Thursday, 26 November 2009


Readers of the blog may remember 'Mulch, Mulch, Glorious Mulch' from way back when, actually 24th March. Well, here we are again, this time though, mulching in the autumn, rather than spring. Mulches are best applied from mid to late spring or autumn when the soil is moist and warm, so rather than applying it next year, we have decided to mulch in November now that the border has been cleared. (We also need the space, as all the compost bins are full and we have nowhere to place the rest of the leaves and other hebaceous material)
As with mulching in the spring, the mulch will conserve the soil moisture, block weeds, improve soil structure and look good, however mulching in autumn provides protection for the plants from drastic temperature changes as the cold winter approaches.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fiddlers On The Roof

Now that the strong winds have died down, some of the gardeners turn their attention to the tea shed roof. The fiddlers on the roof were Ady, Josh, Simon and Kieron, who swapped their forks and spades for hammers and tar guns and, for one morning, set about putting a new roof on the tea shed. A big Thank You from the rest of the gardening team as we now have a warm dry room to retire to as the winter approaches.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Working at Worcester College we are so lucky to be outside every day and come across wildlife in various forms throughout the year. Our most recent friend is a frog who we discovered when blowing the leaves off the hebaceous border. Over the past 11 months we have had encounters with wildfowl that have visited the gardens; a Swan, Cormorant, Merganser, Heron and a Little Grebe. Birds seen in the gardens such as Gold Crests, Sparrow Hawks, Woodpeckers, Kingfisher and the more common birds, Robins, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Blackcap. A Hedgehog has also been successfully rehomed at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.
Due to the warm weather the number of butterflies have increased this year, sightings include; Red Admiral, Peacock, Scarlet Tiger, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. Most of our encounters are very pleasant ones, but not all, as Lucy had a nasty coming together with a hornet and was very unpleasantly stung, which was very painful.

Winter Preparation

It is that time of the year when the hebaceous border is well past its best and needs a thorough tidy up. The team gather along the border with sharp secateurs in hand and prepare to cut all the perennial plants to the ground and remove all the annual plants. We divide into teams of two and split the border into small sections, cutting down, removing all the material to the compost heaps for next years mulch and remove all the birch supports, which are taken to the chipper to be chipped at a later date.
Once the plant material has all been removed, Ady then blows all the leaves off the border, which is also added to the compost heaps.

Now that the border has been cleared it is ready for its make over. Plants will be lifted and divided into more plants and moved to other areas and new plants will be added to enhance the border for next years display. Tulips will be added for a spring display, 300-400 in red, orange and white to mimic the colours in the summer display.
The last piece of the jigsaw will be to fork over the border to allow air and water to reach the plant roots, followed by a mulch.

Wrap It Up

Having perfected their wrapping skills on the tea shed, Ady, Graham and Ying continue to wrap their way around the college, this time with the hardy banana on the herbaceous border. This banana, Musa bajoo, is the only banana plant that is left outside during the winter, but needs some protection to help it through. First, Ady bends the large leaves around the trunk.

Next, he wraps the trunk with loft insulation to keep the trunk warm during the coldest of nights.
After wrapping the trunk with loft insulation, he wraps the structure with fleece, tying it all up with string to complete the banana's winter protection. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with string,
These are a few of my favourite things."

Well it wasn't brown paper, it was actually a very large blue tarpaulin tied up with five pieces of rope and some string, but the tea shed is our favourite thing as it is where we go for rest, tea, coffee and food.

Due to the gale force winds blowing today, the roofing felt on the gardeners tea shed was ripped off, a very important building in our daily routine. As a temporary measure, until the strong winds die down and we can get a large amount of roofing felt, the tarpaulin was tied down over the roof by Ady, Graham, Joe, Ali and our new volunteer gardener, Ying.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Vine Weevil

It is amazing how much extra work the discovery of a little bug can cause you. One of the most feared bugs among gardeners, apart from the Lawn Chaffer Grub, is Vine Weevil. Over the last few weeks, the summer bedding plants have been removed from their pots and replaced by our winter bedding scheme. However, this job, usually a simple task, has been made a lot more difficult due to the presence of these creamy, may I say ugly, grubs. (I hated taking this photo)
Here's the education part of the blog:
The adult beetles can be found between March and May, is just under 1cm long and is matt black with gingery-brown flecks on its wing cases and has elbowed antennae. They feed mostly at night and nibble around the edges of leaves, the first visable sign. The adults lay tiny brown eggs in the soil which then hatch, in late summer, into creamy coloured, legless grubs which often curl into a C-shape, have a ginger-brown head and reach 1 cm long. They feed on roots, burrow into tubers and gnaw through the stem base on woody plants. The second visable sign is when the plant starts to wilt and a gentle tug reveals that it is no longer firmly rooted. The weevils then overwinter as pupae and then hatch as adult beetles and the cycle starts all over again!

One of the pots in the Provost's Yard, when having its plants replaced, has been found to have the dreaded Vine Weevil, resulting in all the plants and soil being replaced. The Impatiens and Fuchsia's, of which we have already taken cuttings, have been thrown away, all their roots had been eaten. The Fern has had all the soil removed and its roots washed, and the Bay has been planted in to open ground. A quick ten minute job ended up taking about three hours.

A Very Large Brush and Six Trowels

As the weather starts to get colder in the mornings, dew starts to form on the lawns creating perfect breeding conditions for the lawn fungus, Fusarium. In order to minimise the risk of this desease developing, Josh regularly brushes the main quad lawn removing the dew as well as causing the grass leaf to stand up which, when mowing, helps to produce a cleaner cut.
Having finished his morning brush, Josh swaps his brush for a trowel and joins the other members of the team in planting the bulbs and plants in to the main quad border. This winters colour scheme is blue and white; the blue from Mysotis sylvatica 'Mon Amie Blue', grown from seed and Hyacinth 'Delft Blue' with the white Tulip 'White Emperor'.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday Wreaths

One of the most important jobs this week is the making of the wreaths of remembrance for this Sunday's ceremony. Following brief instructions by Ali, Lucy and Joe carefully added Laurel leaves, Poppies and Rosemary to the wreath's framework to create two beautiful floral tributes.

Monday, 2 November 2009


The weekends go so fast and this Monday the gardeners knew what would be in store for them when they returned to work. The invading army had joined forces with their allies, the wind and rain over the weekend and attacked on all fronts.

Kieran attempted to mow up the leaves with the ride on mower, but was defeated by the depth of leaves. He called for reinforcements and was joined by the rest of the team, each armed with a leaf rake and plenty of energy, after a weekends rest. Four hours later all the leaves were raked up and deposited in the leaf pits where they will be left to rot, a victory for the gardeners.