Thursday, 31 May 2012

Floral Centrepiece

This year the Pump Quad display is the creation of Ady and Kieron. Started yesterday afternoon, interrupted by the tremendous downpour that threatened to wash it all away, they have created a beautiful centrepiece around the olive tree pot complemented by the floral display in the surrounding pots that edge the quad.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

All Change In The Corner

The wallflowers and tulips in the corner border are starting to fade so it is time to replace the winter display with this years summer display.

The first few hours of the morning were spent digging up all the plants and bulbs. The wallflowers were taken to the compost heap, the tulips placed in trays to dry off until they are reused in the autumn elsewhere, the Cornus and Photinia were heeled in until they too are reused in the autumn.

The area was then forked through to remove all traces of the old display, a granular feed added and worked into the soil. Throughout the morning we had the company of a male blackbird who greatly accepted the worms our digging brought to the surface, feeding his family of four chicks hidden in the Hydrangea petiolaris at the back of the border.

Once the border had been prepared for planting, wigwams were created to support the climbers. The plants were then brought over from the nursery, placed out and planted.

By mid afternoon, with the last few plants still needing to be put in, the wind started to blow, the sky darkened and the heavens opened, scattering the team from the border to find the nearest shelter.                           

Half an hour later, the dark clouds gone as quick as they arrived, the last few plants were added to the border. This years display, already receiving positive comments by those who passed by whilst it was planted, has an edible theme mixed with flowers. Sweetcorn 'Rising Sun', Courgette 'Black Beauty', Chard 'Bright Lights', Lettuce 'Ultimate Mixed', Beetroot 'Detroit 6 Rubidus', Carrot 'Early Nantes 2', Runner Bean 'St. George', Sweet Pea 'Flying The Flag', Sweet Pea 'Fragrantissima', Sweet Pea 'Heirloom Bicolour', Cosmos 'Sensation Mixed', Nicotiana langsdorffii, Campanula pyramidalis, Purple Sage, Gomphocarpus physocarpus, Dahlia 'Bishop's Children' and Sunflower 'Giant Single'. Banana plants and Colocasia esculeta (Taro) have been planted to add structure to the edible theme. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Staircase 7

Not only has the conference office moved into the ground floor of staircase 7 in the front quad, but they have been joined by a family of blue tits who have made their nest in a crack in the stone work.

For the last week I have been watching the adult birds flying back and forth to their hungry brood who have been noisily calling out, demanding constant attention and food.

Wisteria 2012

If you had visited the gardens this time last year you would not have seen the wonderful display of Wisteria as they had all flowered in April, see blog entry 'Wonderful Wisteria' dated 27th April 2011. For a time this year it looked as though they would again flower early as, again, we had had a period of extreme cold in February followed by a very warm period in March as in 2011, however the wet April put a halt to their early flowering and we are back into May flowering as in 2010. However, a number of visitors and staff have mentioned the beautiful, strong fragrance they seem to have this year, something not noticed in previous years. Here are this years photographs of the stunning display of Wisteria around the college gardens:

Monday, 28 May 2012


With the sun ever higher in the sky as we approach June this site caught my eye as I walked through the newly planted Provost's Yard towards the end of the working day, a very striking shadow of the banana plant and Bird of Paradise.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Five Strong Men

The greenhouse is now full to bursting and the temperature outside is in the high 20's, time to move the banana plants outside and into the gardens for display, all that is needed is five strong men.

Each banana has grown in size and increased in weight since they were placed in the greenhouse last autumn for winter storage. Great care is taken to move these huge plants through the door and on to the trailer.

Once loaded safely they are taken over to the herbaceous border where they will be planted this year. The following set of six photographs shows how one of the bananas was lifted into place.

A Late Addition

Back on the 14th of February, see blog entry 'Two, Better Than One' , I reported that the Strelizia reginae, Bird of Paradise, had given us a second flower. Well, having had very high temperatures both outside and inside the greenhouse recently, we now have two more flowers bringing the total to four this year, the most we have seen on this plant. We could have kept this beautiful sight to ourselves, but have decided to share it with everyone by adding it to display we created yesterday in the Provost's Yard. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Provost's Yard 2012

Here are some photographs of this years summer display in the Provost's Yard, enjoy.

Working Together

The morning started with a rather large delivery of compost, horticultural grit and John Innes, two pallets all needing to be moved into the greenhouse for storage. Working together with wheelbarrows, a sack truck and man power, and having made the delivery driver a cup of coffee, the bags were stacked neatly away until the autumn.

Having finished with the delivery, the team moved into the Provost's Yard and removed all the plants not required for this years summer display.

The plants not required were heeled in over in the nursery for their temporary storage, then the team turned their attention to the greenhouse, which plants are going to be used in this years display?

In preparation for the new plants, some of the old, tired compost was removed and a new fresh mix added, unfortunately one of the medium pots had to be completely changed due to the dreaded Vine Weevil, not just the grubs but the pre-pupil stage too. (Click on the word Vine Weevil for more info on these creatures that hide in pots and can destroy plant displays!)

By the end of the day the display in the Provost's Yard was complete.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Shades of Pink and White

The team focused their attention to the bottom border in the front quadrangle as they continued to plant out the bedding display for the summer. Salvia, Cosmos, Panicum, Diascia, Antirrhinum, Gaura and Cleome will create a display in various shades of pink and white in addition to the perennials already planted.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Bedding Out Begins For 2012

With the rise in temepratures forecast for the rest of the week and the threat of a late frost diminishing, Ali gets the go ahead to start ripping out the winter pot displays and to start planting out the first of the plants grown for the summer display. By the end of the day 90 small plants, Cosmos, Cleome, AntirrhinumPanicum and Tagetes have their place in the borders.

In the newly created heeling in area in the nursery, the architectural plants from a few of the winter pots have been planted for safe keeping during the summer. A robin kept her company and greatly received any bugs and worms disturbed during the digging.

Treecreepers Fledge

Have been watching a pair of treecreeper for the last two weeks flying back and forth to the old London Plane on the Nuffield Lawn. Walked past the tree this morning and all was quite, no activity or sound from within, another successful fledging over the weekend, I hope.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Mower Trial

Always open to new ways of maintaining the gardens, the team have been trialing a new mower especially for the banks. The current method can involve the whole team, two using the Flymo on ropes to cut the grass, three or four using besoms to brush the grass off the banks on to the path for collection by shovels and brooms, see blog entry 'The Banks' 17th March 2009.
This new mower is a mulching mower and quoting from the literature " the grass is cut multiple times, then whirled upwards like a fan, and finally pressed down into the ground, all in the same operation. The grass is shredded so finely that it simply disappears among the standing blades".
No ropes, besoms, brooms or shovels, the trial continues.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fleece In Mid May

The forecast has warned us of possible frost tonight so having already started to plant out the peas and beans on the vegetable plot as well as starting to harden off the tender ferns and our cuttings, panic sets in. The cold frame lids have had to go back on to protect the cuttings, the ferns covered in fleece and the vegetables and their wigwams wrapped up, better to be safe than sorry.

Queen Anne's Lace

At this time of year you will find a gathering of some, if not all of the gardeners amongst the fruit trees in the orchard. This annual gathering is in response to the flowering of the cow parsley or as it is also known, Queen Anne's Lace, (Anthriscus sylvestris its latin name). This pretty native plant will, if left unchecked, eventually fill the orchard and because of this rapid spread, the team spend a few hours each May digging it up.

Friday, 11 May 2012

First Flight

Having spent my lunch hour watching a pair of Treecreepers flying back and forth to the old London Plane feeding their hidden brood, I thought my bird watching had finished for the day, until that is, my walk back to the tea shed. Having been watching a pair of Long-tailed Tits work tirelessly to feed their brood in the heavy rains of the last few weeks, today, in the sunshine, their family emerged, crash landing to the ground. Chaos ensued, five, then six fledglings flapping their wings in an attempt to fly, being encouraged by their parents to find protection from higher grounds. The young birds crashing into the cars in the car park, flying into walls, even being picked up by this bird watcher as a hungry cat approached and placed in a safe place out of its reach. After half an hour the young found the safety of the surrounding shrubs and trees, one reminding me of its presence, crash landing on my head and bouncing into the shrub I was pruning. It sat there chirping, looking at me, until one of its parents arrived with food.  

In Just 44 Days

The nursery project started on the 29th March, see blog entry 'Nursery Reclamation' and in just 44 days an astonishing transformation has been achieved. The picture above shows what the nursery had looked like for a number of years and below a picture of Joss cutting the grass paths for the first time.