, the first cuttings out of the mist unit

This year's cuttings were taken during the last two weeks of September, see blog entry 24th September 'No Rush This Year To Take Cuttings', and have been residing in the mist unit ever since. After a month, having enjoyed the bottom heat provided the warming cable and the gentle mist from the water jets, some of the cuttings had formed roots that had started to emerge through the holes in the base of the pots. These rooted cuttings were removed from their place of comfort and placed on some staging to harden them off, (toughening them up), no more bottom heat or mist for these young plants..  
Roots showing

1st November, hardening off more cuttings from the mist unit

Rooted cuttings

Over the last six weeks the team have been working there way through the rooted cuttings, tapping them out of their pots, gently teasing the tangled roots apart and potting them up into individual 11x11x10cm pots full of a 50/50 mix of John Innes Compost No2 and seed compost. .

Teased apart, split into three

1st November, the first three cuttings potted up

1st November, cuttings potted up

A rooted pot of cuttings, Plectranthus ciliatus 'Nico'

A rooted pot of cuttings, Salvia 'Penny's Smile'

The mist unit is now almost empty of cuttings for another year with the majority having been potted up, a few of the pelargonium haven't quite developed enough roots to be split into individual plants but their time will come. Those that have been potted up now live on the staging on the other side of the greenhouse from the mist unit, they haven't travelled far, but it is the first small step towards their final destination out in the gardens next summer.

27th November, Staging full of cuttings

27th November, Staging full of cuttings (From above)

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Pillars of Salt

Temporary fleece skirt

Following a gloriously hot summer and the unseasonably high temperatures of this autumn, the forecast for Oxford tonight is below freezing, minus two! All the tender plants that hate the cold weather were moved into the greenhouse a month ago, see blog entry 18th October 'The Tender Giants Go Inside For The Winter', apart from the large clump of Musa basjoo, the Japanese Banana, which are too big to move.

Wrapping the banana plants

Removing the temporary fleece skirt that had been used to protect the stems over the last few weeks as the temperatures began to drop, the stems were wrapped individually and in small groups of two-three. The leaves were pulled down around the stems and tied to create the first layer of protection then wrapped in a double thickness horticultural fleece for the second protective layer.


At the base of the stems are the next generation of stems, the small 'Pups', that will grow up next year to create an even better display. However, one stem will not return as it has flowered and, now that it has produced a flower and fruit, it will die (monocarpic). The decision was made to leave this flower uncovered so it can be viewed and enjoyed for a little bit longer. This is the fourth time a flower has been produced from the stems of this clump of banana plants, the first time was in September 2010, the second, October 2014 and the third, July 2016.

Banana flower

Inedible fruit

When all the stems had been wrapped, a thick layer of leaf mould was added around the base to protect the root balls from frost. Looking like 'Pillars of Salt', these plants will remain under cover until late May next year when then temperatures have risen and they can safely unwrapped.

Wrapped and mulched for the winter

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Cutting Back The Tired And Faded Herbaceous Border

Herbaceous Border (Left), 7th June 2018

Herbaceous Border (Right), 7th June 2018

Herbaceous Border (Left), 5th July 2018

Herbaceous Border (Right), 5th July 2018

Herbaceous Border (Right), 21st August 2018

Herbaceous Border (Left), 20th November 2018

The perennial and annual plants in the herbaceous border have put on a colourful display throughout the summer months despite the hot, dry weather but, as can be seen by the photograph above, these plants are now tired and their colours have faded.

Cutting down and clearing the border (Left)

Before the cutting down of the herbaceous border could begin the wooden plant supports had to be removed. As these structures were lifted out from around the plants the rest of the team moved on to the first section of the border (left) to commence the cut down. Armed with hand shears and secateurs to cut the plants down to ground level, rakes and leaf pickers to clear the border of plant material and a blower to clear off all the debris, they worked their way along the border. By the end of the day both sections of the border had been cleared, the plant supports had been taken to the chipper pile and all the plant material and debris to the compost heaps. This is the first border to be cut back, there are another seven within the gardens, these will be completed during the next few months.

Blowing off the debris
Herbaceous Border (Left), Cleared

Cutting down and clearing the border (Right)
Herbaceous Border (Right), Cleared

Herbaceous Border (Left and Right), 20th November 2018

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Compact Lavender Balls

Newly planted banks, 21st March 2018

In March the two new beds that had been created in the banks of the quad were planted up with  rosemary and lavender, see blog entry for the 21st March 'Lavender And Rosemary Replace The Grass' and the latter has been producing a floriferous display throughout the summer. 

View across the quad to the lavender and rosemary

Lavender on the slope of the banks

A floriferous display from the lavender 24th July 2018

The abundance of flowers with their fragrant perfume attracted many different insects who spent the hot summer months foraging for the nectar.

Flowers for the pollinating insects
Red Admiral Butterfly

View across the quad lawn to the lavender

View from on high

Starting to trim the lavender

The lavender has had a long flowering period and, although there were still some flowers still attracting a smaller number of insects, the majority of the flowers have faded. The stems that were still in flower were cut off and placed in a vase filled with water and left on the steps just in case a hungry insect returned to feed. The trimming of the lavender started yesterday afternoon and was finally completed by the end of today with each lavender having been trimmed into a compact ball shape using a cordless, battery hedge trimmer.  

The right side border

The left side border with the water filled vase filled with lavender stems

Trimming completed

Both lavender borders, trimming complete

Looking across the quad lawn to the lavender

View through a cloisters arch