Friday, 31 May 2013

Nest Box Update

In August 2012, Ali and Simon put up four nest boxes, made by Kieron, on trees along the canal side path, see blog entry 21st August 'Bird Boxes In Place'. Their best hope, to have at least one occupied during the next spring. To their surprise, two, possibly three are occupied, however all has not gone smoothly since the birds moved in.
First noticed on the 22nd May, the photo above shows an adult Blue Tit coming out of one of the boxes, and this sight has been regularly witnessed over the last ten days. Both adults visit the box with food for their young brood and, as it takes approximately 18-20 days from when the chicks hatch to when they leave the nest box, it is hoped that the box will be vacated by the 10th of June.
Unfortunately the occupants of one of the other boxes were not so fortunate. Adults were seen visiting the box with beaks full of food and the noise of the hungry chicks were heard from within, but day after day the box was being attacked by a Great Spotted Woodpecker until the hole had been enlarged and the nest box raided.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wondrous Wisteria

Pruned Wisteria (Provost's Garden, January 2013)

The majority of the college wisteria were pruned at the end of January, see blog entry 31st January 2013 'Pruning Wisteria and Climbing Roses'. The picture above shows the wisteria in the Provost's garden after it was pruned and below, how it looks now, a wonderful display. All around the college there are waterfalls of wisteria flowers tumbling down from railings and walls providing a truly wondrous display. (For pictures of a 252ft long wisteria in flower that has kept its owner waiting for 20 years to see its glorious display click on this link, 'Britain's Longest Wisteria Vine' )
Wisteria In Flower (Provost's Garden, May 2013)

Wisteria floribunda 'Yae-kokuryu' (syn. Wisteria 'Black Dragon')

Wisteria over the arch to/from the Nuffield lawn.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

In The Pouring Rain The Planting Out Begins

For meteorologists, scientists and gardeners, summer officially starts on the 1st June. With that in mind, and this date being less than a week away, the planting out of the borders, for their summer display, began this morning. (Not sure if Mother Nature is aware that summer should be starting in less than a week). In the pouring rain, the first of the borders, the long border at the bottom of the quad,was planted up. Plants grown from cuttings taken last September and annuals from seeds sown in February are all used, and, despite the rain, are watered in, a strange sight, a gardener using a hose pipe to water plants in the pouring rain.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Tomato House Freshen Up

The young tomato and cucumber plants grown from seed are ready to be planted in the tomato house, but it is not yet ready for them!

The two borders are full of weed and the walls are in need of a another coat of white paint, the first coat was applied when the glasshouse was restored three years ago, see blog entry 12th April 2010 'Splish, Splash' and the 15th April 2010 'The Three P's'.

Over the last few days Ali has cleared all the weeds and, with Crystal's help, painted the walls again. Now it is ready for the young plants that have been sitting so patiently in their pots, and the gardeners are ready for the homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers that will come their way this summer.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show 2013

The SeeAbility Garden

The Mindfulness Garden

The M&G Centenary Garden

Stoke-On-Trent's Story Of Transformation

The Rush Of Nature

With The Chelsea Flower Show celebrating it's centenary, what better place to go and be inspired. Ali spent the day walking around the many spendid gardens, admiring the originality of the designs and the creative planting, gathering the many planting plans and taking numerous photos. A wonderful day was had, and as the planting out for this year's Summer display begins over the next few weeks, Chelsea will again provide some inspiration.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Hungry Snails

The last of the birch plant supports have been constructed on the herbaceous border. The border is now ready for the summer planting to begin, the cuttings taken in September and the annuals sown in March are all now young plants waiting for their place in the summer display. Also waiting, hiding amongst the herbaceous perennials, are the snails! Ali and Sophie spent a few minutes this morning searching for these hungry creatures, placing them in a trug and transporting them to the skip.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Blue Is The Colour

Camassia leichtlinii

The cacophony of colour produced by the many hundreds of tulips planted in the gardens is starting to fade and being replaced by the calmer, cooler colour of blue. The first to flower is the Camassia leichtlinii and Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue', with the many Wisteria not far behind, all calming the sensory overload before the summer explosion of colour. 
The Camassia leichtlinii, with their blue upright spikes of star shaped flowers, are flowering in the long grass area of the Nuffield lawn. The Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue', an evergreen shrub, is found against the wall at the far end of the herbaceous border, and has produced a stunning display of large panicles of fragrant, pale blue flowers.

Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue'

Double Width Diagonal Lines (Not Circles)

On the 3rd May Joss mowed circles on to the quad lawn, see blog entry 'Double Width Circles'. From these photographs it is clear to see that these new larger circles have been abandoned for double width diagonal lines. The reason, as Joss mowed the larger circles he noticed that, on some of the curves, a ridge was forming in the turf which was beginning to cause a problem. The circles, although a favourite with visitors, students and staff, have had to be changed to diagonal lines.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Fertiliser, 'Marathon Sport'

With heavy rain forecast in the afternoon, continuing overnight, Joss spent the morning adding fertiliser to four areas of lawn in the college. Starting with the largest of the lawns, the Nuffield Lawn, Joss doned full protective clothing; suit, gloves, boots and mask to apply the fertiliser granules. Marathon Sport is an extended release, high nitrogen fertiliser that will keep the turf well supplied with nutrients for 8 to 12 weeks after application and, as can be seen in the photograph below, is very dusty during application, hence the need for full protective kit.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Weighed Down With Stones

The fruit trees were pruned in February, see blog entry 4th February 'Fruit Tree Pruning', but with instructions having been left by Chris, the Orchard Manager at Waterperry Gradens, Ali returned, with Sophie, to the orchard this morning to carry them out.
Three young apple trees, Pitmaston Pineapple, were planted in the orchard in January 2011, see blog entry 27th January 'Planting, Pruning And Mulching' and two years later, are in need of a little attention. Having grown in an upright fashion, Chris left instructions to weigh the young branches down to help create the open, goblet shape that all the trees now have. Stones, tied with string, were used as weights and will be removed in the autumn when the tree becomes dormant.

The Wrong Tulips

Last Autumn Ali and Graham planted an additional 50 'Spring Green' Tulips in the serpentine border, see blog entry,18th October 2012 'Holes In The Ground'. The tulip, green and ivory in colour, was planted to compliment the box balls, but, as can be seen, a pink form has found its way into the display, in fact 50 of them! The problem has been traced back to the growers and all the rogue tulips have now been dug up. Ali and Graham will be back later in the year to plant another batch of 50 'Spring Green' Tulips, hopefully green and ivory in colour.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Swans Are Incubating Their Eggs

The swan nest is now a huge mound and has continued to grow as the eggs have been laid. The female swan seems to have finished laying her eggs, 2 maybe 3 have been spotted over the last few days, and the pair are now taking turns to incubate them, hatching should take place after 35-42 days. (10th - 21st June)

Friday, 3 May 2013

Double Width Circles

Last year Joss changed the mowing design on the quad lawn from diagonal lines to circles, see blog entry 26th March 2012 'Round In Circles'. The circles proved a huge success with numerous positive comments received throughout the summer. This year the circles have returned, but this time bigger, double width circles! The process to start is still the same, Joss runs string from a corner, diagonally across the quad, to the opposite corner, staking each end. He repeats this process creating a cross of string on the lawn, giving him the centre point from where he starts the first circle. This time, rather than change direction after each circle is mown, he mows two circles in the same direction, twice the width. After two circles are complete he has to change the direction of the mower, going in the opposite direction to the two previous circles, creating the amazing striped effect, truly amazing to watch it being done, stunning!

Nest Sharing

Having seen the first swan egg on their nest this morning, a surprising sight greeted Ali on her lunch time check, a female Mallard and her eight ducklings! Nestled on the dry reeds the ducklings were keeping warm at their mothers side, the egg still there, hidden under a few more dry reeds than this morning, but just visible. (look at the bottom of the photo and just below the iridescent purple-blue speculum wing feathers, edged with white, that are visible as a patch on their sides, you will see the egg).

The First Egg Laid

Having seen the swans building their nest over the last few weeks, Ali returned this morning to have another look. To her delight, in the rather large nest, the first egg had been laid. According to The Swan Sanctuary website, "After the nest has been built, which typically takes 2-3 weeks, the egg laying process begins with an egg being laid every 12-24 hours. Once all the eggs have been laid, which can take 2-3 weeks, they will all be incubated (ie sat on to start the growth process) at the same time with hatching usually 42 days (6 weeks) later." Egg sighting times ahead!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Triumphant Tulips

Ronaldo & Jimmy

Back in November 2009, the team started to plant tulips in large numbers in areas of the college gardens. Every Autumn since more tulips have been added to the original planting and this year, following the long, cold Winter, the tulips are giving a spectacular display. A first time display is being provided by tulips 'Ronaldo' and 'Jimmy' which can be found flowering in pots on the steps of the Provost's garden, Ronaldo, a deep purple-maroon and Jimmy, a dusky rose.

China Pink & National Velvet (Provost's Rose Garden)

China Pink & National Velvet (Orchard)
In the Provost's rose garden and the orchard, the tulips 'China Pink' and 'National Velvet' are providing a wonderful display. Extra tulips have been added since the first few hundred were planted, some 300 added over the two sites during the last two Autumns.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder'
In the Gloucester House gravel garden another new tulip is also in flower. Planted last Autumn, Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder', beautiful  mauve-pink flowers,becoming paler towards a large, bright yellow centre.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Nesting Swans

Ali has been watching the pair of swans on the lake since they returned a few months ago. Believed to be the same pair as last year, and hoping that they would produce cygnets this year, here is a short video (above) of them building their nest. Its size has been steadily increasing over the last week, fingers crossed for cygnets.

Nesting Swans