Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

The cold weather continues but this blogging gardener is off to a warmer climate for three weeks to warm my bones, so this will be the last post till the new year.
The team would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your continued support and hope you have enjoyed our activities highlighted in our blog during 2010.
May we wish you all a "Merry Christmas and a prosperous New year".

Freezing Fog

Not only have we had snow and ice, now we have freezing fog that seems to get right into your bones.
Another good job to keep you warm, in these freezing temperatures, is chipping. Whilst Ady and Joss continued clearing out the leaf pit by the Provost's garden and moving it to the top of the sports field, Simon, Graham and Ali cleared the chipping pile. By the end of the session, it may still have been cold outside but we were certainly warm on the inside.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The End Of The Ditch

Today was the third and final session to clear the ditch that surrounds the sports field of all its leaves. By lunch time the last leaf had been removed to the leaf pit and the ditch finished for another year, although without this type of work the team would have frozen in the minus temperatures seen over the last few weeks, a god send.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Callicarpa bodinieri var.giraldii 'Profusion'

The berry producing shrubs this year have produced an abundance of fruit for the wildlife this coming winter. If the old wives tale is true, the more bountiful supply of berries, the worse the winter, this old wife has been warning people for months!
One plant that stands out from the rest is Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'. Its berry display can be seen from mid autumn when the shrub produces a spectacular display of large, packed clusters of vivid, shiny almost metallic, bead like purple berries. It is fully hardy, grown best in full sun or dappled shade, a deciduous shrub that loses its leaves to reveal this amazing display.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Must Keep Warm!

The ditch and path that runs along the sports field to the canal building has now been cleared of all its leaves and created a huge leaf pile. This will be pushed back and mixed, eventually creating leaf mould for us to use as a mulch on the borders around the college.

The ditch, however, continues around the sports field and needs to be cleared of leaves. Joe and Graham spend the majority of the day blowing the leaves out, for Ady, Simon, Joss and Ali to fork and rake onto the woodland area adjacent to the canal. No big machines to help today, as the path is inaccessible to them, just sheer strength and will power, and the need to keep

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

North Easterley Wind

The north easterly wind is bitterly cold today, but no more snow has fallen overnight. The team continue on from yesterday, working in the sheltered part of the college, clearing up leaves from the path that runs along the side of the sports field.

All the trees have now dropped their leaves onto the path, shrub borders and ditch, so now is the perfect time to clear them. This job is too big for rakes and brute force, so the large machines are brought out again.

Armed with blowers, rakes and pitch forks, the team move the many millions of leaves out of the ditch and shrub borders and out onto the path.

The New Holland and its grab, perfectly driven by Simon, then picks up the leaves and places them into the hydraulic trailor until it is full.
Once full, the fully loaded trailor is driven to the nearest leaf pit and emptied.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

November Snow

As expected the snow has finally arrived in Oxford, so the team set about making the college paths safe for its staff and students.

Armed with shovels, brooms and wheelbarrows of rock salt, the team work their way around the college clearing away the snow from the steps and paths, then apply the rock salt to stop it refreezing over night.

Once this work is completed, they move to a sheltered area of the college that has not seen too much snow, and continue to clear the leaves away, another good job to keep them warm in the snowy conditions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

How Do You Keep Warm?

A question the team are often asked in this cold weather is "How do you keep warm?" Well, apart from the increased number of layers we are all currently wearing, the soup supping at break and lunch time, the answer is keep moving!
Today Simon, armed with his chainsaw, Graham, Joe and Ali, armed with axe, spend the morning chopping up wood for the college fire places. Within ten minutes of starting they have worked up a sweat and the excess layers are removed, no need for soup today.

Another job to keep us warm, if only from the steam emitted from the heap, is to volunteer to work on the compost heaps. The New Holland, with its grab, is used for this job, mixing leaves, grass, shredded office paper and herbaceous material together. Due to the recent leaf fall and the cutting back of the herbaceous border, the heaps around the college have fallen out of the confines of their boards and need pushing back and mixing.

Once the work on the heap is finished, the area is swept and is ready for the next lot of material to be added.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bitterly Cold

The coldest November in 17 years, all the team can agree with that fact especially today! Bitterly cold outside, we started the day in the coldest part of the college, the border in front of the cottages. Simon, Graham, Joe and Ali worked together to cut it down and mulch it, then turned their attention to the border at the bottom of the quad.
Also doing their best to keep warm, Ady and Joss spend the day mulching, completing the herbaceous border and then moving on to the Provost's Rose Garden, where a few hundred tulip bulbs were planted amongst the roses last week, 'China Pink' and 'National Velvet', lily flowered pink and deep crimson respectively.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Project Tulip

Over the last few days the team have been working together on the herbaceous border, cutting down all the tired plant material and weeding it.
If you were following the blog last November you may remember the planting of 300-400 tulip bulbs, well, we have now planted another 300 completing our project. Last year we planted the colours white, orange and red to mimic the summer display, well, we have now planted the two remaining colours, pink and purple, so next May, the border will be full of tulips.
Not content with 300 bulbs in this border, whilst Ady and Joss added a mulch, Graham and Ali planted 100 'Abu Hassan' tulip bulbs, goblet shaped with rich red flowers margined with golden yellow, in the corner border, see blog entry 29th October 'Hot Colours for Winter'

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion

For the last three days the gardening team have been focusing all their efforts on the Linbury Building and the surrounding areas, the reason being, the visit of Lord Sainsbury.
Many of the overhanging branches have been cut back and, with the help of Matt and Dwayne from the maintenance team, all the leaves removed from the roof. Matt and Dwayne also then spent time power washing all the grime from the paving area directly outside the building as well as the cobwebs and dirt from the eaves.

New shingle was added to edge the paving and the tarmac paths swept clean once all the borders had been mulched. The lawn was then mown and edged, the new tropical bed cut down
and a mulch added, then the york stone path leading to the building hosed off to remove any dirt.
The finishing touch, two pots moved to the front of the building for Ali and Simon to create new displays. After three busy days the area was in first class order 'Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion'.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Too Deep

For the last month, Mondays have meant leaves and today was no exception, only this time on a large scale. Having spent the morning clearing The Broadwalk for, hopefully, the last time, luckily the Horse Chestnut leaves fell early, the team moved to the back of the Nuffield Lawn and the borders and paths that edge it. The mass of leaves were too deep and heavy for us to lift on forks and rakes, so the New Holland tractor and grab were brought into use for the first time this year.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Rakes, Blowers and Bags

It is not just within the college grounds that the gardening team have to clear the leaves. The team spent the morning clearing leaves from the garden of two properties, no ride on mowers this time. Rakes, blowers and bags were used to remove the leaves, 20 tonne bags filled and transported to the compost heaps.
The afternoon was spent clearing leaves from the Canal Building at the bottom of Nelson Street, two truck loads in all. The team, exhausted at the end of the day, but pleased with their achievement.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Apple and Pear Juice 2010

The weather has been very wet today and for most of the day the team have been doing their inside jobs. Joe spent the day labelling the Worcester College Apple and Pear Juice, with a few hours help from Kieron, Ali and Graham.
The first batch of this years juice will go on sale this Friday, the 12th of November, between 14:15-16:00 hours in the Head of Gardens office by the nursery/car park, price per bottle £3.75.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A Very Leafy Week

Enough said about the very leafy week, although we spent much of our time chasing leaves around the college the views were spectacular, enjoy!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Far Too Deep

The north easterly wind has been blowing all night and has continued through most of the morning bringing down even more leaves. For an unprecedented forth day in a row, the Nuffield Lawn has had to be mowed, only this time some of the leaves are just too deep to get through.

Whilst Joss continues to plough through the lighter covered areas, Simon, Ali, Ady and Joe get the blowers and rakes out to clear the other areas until all the leaves are cleared.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Border Work

The leaves are still falling at an alarming rate and, for the third day in a row, the Nuffield Lawn needs mowing. However, other jobs need to be done within the college, one being the cutting down of the herbaceous border.
Graham and Ali spend the day on the border cutting down the tired herbaceous plants and manage to finish half way down the first part of the border.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Terrace Repair

The terrace at the top of the quad has been gradually eroded over the years through the constant foot traffic and by the gardeners, brushing away the grass that settles there when mowing the banks. When it rains the erosion now creates areas of large puddles so needs to be repaired.
Simon, Ady, Graham, and Joe start the repair by breaking up the old path, then add a new layer of hoggin on top. They then rake it to create a slight slope towards the drain to eradicate the puddles, finally using a whacker plate to merge the two layers together.

Monday, 1 November 2010


As I mentioned on Friday, the team are in the middle of a battle against the leaves. The Nuffield Lawn and most of the college paths are covered again, so armed with rakes, blowers and ride on mowers we put up a united front in our challenge to clear them by the end of the day.
Below you will find two videos of Kieron mowing the lawn and how the mower dumps the leaves onto the compost heaps.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Fascicularia bicolor

A plant of note within the gardens, giving a stunning display at the moment, is Fascicularia bicolor. This exotic, unusual looking plant originates from Chile and can be found adjacent to the lake, in an old Holm Oak tree stump, on the Nuffield Lawn. Its brightly coloured foliage and rosette flowers in the centre, draw your eye to it as you pass by, but don't get too close, its foliage is tough and spiny, but still well worth a careful look.

Hot Colours For Winter

The corner border has been ripped out and prepared for planting, so it is time to bring the plants from the nursery and a few structural plants recently purchased.
This years scheme is to provide a hot colour border for the winter and spring, red, yellow and orange. The structural plants, Cornus alba will add height and Photinia fraseri 'Little Red Robin' adds structure at a lower level, whilst the viola's and wallflower create a blanket of cover over the soil.

Chasing Your Tail

The wind has been so strong today that Joss and the ride on mower were left defeated. The photo above was taken at 13:30 after Joss had already spent the morning mowing this lawn, the leaves just kept on falling.

By 16:00 this photo shows the leaves in victory, Monday morning it will be Ady or Kieron and the ride on mower who face up to the leaves, who will be victorious this time?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Light Drizzle

In the early morning drizzle, Simon, Joe and Ali begin their day in the Provost's rose garden, cutting back the herbaceous material and lifting another plant that has started to take over. This time, as with the Euphorbia schillingii in the Serpentine Bed, it is the Veronicastrum that has created large robust mounds within the beds, for the worst offenders it is time to be removed.
Ady and Graham take the opportunity the drizzle has given them to do some wheelbarrow maintenance, checking all the wheelbarrow tyre pressures and oiling all the bearings. As the day progresses the weather deteriorates and the team are forced to move indoors for the afternoon.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Bulb Forcing

Joe and Ali spent a few hours this morning forcing bulbs; Hyacinth 'Anne Marie'; Fritillaria meleagris; Fritillaria elwesii and Narcissi 'Avalance'.
The reason for forcing some of our bulbs is to make them flower before their natural flowering season allowing us to create a display indoors in the senior common room.
Once all the bulbs had been potted up into compost they covered them with a thick layer of sand outside in a coldframe. This will mimick what would happen naturally if they had been planted outside and, once they start to shoot through the sand the pots, will be lifted and then planted in our indoor display planter.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

All Change

The team photo was taken yesterday, so Ady and Graham spent the day ripping out the corner border, the annuals taken to the compost heap and plants, needed for next year, taken to the greenhouse for potting up. (The photo above was taken in September when the border was at its best)
Once all the plants have been removed, the area is weeded and levelled ready for the winter bedding to be added next week.

Ali, Simon and Joe spent the morning in the Provost's Yard planting up the oak and lead planters. The main structural plants, Tree Ferns, Holly, Liquid Amber, Eucalyptus and Box balls remain in the planters all year to which other plants are added.

These additional plants may look familiar, they were used in various planters last winter and, after being removed in May/June, spent the summer in a healing in area where they grew into much larger specimens, creating a much better effect this year.

The finishing touches to the planters are the Viola, Wallflower, Polyanthus and bulbs all making for a colourful display for the coming winter and early spring months ahead.