Friday, 30 September 2011

Seeing Double

Having retired his mower, Dennis, Joss has started to use his new Allett cylinder mower. The best way to start this new partnership? A new stripe pattern on the quad lawn, double width stripes. The lawn was brown back on the 31st August, blog entry 'Very Brown', see just how well the lawn has come back since being heavily scarified.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Making Space

In preparation for the autumn, the leaf pits need to be emptied to make room for this year's leaf fall. Simon and Ali spent the day using the New Holland tractor, with the grab on the front, to move the pit's contents into the trailer for transporting up to the empty compost bay at the top of the sports field. After half a dozen full trailer loads, the pit is empty.

Now that the bay is empty it needs to be repaired as the old boards have rotted and need to be replaced; a job to be done before the leaves begin to fall in their thousands.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Neat Little Rows

The cuttings that were taken during the last week in August/first week in September are ready to be potted up into individual pots. Removed from the mist unit last week, to become acclimatised to less pampered conditions in the greenhouse, the contents of each pot are tapped out revealing the numerous roots that have developed.

The ball of roots is broken open revealing a row of new young plants each needing to be carefully removed from their neighbour and placed into their own pot.

Once all the cuttings are potted up they are placed in neat little rows on the staging and watered in.

Japanese Knotweed

Introduced to UK in the early 19th century, Japanese Knotweed has become one of its most invasive plants. It grows at an alarming rate, up to 10cm a day, producing dense clumps up to 10ft in height.
In one of our outside properties a clump of Knotweed has been an annual problem for a number of years. Dug out, sprayed and cut down, it continues to grow, now it is time to get the big gun out, Ali's paintbrush!
Chemical kit on, armed with her faithful paintbrush, Ali takes a walk to this dark little corner and confronts it.Dipping the brush in a mixture of Glyphosate and fairy liquid, the same mixture used on the Bindweed, she skillfully paints each leaf. Will she return next year? Will it return? Now we wait.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Fill Her Up

She's been empty for the summer months but now it's time to start filling her up as winter months approach. Our stock plants have enjoyed being planted out in the display pots behind The Linbury Building, but being tender, will not survive the frosts, so need protection. The cuttings have been taken from them and, should there be any failures, the stock plants have plenty more semi ripe cutting material left on them.

Kniphofia northiae

With the forecast of a heatwave coming to the UK next week, the striking hot colours of the Red Hot Poker, 'Kniphofia northiae', have already emerged in expectation.

This RHS Award Garden of Merit plant, found in our herbaceous border, is a perennial with arching, mid green leaves producing sturdy, erect flower stems of yellow and orange.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Knoll Gardens

Callum, Graham and Simon spent the day at Knoll Gardens, Wimborne in Dorset on an educational visit lead by the owner and internationally acclaimed plantsman, Neil Lucas.

The 4 acres of gardens are set against a backdrop of rare and unusual trees planted with a stunning variety of grasses, native plants and perennials.

The gardens have one of the most extensive collection of grasses in the country, giving rise to amazing colourful drifts around every corner as the autumn sets in, the flower heads of the grasses at their best at this time of year.

The photos, taken by Callum, help to show the beauty of the gardens, an enjoyable day had by all. Here's a link to the gardens website:

Let There Be Light

A college building at the bottom of the sports field has been gradually disappearing from view over the last few years. Ady and Ali spent the day clearing the offending shrubs away from the front of the building, chipping the cut down material as they go. By the end of a hard day, the building can now be seen and light, for the first time in years, hit the windows and brightens up the inside.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Cut The Long Grass

After a winning evening yesterday, it's back to work, big smiles on all the team's faces, but not before a celebratory breakfast in the hall, thank you Stuart and your team for your hospitality.
The main job today was the cutting of the long grass in the orchard now that it has started to flop and looks rather messy. Kieron uses the Iseki ride on mower to weave around the fruit trees, any fruit that has dropped is cut into pieces, a favourite delicacy of our resident ducks, who make the daily walk from the lake to munch on it.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

And The Winner Is!

The team attended the 25th Oxford In Bloom awards tonight and are pleased to announce we were awarded Gold in the category 'Best Display by University or College'. The certificate and trophy were presented by The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Elise Benjamin and television and radio presenter Wesley Smith. Congratulations team.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

After Five Weeks

After five weeks the canal side path clearance has been finished. Callum and Ady, who have seen the project through from start to finish, were joined by Simon, as they cleared the final few yards. Shrubs have been cut back to a more manageable height, overhanging tree branches removed and the old wire fence ripped out. Light now streams through to the path and the canal side hedge can now be seen in all its glory.

Over in the orchard, Ali, Graham and Kieron pick more apples and pears for the second delivery to Waterperry.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Canal Side Path

Five weeks ago Ady and Callum started to clear and tidy the canal side path. Every week since then, with other members of the team joining them, they have spent a day, sometimes two, gradually working their way up the long path.

Over the last few years, the weeds, ivy and shrubs have done their best to take over the path, now it is our turn to reclaim it back.

Strimmers, the chainsaw, saws, loppers, secateurs and the chipper have all seen action today as the team carve their way through the undergrowth.

Despite a short downpour, when the team had to run for cover and shelter, a large part of the path was reclaimed.

The cut down woody material was chipped in situ, with the resulting wood chip pile spread over the newly strimmed areas.

The last thing to be removed, now that it was no longer hidden, was the green wire fence.

Ady and Callum will return again tomorrow, hopefully for the last time, to finish the last few yards.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Apples & Pears

After the high winds on Tuesday, we decided to check which of the fruit trees were ready to pick. Having done the taste test on a number of the apple and pear trees, it was time to start picking for this years juice.
Callum and Ali have spent some time over the last few days picking a variety of cooking and eating apples, with Ali being joined by Kieron today to pick some of the pears. By the end of today, 18 trays of fruit had been picked and taken up to Waterperry Gardens ready to be pressed.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Common and Unusual

As you walk around the college gardens in some areas flowers are starting to fade but in others, newly emerging flowers are beginning to shine.
Colchicum or Autumn Crocus, also known as Naked Ladies, have emerged in one of the tree circles on the Nuffield Lawn. The plants emerge in the autumn denuded of leaves, bearing crocus like flowers, the leaves of the plant do not appear until the spring, hence the name Naked Ladies.

In a corner of the herbaceous border another bright flower has appeared, Heliconia psittacorum. A close relative to Bananas, Bird of Paradise and Gingers, the flower is a bright, striking red and yellow amongst oblong, leathery leaves, adding a touch of tropical this autumn.

On the top terrace another unusual plant has started to flower, Acanthus sennii. This shrubby plant with holly like leaves, a native of Ethiopia, has produced four flower spikes of vivid scarlet flowers.

All these plants, whether native of Europe, South America or Africa are all adding a splash of late colour to, what have been so far, the grey days of autumn.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Blowing a Gale

Despite it raining and blowing a gale outside, the scarifying programme continues on the college lawns. Last scarified 27th October 2009, see blog entry 'Scarifying On A Large Scale', the Provost's lawn is in need of scarifying again. Moss and thatch have built over the last two years so the Amazon has been brought out of the machinery shed and hitched onto the back of the New Holland tractor. Kieron, sheltering during heavy downpours, spent the day driving the tractor, pulling the Amazon across the lawn, the first day of many.

Ali, on the other hand, ventured out only to gather cutting material and the Wallflowers that needed to be repotted.

Friday, 2 September 2011

In Need Of Rehydration.

Perennial broad leaved weeds and annual weeds are still actively growing around the college grounds. Much as we don't wish to use chemical weedkillers, with 26 acres of grounds to maintain, sometimes the weeds grow quicker than we can keep them under control.
With temperatures predicated of 24 degrees centigrade by lunch time, Ady and Ali start to spray the weeds in the cool morning breeze. However, after two hours of walking around the college in their chemical suits and wellington boots, carrying knapsack sprayers on the backs loaded with 10-15 litres of chemical solution, the increasing temperature is beginning to have an effect. By ten o'clock, with 95 litres of solution having been sprayed, sweating and shuffling along, they return to the tea shed for some much needed rest and rehydration.