Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Another year has come to an end for the gardening team of Worcester College, a two week break to recharge our batteries ready for 2013.
2012 was another busy year for the team. Apart from the regular garden maintenance, the year saw an ornamental grass border created in the Canal Building; the nursery reclaimed with grass paths and four new beds; hoggin paths laid in the new student vegetable garden; the orchard extended; two newly sown lawns; a new border created by the lake in the Provost's garden and a shingle garden at Worcester Cottage.
A French drain was built in January and snow cleared in February. In March an old chicken house was removed and the wonderfully mown circles on the Quad lawn were seen for the first time, followed by the wettest April on record! May saw the majestical display of wisteria and the birds fledging all around the college grounds. June was the month of the Encaenia with the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi, and July saw the team and volunteers opening the garden for charity raising £1200. By the end of August it was confirmed that it had been the wettest summer for 100 years! September saw the start of the new potting shed being built, the small yield of apples and pears for juicing were picked in October, and the autumn leaf fall had finished by the end of November. December, well the year was almost at an end, the first frosts and light snow fall had already been seen along with more rain, finishing as the year had begun, WET.
On behalf of the team, may I wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for your continuing support, for all your kind comments through the blog and when you come and visit us in the gardens. Hope to hear from you and meet many more of you next year, best regards The Worcester College Gardeners.

Free To A Good Home


With the college closing down today the Christmas trees are in need of new homes for the festive period. The tree from the Pump Quad, featured in the blog posts 'Christmas Is Coming' and 'Santa's Little Helpers' dated 26th November and 13th December respectively, was placed outside the college with the note 'free to a good home', waiting for a passer by to take home and enjoy. It wasn't long before it was taken away, a beautiful tree gracing someone's home over the next two weeks.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Last Cuts Of The Year

With all the rain and the frost over the last two weeks, the team have been unable to get on the lawns to cut them and clear the last remaining leaves. Yesterday the main Nuffield lawn had dried out sufficiently for it to be cut for the last time, but first all the twig debris had to be collected and leaves blown from around the trees in preparation for the ride on mower. With rain forecast and warmer temperatures Joss fed the lawn with 'Marathon Autumn Sport', a slow release, granular autumn and winter fertiliser to promote stronger root development over the next three months.


After feeding the Nuffield lawn it was time to give the banks and quad their last cut of the year. All the lawns have now had their final cut and look immaculate for the coming college close down.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Five Tonnes Of Shingle

Having spent Friday working in the rain tidying up the nursery, weeding the paths and cold frames, five tonnes of shingle arrived this morning to top dress the area.

By the end of the day all five tonnes had been spread on the paths and in the empty cold frames, a very smart way to end the year.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Santa's Little Helpers


As the team walked past the Pump Quad this morning they were greeted by the wonderful sight of the Christmas tree all decorated. The tree was put up at the end of November and had been left bare until this morning, one of Santas helpers must have taken pity on it and decorated it with baubles and a star. Thank you (Marion and Debbie), Santa's Little Helpers.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

To Keep Warm


When the daily temperatures drop into the minus' the gardeners have to keep moving to keep warm. Mulching is one such activity, another is clearing behind the scene areas that tend to get forgotten during the year whilst the rest of the college is maintained. One of these annually maintained areas is behind the Casson Building, Ady and Joss, joined latterly by Ali and Graham, have spent the last few days working to clear the area, back again in twelve months.   

A Sharp Frost

The gardeners arrived in to work only to find the water pipes into the tea shed had frozen meaning no tea or coffee to start the day, not an acceptable situation, even the cob webs were frozen! Needless to say, the problem had to be rectified to stop it happening again, so Kieron set about lagging this important bit of pipe work. In this weather the gardeners have to keep warm on the inside and out, not to worry you, but another source of water was found in the meantime.   

On another note, a flock of Redwings were spotted on the sportsfield along the Nelson Street path, not seen in the college since 13th January 2010, see blog entry 'Redwings and a Parakeet', it must have been cold out in the countryside for them to venture into the college grounds.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Strange Sight To Behold


With freezing temperatures due this week and, having lost three tree ferns in previous winters, it was decided it would be best to wrap the tree ferns in fleece for the coming winter. There are two species of Dicksonia in the tree fern glade, Dicksonia antarctica and Dicksonia fibrosa, see blog entry 'Dicksonia fibrosa' 18th June 2012.

Ali and Graham worked together to wrap the eight ferns, all of differing shapes and sizes, some needing a step ladder to reach the top. They folded the leaves down around the crown and trunk then covered it with fleece, tying tight with string. A strange sight to behold as you walk towards the glade, strange aliens emerging  from the undergrowth.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Geranium sanguineum 'Ankum's Pride'


"Didn't they just remove geraniums from the Rose Garden?" I can hear you thinking it, see blog entry 'Changes To The Rose Garden', 15th November 2012.  "Why are they putting geraniums back in again?", good question! Well, the geraniums that were removed had got far too big and were competing with the roses and starting to strangle them, not good for a rose garden. Not adverse to geraniums, it's third time lucky, this time with the more compact, pink Geranium, Geranium sanguineum 'Ankum's Pride'. Hopefully this is now the right plant in the right place and it remains compact, only time will tell.

Potting Shed Update


Following on from the last post about the building of the new potting shed, see blog entry 'It Now Looks Like A Shed', 19th October 2012, here is an update for you. As can be seen by the photograph above a considerable amount of work has been done on the interior. The walls have been insulated, boarded and painted white, the base bricks rendered and electricity connected for the lighting. The potting area has been built consisting of a compost mixing area in the far corner, a large potting up area in the middle and a tray shelf nearest to the door for easy access to the glasshouse. The project continues, watch out for future updates.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Cottage Border


The herbaceous cut down continued toady with the cutting down of the cottage borders in the front quad. Ali, Lizzie, one of our volunteer gardeners returning to work with the team today, and Simon used secateurs to cut it down (hedge trimmers are too noisy for use in the quad). Simon and Ali remembering last years discovery, a hibernating hedgehog, see blog entry 'Let Sleeping Hedgehog Lie', 29th November 2011, nervously cut down the Anemone in that area where it was found, worried it might not have made it through last winter. Relief was felt by both as there were no signs of it, a successful hibernation we hope.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Rock Salt, Snow and Ice

Parts of Oxfordshire woke up this morning to the first snowfall of this winter. Although the college had only a light dusting of snow, as it melted and then re froze the risk of ice increased so the team got out the bags of rock salt and spread it on the high risk areas of the college.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A Bowl With No Goldfish

The Goldfish Bowl borders (The Casson Building) have been looking messy for the last few weeks now that the summer display has faded, so it is time to tidy them up.


Graham, Ali and Callum work together cutting down, clearing and removing the herbaceous material to the compost heaps. As with the herbaceous border, see blog entry 'Herbaceous Cut Back', 6th November 2012, the hedge trimmer is used for a quicker cut down and any rough cuts, especially on the large Euphorbia schillingii, are cleaned up with the secateurs.

By the end of the day the cutting down is complete, the borders weeded and left tidy, ready for mulching tomorrow.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Enhancing The Display


Graham and Ali  spent the first few hours yesterday working on the Broadwalk border, weeding it and cutting down the Hellebore foliage. The removing of the old foliage will allow the newly emerging flowers to be seen, enhancing their wonderful display when all the flowers are open, as well as preventing the smothering of the snowdrops when they push through the soil. Today, having also started to mulch the Broadwalk yesterday, they were joined by Ady, Callum and a volunteer gardener to completed the task.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Pruning Begins


The pruning of the climbers began today starting with those on the top terrace. Last year the team managed to get an early start on the large amount of pruning around the college grounds, see blog entry 'Getting A Head Start' 16th December 2011 and this year the pruning has started even earlier. First to be pruned, the Campsis, a deciduous, woody stemmed climber whose sideshoots were cut back to two or three buds.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas Is Coming


The Christmas trees that Simon chose from Waterperry Gardens arrived this morning, one of which was for display in the Pump Quad. Following the removal of the Olive tree which had got pot bound, there was now an empty pot fit for a Christmas tree. When the tree was unwrapped, the team received lots of positive comments, a beautiful tree and so many people surprised to see a Christmas tree in the Pump Quad, hopefully the first year of many.

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Surprise Early Visit

This morning there was a surprising sight on the lake, the Goosanders! Not expected until next February they have arrived 3 months early, 2 males and three females. Last year they arrived one month early, they usually fly in between the 16th to 18th February, see blog entry 'Goosanders Are Back 2012' 18th February 2012. Has the unseasonal weather altered bird migration? What are they telling us, are we in for a cold or warm winter? only time will tell.
An very informative blog, for those of you interested in birds and their migration, have a look at the BTO Bird Migration Blog.

All The Leaves Are Down


After giving up chasing leaves around the college grounds yesterday, the swirling 30mph winds made it impossible to catch them, the team resumed their battle today only to find that, overnight, the wind had blown the leaves into large piles ready to pick up. Mother Nature must have had so much fun yesterday watching the team raking up the leaves only to see them blown all over the grounds before they could be picked up, so much fun that she decided to pile them up for easy collection today! The leaves are all down by the end of November this year, all that's left is to spend the next few weeks mowing and raking them up.  

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Snowdrops In Autumn Leaves


First mentioned in the blog back in 2009, see blog entry 'Snowdrops' 23rd October, these lovely autumn flowering snowdrops, Galanthus reginae olgae, are found under a tree on the Nuffield Lawn. Nestled in amongst the autumn leaf fall they remind us of what is to come in three months time, a wonderful display of snowdrops marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring. On comparing the dates of the two posts, this year they are in flower a month later than 2009.   

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Nine Dozen Bottles


The first half of this years 'Worcester College Apple and Pear Juice'  has arrived from Waterperry Gardens, nine dozen bottles all needing to be labelled. Ali spent a few hours this morning placing two labels on each bottle and they are now ready to be sold, the other half will arrive soon also needing to be labelled. Due to the decreased yield from our fruit trees this year, a poor summer and the lack of flower pollination by insects, the pressing of fruit only produced 200 bottles compared to the previous few years, they will sell out fast.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Leaf Chasers

The team have felt like leaf chasers today, no sooner had they raked, mown or blown the leaves they were replaced by the same again, if not more. These photos were taken an hour after the team had cleared the leaves.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Emergency Spraying

The main quad lawn has been showing signs of the fungal disease 'Fusarium', noticeable by the brown patches that have gradually been appearing in recent weeks. Due to the rapid spread on the lawn Joss has had to do an emergency spray of fungicide today. Using a walkover sprayer containing a mix of Chipco Green, a contact fungicide, and Astute, a systemic fungicide, the emergency spray treatment was applied to the lawn, the white dots in the photo are just to show where the spray has been applied.

Changes In The Rose Garden

Over the last three days the team have spent their time in the Rose Garden tidying it up for the winter and making a few changes.

A number of grasses had already been removed since the Rose Garden was restored back in 2007, but the remaining few have now got too big and needed to be lifted and split, and the new smaller clumps replanted. Another plant the team had to remove was the violet-blue Geranium 'Brookside' which was planted a few years ago to replace the pink Geranium x oxonianum 'A T Johnson' which had also got too big.
By the end of the three days all ten of the borders had been weeded, roses cut back, plants lifted and split, geraniums removed, tulips planted and the lawn mowed.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Honey Fungus

The honey fungus that was slowly killing the old privet hedge in the orchard resulting in it being replaced by Taxus (yew), see blog entry 'Privet Hedge' 14th March 2011, has now appeared at the base of a few of the old fruit trees that were nearest to the hedge. Malus (apple), Pyrus (pear) and Ligustrum (privet) are particularly susceptible to honey fungus which spreads underground, attacking and killing the roots of the plants and then decaying the dead wood. One of the signs of honey fungus to look out for are clumps of honey coloured toadstools that appear on infected stumps in autumn. However, although bad news for the old trees, the squirrels appear to be happy with this new supply of late autumn food.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Autumn Glow

Whilst Ali and Kieron have been working on one side of the college, Joss and Ady have been working over on the other side, tidying the Sainsbury Building and Ruskin Building areas. Weeds and leaves needed to be cleared, and perennials and grasses cut down. By the end of the day the box balls have re emerged, but the leaves on the Magnolia 'Elizabeth' have yet to fall, their autumn colour glowing in the outdoor lighting.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mulching The Herbaceous

Kieron and Ali start where they left off yesterday, back on the herbaceous border cutting it down.

The remaining plant supports are removed and the soaker hose rolled up and put away for the winter, due to the wet spring and summer the hose was never used.

The cut down herbaceous material is raked off the border and taken to the compost heap, mixed with the leaves being collected by the ride on mower from the Nuffield lawn this autumn, the resulting leaf mould will return to the border next year as a mulch.

Now both borders are clear the mulching begins.

Callum joins Kieron and Ali for the morning to help with the mulching and by the end of the day they reach the place where they started the day, the mulching of the remainder of the border will finish tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Herbaceous Cut Back

As another year draws to an end it is time to start cutting back herbaceous border displays and mulching them for the winter. The first border to be cut is the herbaceous border in the Nuffield lawn area.

Ali starts working on the border removing all the plant supports that were made in April, see blog entry 4th April 2012 'Don't Forget The Echinacea'. Once removed Simon, using a hedge cutter, cuts down the herbaceous perennials whilst Kieron rakes the cut down material off the border, placing it in the trailer for transporting to the compost heap.

The use of the hedge cutter to cut down the border was trialed for the first time last year, see blog entry 21st November 2011 'Hedge Trimmer or Secateurs' and having cleared the border in record time we now use this method rather than secateurs.

By the end of the day the first border was cleared ready for mulching and they had begun to clear the second.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sternbergia lutea

Sternbergia lutea
(Winter Daffodil)

As you walk through the archway leading from the bottom of the quad to the Nuffield lawn you are greeted by a bright patch of sunshine. Brightening up the drabbest of autumn days, this beautiful patch of sunshine is from the bright yellow, goblet shaped flowers of the autumn flowering bulb, Sternbergia lutea.