Monday, 16 May 2016

The Bananas, The Harbinger Of Summer

Too many the harbinger of summer is the swifts, when the swifts arrive from Africa and fill the skies with their screeching call, summer is on the way. However, to the gardeners, the 'harbinger of summer' is the unwrapping of the bananas! Having been under wraps since mid November the new leaves have been growing beneath the horticultural fleece trying to break free from it creating twisted and distorted shapes.


Today the new leaves were finally released from their confines as the unwrapping took place. Last year's old brown leaves were removed as well as some of the new leaves that had broken under the fleece. Cleared from all the old growth the bananas looked fresh and ready to herald the beginning of summer.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Great Spotted Woodpeckers In The Ash Tree

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Male, Red Patch On The Nape)

By the bridge the Ash tree has some new holes in it made by a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Since the beginning of the year the sound of woodpeckers drumming on a number of trees have been heard around the gardens but it is the hollow section at the top of the Ash tree that they have settled in to rear their brood. Both birds were involved in chiseling out the nest chamber and have both been incubating their eggs, a number of shift changes have been seen in recent days, one bird leaving through the hole as the other one flies in to take its place. The incubation time is 14-16 days on a clutch of between 4-6 eggs and, one hatched, the young will fledge after 18 days. So, if you are walking by the tree over the coming few week, listen out to the sound of hungry young woodpeckers demanding to be fed! These two photographs, taken by Ali, show the pair on the Ash Tree by the entrance hole to the nest cavity.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Female)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Tulip 'Cum Laude'

Ten Stone Pots

Seven months ago, 9th October to be exact, the ten pots that adorn the steps in the Provost's garden were planted up for their winter/spring display.

Ten Tulips In Each Pot

The summer display was removed and replaced with tulips and pansies. The 100 tulips were chosen especially for these pots due to their name, Tulip 'Cum Laude', Cum Laude meaning 'with distinction, referring to university degrees and diplomas'. Ten tulip bulbs were placed in to each of the ten pots, covered in compost and pansies planted on the top.  

The 100 late flowering tulips have now been in flower for a week, the flower, a beautiful lavender blue on upright stems. The colour, unbeknownst to the team as the tulip was chosen for the name, is the perfect match to the newly emerging flowers of the wisteria that are blooming on the walls and railings all around them. 

Tulip 'Cum Laude'

Late Flowering Lavender Flowers of 'Cum Laude'

Tulip 'Cum Laude' and Wisteria

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Creating A Wildflower Meadow

Seed Sowing Kit

Back in January the team began a project to clear an area of overgrown shrubs that bordered the north side of the sports field which was completed in three weeks, for the story so far see the following blog entries:
26th January 2016 'Removing The Large Laurel'
28th January 2016 'The Laurel Clearance Continues'
12th February 2016 'Laurel And Shrub Clearance Update'

Since February the old shrub and tree stumps have been ground out, the area levelled, nuisance weeds sprayed off and annual weeds hoed off. Yesterday four tonnes of top soil were spread over the cleared area and levelled in preparation for today's seed sowing. The original plan was to return the area to grass but there has been a change, instead of grass the new plan is for a wildflower meadow. To create the meadow the area has been measured, 100 metres by 4 metres, and a seed mix ordered. The chosen mix, from Sherriff Amenity, is called 'Colour Splash 3 New Wave, a tall growing wildflower mixture which features orange tones and withstands heat and drought very well'.

Wildflower Seed 'Colour Splash 3 New Wave'

Two 400gram tins of seed were ordered, each tin sufficient to cover 200m sq (the total area is 400m sq). To make it easier to sow the seed, and for a more even distribution, the area was split in to four, smaller, equal sections, 25m x 4 (100m sq) and each seed tin split in to two, 200grams (100m sq). 

Wildflower Seed

The wildflower seed mix is
  • Cornflower - Centaurea Cyanus
  • Sensation Cosmos Bipinnatus - Cosmos Bipinnatus
  • Cosmos Sulphureus - Cosmos Sulphureus
  • Garden Chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemum
  • Coreopsis Tinctoria - Coreopsis Tinctoria
  • Tithonia - Tithonia speciosa
  • California Zinnia - Zinnia elegans

Wildflower Seed And Silver Sand

In a bucket, an inert carrier, Silver Sand, was mixed with the seed (5kg of sand per 200grams of seed) to help distribute it more evenly.

Seed And Sand Mix

By hand, the mixture was broadcast over each section and, when finished, gently raked in to the soil. With plenty of rain due in the next few days watering in wasn't deemed necessary.

Wildflower Meadow Area

Please Keep Off

Germination is expected in the next 8-10 days, in the mean time signs have been put up along the newly sown area to protect the young seedlings as they emerge.

Colour Splash 3 New Wave

The First Swifts 2016

The first swifts are back! Ali has been listening out for their return and today she heard the sound that made her look up to the sky, the shrill scream of a swift, 8:52am to be exact. Having flown all the way from Africa the two swifts were putting on a graceful aerial display. For the past 60 years the swifts have been studied by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and according to their Swift Diary, "This year the first swift was spotted around the Museum tower on Wednesday 4th May" (a short flight from Worcester College as the crow flies, sorry swift flies). Each year the swifts return to the nesting boxes in the tower's ventilation flues of the museum, for previous statistics, arrival dates, nesting activity, eggs hatched, chicks fledged and departure dates click on the link: SWIFTS IN THE TOWER

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Triumph Of This Year's Tulip Displays

Herbaceous Border

For the last month the tulips around the college garden have been putting on a fabulous display and this has resulted in many compliments from visitors and staff as they admire them. 'Amazing', 'stunning', 'wonderful', 'beautiful', 'gorgeous' are just a few of the words that have been used when trying to describe this display.
In the herbaceous border the two tulips that have been admired the most are the dark ones, Tulip 'Black Parrot' and 'Black Hero'.  

Border At The Far End Of The Quad

In the border at the far end of the quad the Tulip Lily Flowered Triump Mix provides a vibrant multi- coloured spectacle.

Corner Border

In contrast, in the corner border a far more calming display is created by the elegant ivory and green flowers that seemingly float above the wallflowers, this Tulip is 'Spring Green'


In the two urns that separate the herbaceous border the sunshine is created by vivid yellow of Tulip 'Candela'.

Lead Container Besse Building

Within the four lead containers, planted up last October see blog entry 'The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts', the perfect, clean white is from Tulip 'White Marvel'.
In the Provost's garden the newly created wildflower meadow is, at present, filled with tulips, 600 to be exact. The mix is made up of six varieties, Tulip 'Sun Lover', 'Atilla', 'Menton', 'Jan Reus', 'Irene Parrot' and 'National Velvet'
Wherever you look the colour around the gardens has gone in to overdrive and this is all because of the triumph of this year's tulip display.

Provost's Garden Meadow

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hazel Binding The Front Of The Woodland Border

Brittle Broken Hazel Binders

It is three years since the hazel binding was replaced in front of the first section of the border on the Broadwalk, see blog entry for 22nd March 2013 'Weaving Hazel On The Broadwalk'. The hazel binders only last three to four years before they become very brittle and start to break up in to pieces.

Old Hazel Binders And Stakes

Hazel Binders

Fresh lengths of hazel, 8 to 10 foot in length, were acquired from Harcourt Arboretum and stakes made from pieces hazel and birch not used in the making of the plant supports on the herbaceous border.  

Hazel And Birch Stakes

All the old hazel binders were removed from the front of the border and then the old stakes were removed and replaced with the new ones.

The long hazel binders were then carefully woven between the stakes, in front-behind-in front-behind, creating a natural looking edge along the woodland border. This section will be replaced in three years, spring 2019!

A New Edge

Natural Edge In Front Of The Woodland Border