Monday, 31 January 2011

Gloucester House 2011

Whilst half the team worked on the overgrown area by the tennis courts, Simon, Ali and Joe spent the day cutting back the perennials and grasses that had been left over the winter.
The Gloucester House border is left untouched to provide homes and food for the wildlife as well as for their architectural stems and heads. These were particularly stunning during the numerous frosts seen in Oxfordshire over the last few months, ice crystals clinging to them and sparkling in what little sun we had.

Once cut back, weeded and the remaining autumn leaf fall removed, Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire' was planted in the gravel to add more structure and colour for this summer's display.


The team split into two groups today with Ady, Graham and Joss working together to clear an overgrown area behind the tennis courts.

This area has been left for a number of years with the brambles taking over, a good source for blackberries though. Along with Elder, Ivy and other overgrown shrubs the lads had a huge task to restore the area to some kind of order.

By the end of a hard day and numerous trips to the chipper they reached the half way point, their task continues tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Planting, Pruning and Mulching

Simon, Joe and Ali spent the first part of the morning planting two apple trees, Pitmaston Pineapple, an old English russet apple from the West Midlands area. These trees, we hope, will be heavy cropping, fruiting every other year, producing apples for us with an unusual flavour tasting like pineapples.
First a circle is marked out, the turf stripped away and a hole dug, the soil is placed to the side and organic matter added.
The tree is then placed in the hole and the depth checked with top of the root ball. The soil is then filled back into the hole and the tree healed in. A tree stake is then placed at an angle, hammered into place and the tree then tied to the stake using a tree tie, finally the tree is watered in.

Having planted the new trees in the orchard, they then moved into the Provost's garden to finish pruning the wisteria. What should have been quick job ended up taking all afternoon once a very large piece of dead wood was found within the tangled frame work. It is hoped that now this has been removed a spectacular display will be seen again this year.

In the corner of the Provost's garden Ady and Joss completed their wood chip mulching, having begun last week in the border at the back of the Nuffield lawn.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

On Your First Day

On your first day there is nothing better than getting stuck in to your work like Tracy did today. Armed with her secateurs and fully wrapped up for the cold weather she joined Ali working on the hedgerow next to the canal, at the back of The Broadwalk.
Whilst Ali stayed on the land side, Tracy hopped over the hedgerow and started on the canal side until the bank ran out and she rejoined her new colleague, welcome to our team Tracy, see you on Wednesdays.

Keiron and Joss spent the morning fixing the roof on the shed that stores the diesel, fertilizer and the Kabota tractor. Leaking since a tree branch fell on it, they removed the old brittle material and replaced it with new sheets that should last another ten years.

Once he had finished on the roof, Joss then spent the afternoon spiking the quad lawn for the first time this year, whilst Kieron joined Ali, Tracy and Ady on the canal hedgerow.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Glasshouse Pests

With the outside temperatures still regularly below 8c, the opportunities to open up the greenhouse are few and far between. Inside the greenhouse, the temperature stays between 5c and 20c creating the perfect environment for whitefly and greenfly to breed at an alarming rate, so before their numbers increase to uncontrollable levels, Ali sprays them using a contact/systemic pesticide. This pesticide should kill the pests on contact and any that manage to avoid it will be killed as they feed off the plants, it says on the label that it should control the pests for six weeks!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Good & The Bad

There are days when we feel privileged to work in such wonderful surroundings as Worcester College. Friendly staff, students and fellows, wonderful wildlife encounters such as today with the sighting of two Kingfishers, and the beautiful gardens that the team work so hard to create.
Then there are days that are few and far between, but fill you full of disappointment. This morning was one of those such moments for the team, especially Joss.
The quad lawn, the focal point of the college, on which he spends a lot of his time and energy, had been walked all over in frosty conditions. Walking on this fine ornamental lawn is strictly forbidden and it is in frosty conditions when the resultant damage will be at its worst.
When a lawn is frosted the blades of grass are frozen. Walking on it will cause the blades to fracture and the internal cells to rupture, which results in a considerable amount of damage.
We ask the small number of students who caused this damage to please respect the work that we do in the gardens and refrain from walking on this lawn at all times.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Final Cuts

Ady and Joss spent the day clearing a border at the back of the Nuffield Lawn. Brambles and Elder have been spreading, unchecked, over the last few years but they have now been cut down, dug up and removed. The edge has been redefined and a wood chip mulch, the result of all our chipping, added to suppress future weeds.

The final cuts have been made to all the Campsis, Kiwi and Wisteria in the front quad leaving just the roses on the top terrace and cottages left to be pruned, then it's on to rest of the climbers on the back of the cottages and in the Provost's garden.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Not Long Now

Late November to early December is the perfect time to plant Tulips, but you can carry on until mid January, which is just as well, as we still had 350 Tulips bulbs to plant. Joe, Graham and Ali spent the morning in the orchard planting the bulbs in the area where the grass is allowed to grow long in the summer, the hope is to achieve a similar effect as seen on the Nuffield lawn, floating bowls of colour.
Elsewhere in the gardens fresh shoots have started to appear as the temperature rises, a ten degree increase in one week. December may well have been the coldest in 120 years, the average temperature being -0.6c and the chilliest individual month since February 1986, but this week has seen temps move up to 13c to which nature has responded. Snowdrops and Aconites are now emerging at a rapid pace and causing great excitement amongst the gardening team.
You may remember 12 months ago our mammoth Snowdrop planting sessions under the Hornbeam, Beech and Yew trees on the Nuffield lawn, see blog entry 'Snowdrop Day' 25th February 2010, well it won't be long until we see the fruits of our labour all those months ago.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

One Month Early

Ali, Joe and Simon have continued pruning throughout this week as we gradually work our way around the college grounds, slight delays incurred when having to add new wires to walls and re tie stems that have broken free of their restraints.
Joss and his alter ego, Banana Man, having dealt with the Snow Mould on the quad lawn last week, has been adding a late feed to the rest of the lawns to encourage strong root development for the coming year ahead.
Ady and Graham have spent the last few days tidying the area behind the Provost's garden, strimming down all the unruly brambles and bamboo, as well as clearing up the remaining autumn leaf fall.
On a wildlife note, the Kingfisher has been spotted flying low over the lake, and the Goosanders, not expected to be seen until mid February as in the previous two years, have been spotted today on the lake, one month early.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Millwood Market Gardens

For all our readers and followers who have been with us since this blog's start in February 2009, here is a new blog that may be of some interest to you. You may remember Lucy, Lulabelle, our budding apprentice, who, after completing her apprenticeship, left to run her own business 'Millwood Market Gardens', well this is her new blog:

Monday, 10 January 2011

First Day of Many

The ladders, long arm pruners and secateurs have been brought out today signifying the start of a long period of pruning, starting with the climbing plants; Wisteria, Campsis and the roses. Graham and Simon, Ali and Joe work together in pairs, in, what can be, a slow process. By the end of a cold and windy day, one Wisteria and two Campsis are complete, hopefully all the climbers will be complete by the end of next week, then it's on to the roses and then the fruit trees taking us to mid March!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

It's All Black and Grey

On yet another very cold, grey day, when the sun never came out from behind the clouds, the team spent the day working together in the Cassan Building garden, also known as The Goldfish Bowl. Ali, Joe and Simon cut down the herbaceous plants and attempted to remove an area of Bindweed that, last Summer, tried to take over one of the borders.
Ady and Graham, having started the day by moving a number of very large shrubs from this small garden, rejoined the team to mulch all the borders.

Once all the mulch had been added and the day was drawing to an end, the paths were all washed down and the area left neat and tidy.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Broadwalk

After being gently eased back into work around the gardens yesterday, the team hit the ground running today. The Winter/Spring border, known as The Broadwalk, needed its annual mulching before all the Hellebore, Snowdrops, Erythronium, Fritillaria and various other bulbs start to flower.
The mulch applied is a mixtures of grass, herbaceous, office paper shredding and leaves from 2009, which, over the last 12 months has been regularly turned, resulting in this lovely dark material.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Welcome Back

Welcome back to all our followers and readers. Happy New Year to you all and hope you enjoy another year with the gardenering team at Worcester College.
Today, being our first day back, the team were eased in gently with a general tidy up of the grounds. Joss, however, had to start treating, with the use of chemicals, the quad lawn for Snow Mould, a Fusarium Patch disease causing areas of die back in lawns which spreads rapidly when covered by snow for lengthy periods.