Friday, 29 July 2011

Plugs and Seed

Preparations have already begun for our winter floral display. The first delivery of plug plants have arrived from our supplier Ball Colegrave and, having found a shady spot under a tree, Ady and Simon potted up the first 80 into 9cm pots.

The Wallflowers, 'Sunset Orange', have not been brought in and are being grown from seed. Callum, our apprentice, has sown them in a large tray and covered them with a sheet of glass and newspaper, a method taught by an experienced nurseryman and former colleague, Micky.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Corpus Christi

With the weather warming up again and after the last four days, the team finish today visiting Corpus Christi college. Founded in 1517, it is one of the older, smaller Oxford colleges, among its former graduates are David and Ed Miliband.

Head Gardener since 1979, David Leake, very kindly gave up his time to show us round his lovely gardens. Unlike the many traditional, formal style gardens of the oxford colleges, David has created a wild, natural garden, mixing wild and cultivated plants, seen growing together in perfect harmony. Thank you for an enjoyable garden visit.

Strimmed, Trimmed, Blown and Sawn.

For the last four days Ady and Callum have been working down at the sports field end of the college. Graham has assisted them for three days and Simon and Ali two, so if you wondered where all the gardeners had been this week, this is where you would have found us.

Twelve months ago, see blog entry for 10th August 2010, 'Back Behind The Line', the team were clearing the overhanging trees and shrubs and it needed to be done again. Strimmers, hedge cutters, blowers, chainsaw, saws, loppers and secateurs, as well as perseverance and patience, helped get the job done.

The result, the groundsman can now mow up to the edge of their field and the path that leads to the Canal Building is free from unsightly tall weeds, unkempt hedges and shrubs, an unruly forest of bamboo and overhanging tree branches, a job well done.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Over the last three days the five cucumber plants in the gardeners vegetable glasshouse have gone into overdrive. Thirty cucumbers have been picked, too many for us to consume alone, so have been given away to the kitchen, staff, family and friends.
Cucumber Zeina F1 hybrid, all female, produces a mass of a sweet, juicy, smooth skinned, mini fruits and according to the label will continue to crop until end of August. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

Another plant catching visitors eyes can be found on the south facing top terrace next to staircase five. Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' is a vigorous, half hardy plant (although we have not protected ours during the winter) and has been flowering in this full sun position since the end of June. The upright spikes carry a mass of dark purple-blue flowers held on at their base by black calyx, a real stunner.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Moss, Plastic and Tape

What is that in the tree? Many people have stopped and asked that question when looking at the Magnolia iolanthe. The answer is an attempt at air layering, a method of propagating.
Back in early spring, armed with damp moss, pieces of old compost bags and sticky tape, Ali and Joe went on a search for one to two year old stems perfect for air layering. A wound was made in the stem through a leaf bud to create a tongue that could be lifted. The damp moss was then placed in the tongue and around the wound, covered with the piece of plastic, sealing it with the tape. During the next year roots should develop from the wound into the moss, after which the stem can be cut from below the rooted section and potted up to create a new young plant. All we have to do is wait for nature to do the hard work for us.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Successional Planting

The early flowering Daylillies have finished flowering in the herbaceous border leaving large patches of green foliage. Trialled last year, in a small patch of the border to make sure our idea worked, the foliage is cut down and removed to the compost pile.

Grown form seed, sown early March, the plants to replace the Daylillies are five varieties of Rudbeckia, a mid summer to late autumn flowering daisy. The varieties we have chosen are:

Rudbeckia x hirta hybrida 'Cherokee Sunset', a double to semi double, 3 to 4 inch bloom in shades in golden yellow, bronze, orange and mahogany.

Rudbeckia x hirta 'Cherry Brandy', a mass of cherry coloured blooms;

Rudbeckia hirta 'Chim Chiminee', a quilled petalled bloom in rustic colours;

Rudbeckia hirta 'Kelvedon Star', a bright yellow bloom with a dark brown centre;

Rudbeckia hirta 'Moreno', a generously petalled bloom of rich mahogany-red with golden orange tips.

Once all the Rudbeckia had been planted, three different Sunflowers were planted in the hot end of the border to infill a few gaps;

Sunflower 'Claret' F1 Hybrid, a chocolate brown bloom, sown mid May, is the tallest, requiring stake support and will reach 4 to 6 feet;

Sunflower 'Irish Eyes', dwarf, compact, multi branched, topped with yellow flowers with a green central disc;

Sunflower 'Teddy Bear', dwarf with big, fluffy, double golden yellow blooms.
The border will continue to have colour well into autumn now that all our successional planting is complete.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Provost's Garden Party

At 2 o'clock this afternoon the staff of Worcester College were invited to attend the Provost's Garden Party. Mr Richard Smethurst has been the Provost since 1991 and is retiring this summer, he will be greatly missed.
As can be seen by the photograph, the gardeners clean up quite well, not a pair of steel toe capped boots, dirty clothes or grubby gloves worn when meeting our Provost and his wife, Dr Gillingham. An enjoyable time was had by all.


The judges for Oxford In Bloom arrived this morning to judge our display. All the lawns had been re edged and mown, borders dead headed once again and weeds removed. We now have to wait until the 16th September when the results are announced at a presentation evening, fingers crossed, we can do no more but wait.

Friday, 15 July 2011

"What is That?"

Over the last few weeks a very large number of visitors have walked through the gardens and two plants have caused them to stop and ask us "What Is That?".
The dark succulent, pictured above, has caused quite a stir and has prompted the most questions. The answer is Aeonium arborium 'Schwarzkopf', a dark succulent forming rosettes of almost black, glossy leaves, needing full sun to show off its best colour.

The other plant causing people to stop is Crocosmia 'Lucifer', pictured above. Vibrant red, funnel shaped flowers on long arching stems that rise from mid green peated leaves, a must for any hot sunny border.

Ready To Be Judged

We have entered the college gardens into this years Oxford In Bloom competition in the category, Best Display By A University Or College. The judges will visit the gardens on Monday 18th or Tuesday 19th, next week, awarding marks across a number of categories:
- General impression, colour and impact.
- Cleanliness, tidiness, absence of pest and weeds.
- Quality, choice, height and colour of plant.
- Arrangement and design.
The team has worked very hard this week preparing the gardens for judging, weeding, edging, mowing, hedge trimming, path raking and dead heading. On leaving tonight the team leave exhausted and satisfied with their efforts, now we wait for the judges (weather warning for this weekend, heavy rain and winds!).

The pictures I have added to this entry show the college ready for inspection, the video may bring the college to life for you.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Weed Identification and Clearance

The nursery/veg plot has been neglected for a while and a large collection of very tall weeds have overtaken the area. Not deterred by this, the gardeners took it, as not only a challenge, but an opportunity to teach our new apprentice, Callum, a spot of weed identification.

By the end of the session, potatoes, onions, parsnips, carrots, beans, courgettes and squash had all been found and the weeds removed from around them.

The weed identication was also successful, Fat-hen, Speedwell, Groundsel and Shepherd's Purse all learnt, will leave the Cleavers, Willowherbs, Nipplewort, Bindweed and Ground Elder for tomorrow's session.

How Do You Do That?

Two questions the team are often asked are:
How do you mow the banks?
How do you get the stripes on the quad lawn?
Well this video should give you the answer to these questions.
Watch the Flymo on ropes being moved from side to side on the banks and Joss using his mower, Dennis, mowing the quad with its heavy rear roller creating the stripes.

Friday, 8 July 2011

So Many Compliments

For the last two days hundreds of people have been visiting Worcester College as part of the University of Oxford undergraduate open days. These open days allow future students and their parents to come and see the colleges, visit departments, meet tutors and other students. As they walked around the grounds a number of them took the time to stop and talk to members of the gardening team and compliment us on how wonderful the gardens are looking at the moment. Thank you for all your kind words, they are very much appreciated.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Worcester College Commemoration Ball 2011

The marquees and ropes have all been taken down, rubbish piled into the skips and the glass champagne, beer and wine bottles recycled, all that is left to show that the college held a ball on Friday night are a few hundred chairs and hired items waiting to be collected.

To see the setting up of the ball and what happened that night click on the following link to see 2.44 minutes of amazing time lapse photography:

Enjoy, you may even see a gardener walking past the camera, it took a picture every 30 seconds!

Friday, 1 July 2011

"It Looks Amazing, Thank You"

The day of the Worcester College Commemoration Ball has arrived and the end of a busy week for the gardening team.
Yesterday the herbaceous border was weeded and dead headed, the lawn that runs along the front, mowed and edged and the paths raked.

Today, in the front quad, the banks and the lawn were mown, the last job for the team, to rope off these area to help prevent damage. The herbaceous border, banks, quad lawn, tropical display and Provost's Rose Garden were all roped off in the hope that on Monday morning the team returns to how we left it!

A number of students have stopped the gardeners during this week and said "It looks amazing, thank you", we hope the 1400 people that attend tonight's ball enjoy the celebrations and their surroundings, the gardens do truly look amazing.

The next time the team go through this all again, 2014. The Commemoration Ball is held at Worcester College every three years and along with Magdalen and New College they continue this proud Oxford University tradition.