Thursday, 27 May 2010

Moving Out

With temperatures rising outside and steadily increasing up to 40 degrees centigrade inside the glasshouse, it is time to move the plants out. Over the next few weeks the team will be planting out all the bedding plants for the summer display, leaving an empty glasshouse behind them. There are numerous large specimens that need to be moved and great strength is needed to get them off the floor and through the glasshouse doors; Ady, Graham and Joe were the strong men today.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

All Change

It's that time of year again, when the winter bedding has to be ripped out and replaced with its summer counterparts. Joe and Simon remove all the bedding from the border at the bottom of the front quadrangle, some of the Myosotis are replanted on the broadwalk, the remainder are taken to the compost heap.

Graham, Josh and Ady rip out all the Wallflowers and Tulips from the corner border by the Nuffield lawn and prepare the bed for the next display. This bed is known as the Tropical bed, due to its summer display, but this year, it is time for a change. All I can say, as seen by the photo below, is that a bench has been placed where a tropical plant would have stood in the summer months. Keep on reading the blog or visit the garden during July and August to see what surprises are in store.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Rosa banksiae & Wisteria

In the blog for the 24th February 'Rosa banksiae Lutea', I mentioned that unlike many other roses, this rose was pruned after flowering and that pruning with the other roses would remove all the flowers. Well, it is absolutely covered in small, double, pale yellow flowers glistening in the May sunshine.
Flowering alongside this rose and around the front quadrangle, Provost's garden and to the rear of the cottages, numerous Wisteria can be found, their blue flowers cascading like a water fall. The harsh winter has had its rewards, the floral splendour around the college is the best for many a year.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Great Unveiling

Today is the day for the 'Great Unveiling'. Back on the 19th November 2009, the blog entry 'Wrap It Up' was about the Musa basjoo located on the herbaceous border and the need to wrap it up to protect it from what ever the winter may throw at it. Little did I know, when writing that entry, that we would experience the worst winter in thirty years.
After that terrible winter, our worry is that, should the banana plant have survived those extreme cold temperatures it may now be sweating under all that wrapping in this very hot May. The descision has therefore been taken to remove all of its protection and check for signs of life.
We need not have worried as to its fate, two new leaves growing from its trunks, a great survivor of extremes, during which time many plants have died.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


The college grounds cover a vast area, 26 acres, and along with other sites, the gardening team is always kept busy. Some areas are regularly maintained, whereas, others are dealt with less often. Over the last two days, two of these areas have been tackled by the team and brought back in to a tidy, managed order.
Once again the team have split into two groups, Josh, Ali, Simon and Joe tackle the large pile of material in need of chipping at the bottom of the sports field. Ady, Lucy and Graham focus their attention on the area behind the Nuffield Building, where the 'Tangled Mess' can be located, a very large Laurel bush has grown too large and needs to be brought down to a more manageable height.They reduce this by a third, remove all the cut down branches to the chipping pile, weed the adjacent borders and rake up all the remaining leaves left from last autumn.
The second area, in need of much attention, borders the college boundary line behind the Casson Building. Simon, Ali and Joe join up with the others as they finish the first area and all move on to this area. Two foot tall grass, four foot high nettles and weeds, a number of very large over grown shrubs and litter are cleared from this site and finally some semblance of order is returned to a forgotten area of the college.

Friday, 14 May 2010

'Passionale' and 'Vulcan'

Back on the 19th April in the blog entry, 'Tulips', I mentioned that we were waiting for the Wallflowers to open in the Tropical Bed, hopefully, creating a bed of stunning contrast. Well, they are now in flower and the result is as we had hoped, the deep rich crimson flowers of Wallflower 'Vulcan' contrasting with the large lilac-purple blooms of Tulip 'Passionale'. We love it when our plans work, but six months is a long time to wait to find out.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Before & After

Not all our gardening work is carried out within the college grounds. Today the team visited two college properties to tidy the gardens. Splitting into two groups, Ali and Lucy went to one garden to weed, hedge cut and tidy, leaving Joe, Simon, Ady, Graham and Josh to work on the other.
After a very hard mornings work, the groups reunited to remove all the rubbish and tools transporting them back to the college. As can be seen by the photo's, the lads group worked miracles on their garden, rejuvenating it back to a lovely, orderly, back garden.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Gardening and weeds go hand in hand, even when a plant won't grow you can be sure that the weeds will. As with plants, some weeds are annual, new plants growing each year from seed and some perennial, surviving year to year from underground stems or roots.
Annual weeds such as Chickweed, Groundsel, Fat Hen and Speedwell spread as persistent weeds due to the number of seeds they produce, sometimes germinating up to twenty years after seeds are first produced. To prevent annual weeds, the trick is to remove them before they germinate, either by chemicals, hoeing, digging or applying a thick mulch to stop light from reaching the seeds required for germination.
Perennials are a different matter altogether, Brambles, Bindweed, Couch Grass, Dandelions and Ground Elder all surviving below ground by an underground network of stems and roots, even when dug up, the slightest piece of stem or root left results in a new weed. A systemic weed killer containing Glyphosate is the best, the weed absorbs the chemical which is then passed down to the root.
At this time of year weeds can be found in all the borders, paths and grass around the college, so they keep the team very busy trying to keep them at bay. Over the last two days, Ali has been busy clearing both types of weed from the nursery area, but how many pieces of root has she left? How many seeds are also laying, invisible, on the soil waiting for the right conditions to germinate? I, somehow feel, that this is not the last time the nursery will be weeded this year.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

How Many Men?

How many men does it take to change a ride on mower's blade? This is not a joke and there is no punchline. Ady, Josh and Simon spent the best part of a day replacing the blades on our Iseki mower. Changing the blade involves detaching the mowing deck from the mower, tinkering with such things as lower chutes, rear links, ring clips, rock nuts and the drive shaft. Once the deck had been removed, which contains the blades, they continued their tinkering, this time with plates, blades, spring washers, shims and even collars! After a few teething problems, putting the blades on the wrong way round, Josh put the mower through a test drive, the deck lowered, the blades turned and the grass was cut, mission accomplished.

Friday, 7 May 2010


A week ago the roses in the college grounds were pest free, but within that week the white, green and black fly have been breeding at an alarming rate, especially on the roses found on the top terrace of the front quadrangle.
These pests have been breeding at a faster rate than the beneficial insects that feed on them, Ladybirds, who can't possibly eat them all, so chemicals now have to be used to control these pests.
Ali spent the morning wondering around the grounds in her full chemical spraying kit, yes, the snowman outfit worn by Josh and Ady mentioned in previous blog entries. Her job, to spray all the roses showing any signs of infestation, whether one fly or a million. The chemical used is 'systemic', it works by spreading through all the tissues of the plant instead of staying on the surface and will kill the pests when they feed off the sap and draw in the chemical. This spraying does not affect the plant and should kill enough fly allowing the Ladybirds to catch up in numbers.
Ali has also made two trips to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Rescue Centre with injured animals, a young squirrel and a moorhen, both with injured legs. Hopefully, that will be the last for the year.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Three Borders In One Day

The plants arrived last week and the border was prepared in January, it is now time to plant up our new winter themed border. Ady, Graham, Joe, Simon and Ali, along with our student volunteer, Johnny, transport the plants from the nursery area to the border ready for planting.
Simon has designed the planting scheme; Euonymus Fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety', Sarcococca confusa, Fatsia japonica and Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', he places the plants in their positions ready for the team to plant them.

Once planted, a mulch is added to the border, the paths swept and all the plants are watered in. Two other borders were worked on today, Ali finished creating a border at the end of the Serpentine bed in the Ruskin Building area, whilst Ady and Graham started to renovate an old border in the Canal Building car park ready for planting tomorrow. Three borders in one day.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Grow Your Own

With the renovation of the glasshouse completed in the middle of April, it is time to start moving the young tomato plants into their new home. The varieties grown this year are Sungella, Harlequin, Harbinger and Ruby, 27 plants in all.
Sungella, a high yielding, orange skinned, golf ball sized tomato on long trusses.
Harlequin, a high yielding, rich red, plum shaped tomato on long trusses, our favourite tomato from last year.
Harbinger, highly productive over a long period, medium sized, thick skinned tomato of a very good flavour.
Ruby, a vigorous plant producing long trusses of red, current sized, succulent, sweet flavoured tomatoes.