Wednesday, 29 April 2009

We Are Pleased To Announce

We are pleased to announce the hatching of thirteen ducklings, seen for the first time today. The proud parents are two of our ten ducks who arrived last year. (The Fledgling Duckies filmed in the Blog of 9th February)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Official Opening

The gardening team have worked hard this week making sure the Ruskin quadrangle gardens and the surrounding area were spotless for the official opening of the Ruskin Building development. The opening ceremony was performed by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson with the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Susanna Pressel in attendance.

Cheers! And now for the team photo.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Blooming Marvellous

The calming white of the Snowdrops and the yellow of the Aconite's and Narcissi have now left us, but have been replaced by the bold, but graceful, Tulips. The college gardens are now bursting with colour, the graceful tangerine tulip, Ballerina and the deep maroon, almost black, Queen of the Night, encouraging the rest of the plants to join them in this colour spectacle.

The Wallflowers, Wisteria, Viola's, Polyanthus and Bellis are joining them in this explosion of colour. Red, yellow, blue, white, orange and black, a floral rainbow in the college grounds. The colours will continue over the Summer, it just keeps getting better!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I Need A Volunteer

" I need a volunteer......" The words of Simon, the head gardener.
What for? the team wonder. As can be seen from the photo, Graham volunteered. He put on the waders and into the lake he went to cut down the grasses. Ali stayed on dry land to assist in the taking away of the cut down material.
Ady, like Ali, opted to remain on dry land, continuing to tidy the surrounding area.


Since the blog of the 4th April "Rejuvenation", the corner of the Ruskin Building has been updated and rejuvenated. As can be seen in the photo's, the project has now been completed and this tired, overgrown corner has been given a new lease of life.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Let's Twist Again!

As the plants grow rapidly in the hebaceous border, it is now that time of year to add support to them for the coming months. These plant supports are made from material harvested from coppiced Birch and supplied to the college by Harcourt Arboretum, part of the Oxford Botanic Garden.

Each piece of Birch is
twisted and weaved
into shape and
then bent around
the plant that
requires support.

This is a slow process as some plants require more support then others. Several pieces of Birch are placed around the plant and a frame built by joining the pieces together.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Who Lives In A House Like This?

In the words of Lloyd Grossman "Who lives in a house like this?" As you wonder around the college grounds at this time of year, the wildlife are busy creating their homes for the Summer. Within the lawns, the mines of the Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva, can be found. Their homes easily recognised by the miniature volcano shaped mounds of the excavated material and an entrance hole. They are solitary bees, so each mine is inhabited by one russet coloured female bee and one grub. This mine is stocked with pollen and nectar for the grub which will remain underground until emerging next spring.
So who lives in a house like this? Found in one of the Holm Oak trees, Quercus ilex, the nest is currently being built. The answer, our returning pair of Sparrow hawk, Accipiter nisus. For the last two summers, the Sparrow hawks have successfully reared their young and have returned again. Hopefully they will be successful again and will give joy to the twitchers amongst the gardening team watching their progress. To listen to their call use the link:

Lastly, the box that Ali built is still available. Maybe next year, heres hoping!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

A River Of Blue

It is always very satisfying when a planting scheme turns out to be as you had hoped. When planting bulbs there is that awkward time delay from planting in the Autumn, to the results six months later. Will it work? The Serpentine bed in the new Ruskin Building garden is one such area. The hope was a river of blue, and so, it has come to be. A river of blue Muscari, Grape Hyacinths, have emerged, creating a gentle stream amongst the box balls. Wonderful!

Not Finished Yet!

The planting of the rejuvenated bed has begun, but halted temporarily, whilst further alterations are made. The theme of the planting is to be Black and White, creating a problem of how best to show the Black Grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens.

The solution is to create a division within the beds using stone edging. The white flowering plant, Osmanthus delavayi, is planted in one section and surrounded by a black mulch. The black grasses will be planted in the smaller front section surrounded by white cobble stones. Now that a solution has been found, the planting continues, only to be halted again by the Easter break!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Spring Colour

Due the recent success of producing the plants for the college Summer displays, the garden team decided, in July 2008, to produce the majority of plants for this years Winter/Spring display. Out came the Thompson & Morgan and Chiltern Seeds catalogues and seeds were then chosen by the team.

Polyanthus, Bellis and Viola
were chosen and sown in
their hundreds at the
beginning of August 2008.
At first this would seem
rather ambitious as
Polyanthus can be
rather eratic in germinating,
but Mick worked his magic
and the seeds responded
to his words of

Over the next few months the
young seedlings were
pricked out into individual
cells and hardened off in
coldframes to get them
ready for their planting

In October, they were planted out into their final positions in the garden. Wallflowers were bought in and Tulips also planted to enhance the displays. As we approach the middle of April, the gardeners hard work is starting to pay dividends and is producing a wonderful display. Over the next few weeks a riot of colour will be seen as you walk around the college. All the flowers in these photo's were just seeds in a packet six months ago.


As the grass cutting season begins, new compost bays need to be made, so the team set about the task. The area is levelled and cleared ready for the hardcore to be added to form the new base.
Over the next two days the ten tonnes of hardcore, that has been delivered, is transported across the college to where it is needed.
Each trailor load is then spread across the area to form the new base using shovells and landscape rakes.
Once all the hardcore has been spread and levelled, Smudge then uses a whacker plate to compress all the hardcore into a firm base.

All that remains is the final cementing. This area will give easy access to the ride on mowers to empty their grass cuttings and, over the years, will be mixed with shredded paper, leaves and hebaceous material to create our valuable compost.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Baby Peaches

Back in early March, Lucy was given the task to pollinate all the flowers on the peach tree within the peach house. Success!
Now for the science lesson, Pollination occurs when pollen, which is produced in the plant's male reproductive organ, or stamen, is exposed to the pistil found within the female's reproductive part. Once pollination takes place, on this occasion with the help of Lucy's paint brush, seeds begin to develop. Tiny peaches are beginning to form and will swell over the next few months to give a mouth watering crop.

Majestic Magnolia's

This year has been a particulaly good year for Magnolia's. As you walk around the college, they are providing us with a stunning floral display.

This years display is the best seen
for a few years. The cold weather
earlier in the year has meant the
flowers have not come out too early
and been caught by the frost.
The display is further enhanced
by the underplanting of bulbs
bloomimg at the same time, Daffodil's
and Tulips. This year, Mother Natures
timing is perfect.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


There are a few areas in college that are looking tired and overgrown. In the corner of the new Ruskin Building development is one such area in need of rejuvenation. Ali and Graham were given the task to clear out all the old shrubs, cutting them down and digging out all the roots. Lucy then joined them to help clear out as much of the bindweed as they could.

Smudge and Ady joined them in the next step, to single dig the area. This involves digging trenches, one after the other, and adding compost to each trench, using the soil from the new trench to cover the previous one after the compost is added! Once the area has been dug, it is levelled ready for planting.
Smudge then adds the finishing touch of a new stone edging to match the rest of the Ruskin Building development.

The area is now ready and new young shrubs and trees will be added over the next few weeks.