Monday, 30 September 2013

Tibouchnia urvilleana (Purple Glory Tree)

Tibouchina urvilleana (Purple Glory Tree, Princess Flower)

Located in the same display pot as the Phymosia umbellata, featured in the blog entry 11th September, the Tibouchina urvilleana is putting on an equally stunning display of its own. Also known as the Purple Glory Tree or the Princess Flower, this tender, evergreen shrub has soft, hairy stems and leaves, satin like purple flowers with hooked stamens being thrust out from their centre.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Belamcandra chinensis (Leopard Lily)

Belamcandra chinensis (Blackberry Lily, Leopard Lily)

The seeds for this plant, Belamcandra chinensis, were given to the gardeners by the Head Gardener at Merton College. Sown in the spring, the seeds were quick to germinate, pricked out into individual pots and planted out once the frosts had passed in early June. Hidden beneath the taller plants in the orange themed corner border, the flowers had gone unnoticed until the border was cleared on Monday, when the delicate, spotted flower was seen for the first time, opening up before the gardener's eyes almost as if it was waiting to display its beauty. The flower, bright orange with dark spots, gives it the common name of the Leopard Lily, which will be followed by its clusters of black, berry like seeds, giving rise to its other common name, Blackberry Lily.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Wildflowers In The Fellow's Garden

A small area of rough ground in the Fellow's Garden has been chosen to be new wildflower meadow, following the unsuccessful attempt to create a wildflower meadow in the orchard last year, see blog entry 17th February 2012 'Wildflower Meadow'.
Joss, reunited with his old Dennis mower and its scarifier cartridge, scarifies the grass to remove all the thatch. Ali, using a Honda rotary mower, then cuts the grass down gradually reducing the height of the cutting deck from high to low until the area is almost bald. Using a spring rake, Ali then scuffs up the soil to a fine tilth, then mixes the wildflower seed with sand and broadcasts it over the bare soil. The wild flowers are: Betony, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Bulbous Buttercup, Californian Poppy, Catsear, Cowslip, Common Knapweed, Cornflower, Fairy Toadflax, Ladys Bedstraw, Oxeye Daisy, Salad Burnet, Self Heal, Shirley Poppy, White Campion and Yellow Rattle. Hopefully the summer of 2014 will see the start of a beautiful meadow in the corner of the Fellow's Garden.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Another Concrete Cold Frame Base

Five smaller cold frames have already had their gravel bases replaced with concrete since the 20th August when the project begun. One of the two large frames had it's old base dug out last week in preparation for today's concreting.

First the remains of a small concrete ledge is chipped away and the rubble left in the base. Ballast and cement are then mixed to a smooth consistency and poured into a wheelbarrow.

Unlike the other cold frames, a wooden frame is fixed in place for the lids so the concrete has to be poured very carefully between each gap.

Once filled to the required depth for the base, the surface is levelled and the concrete allowed to set overnight. With one large frame left, the project continues.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

"Before Construction, Comes Destruction"

The corner border has gone past its best, becoming messy, so it is time to clear it and start planting it up for the winter/spring display. Yesterday, as Sophie and Ali began to dig up the display, a visitor stopped and gave them an appropriate description of what he was witnessing, "Before construction, comes destruction".

Continuing to destroy the summer display they dug up the tender specimen plants, Aeonium and Abutilon, for potting up in the greenhouse and the annuals for the compost heap. 

Once cleared, all the debris was raked up, the border forked through and levelled in preparation for today's mulching and planting.

Wallflowers, 'Sunset Orange', which were just small plugs a month ago, see blog entry 21st August 'Potting Up 460 Wallflower Plugs Plants' were planted in amongst the structural planting of the box balls and Cornus. The Myosotis 'Royal Blue' and the yellow tulip 'West Point' will join them before the end of October and complete this year's winter/spring display.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Battery Powered Hedge Trimmer

The college has a lot of hedges of different shapes and sizes to maintain throughout the year, and cutting them with a heavy petrol hedge trimmer, for a more than a few hours, can be very tiring on the arms and back. Supplied by R.T Machinery Ltd, Kieron, Simon and Ali were given the opportunity to try out a lightweight, battery powered hedge trimmer produced by Pellenc from their Helion range. Powered by a lithium battery supported by a harness, the hedge trimmer was surprising powerful, extremley light and quiet, a very nice change to the heavy, smelly and noisy petrol hedge trimmers that are currently used.

Vitas coignetiae 'Claret Cloak'

Two and a half years ago, seven new climbers were planted against the south facing wall that separates the Ruskin Building and the orchard, see blog entry 9th February 2011 'Wires & Climbers'. To support them, three wires were fixed to the wall for each plant, with another two added last year.
Today, Kieran added another two wires for one of the vines, Vitas coignetiae 'Claret Cloak', as it had, yet again, outgrown it support frame. With the new wires in place, some of the stems were tied in and others cut off, exposing an abundant crop of purple, inedible grapes.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Country Life, 'Is This England's Oldest Garden?'

An article about the history of the college garden can be found in today's Country Life magazine, The Cotswolds edition, with some lovely photographs to accompany it. For those of you who didn't get your copy, here is a link to the online version, 'Is This England's Oldest Garden?' , (unfortunately without the photos).

Mist Unit Filled With Cuttings

Over the last three days, Ali, Callum, Sophie and Crystal have all spent time in the greenhouse dealing with the cuttings taken from the tender plants around the college. The mist unit is now full of this year's cuttings for next year's summer display.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Three More Concrete Bases

Simon, Kieron and Graham spent the morning continuing the task of replacing the gravel flooring in the cold frames with concrete floors. Started a month ago, see blog entry 22nd August 'Cementing The Cold Frame Floors', the next three cold frames were changed today.

The Portland cement and ballast, at a ratio of 1:6, was placed in the cement mixer with water until thoroughly mixed. Once sufficient concrete had been poured into the frame's base it was levelled, floated and allowed to set.  

However, as the morning progressed, the weather started to change, with the sunshine fading fast and the rain starting to fall. Racing against the rain, they managed to finish the third frame and cover them all to protect the newly laid, wet concrete.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Ducks That Love Apples

Over the last month apples have been dropping off the trees in the orchard bringing the ducks off the lake to feed on them. This excursion happens a number of times during the day, making the short journey from the lake into the orchard to clear up the windfalls. This sight happens every year until the gardeners pick all the apples from the trees to make juice, which will be mid October, so they better make the most of this season feast.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Canal Path Clearance

The path that runs alongside the Oxford Canal has become dark and difficult to walk down. The hedge has grown tall since it was cut back last year, see blog entry 21st August 'It Needs Cutting Back', and the path difficult to navigate, with walkers being hit by overgrown shrubs, brambles and self seeded tree saplings. For the last few weeks Ady, Callum and Graham have been cutting the hedge and clearing all the obstacles to make it a lovely open space to walk down again.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Phymosia umbellata

Found in amongst the central plant display in the Besse Building courtyard, this native from Mexico and relative of the Abutilon, is putting on a show of its own. The funnel shaped flowers, of the deepest blood red, are set against a velvety leaf and, although attracting the pollinating insects here, it is not going to see the Hummingbirds that love it in other parts of the world. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Is It Real?

A question often uttered by visitors, as they walk through the entrance gates and see the two small areas of lawn, is, "Is it real?". This always makes the gardeners smile if they are in earshot of this question and hear the visitors uncertainty as to whether the grass is real or artificial. The answer is, of course, real, just take a look at the blog entry on the 30th April 2013 'Lawn Repairs' to see how it looked 5 months ago. A lot of hard work by Joss has repaired the lawns and is now causing this question, "Is it real?".

Friday, 6 September 2013

New Potting Bench In The Greenhouse

With the kitchen refurbishment due to begin soon, the gardeners acquired one of the old stainless steel food preparation benches for the greenhouse.

Using an angle grinder, Simon carefully removed the legs and, cutting it to size, placed it into the potting bench, replacing the old wooden section.

Not quite long enough, the gaps were filled with two thick pieces of wood to seal it in place. The result, a wonderful new potting bench in the greenhouse.

Cuttings 2013

September is the perfect time to take cuttings of the tender plants out in the gardens. Crystal, under Ali's guidance, started with the ideal plant for beginners, pelargonium. Healthy non flowering shoots were chosen, cutting them above a leaf joint from the parent plant. Once back in the potting shed, a straight cut was then made below a leaf joint, the lower leaves removed, the soft tip pinched out and the base of the stem dipped in hormone rooting powder. A dozen 3 inch pots were filled with a 50/50 mix of John Innes No 2 and multipurpose compost, and, using a dibber, three holes were made in the compost of each pot inserting the cuttings carefully into the holes. After gently firming them in, the pots were then watered and placed on the bench in the peach house. By the end of the month the cuttings should have rooted and new plants for next year's display produced.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Scarifying With The Amazone

The large lawn in the Provost's garden is in need of scarifying again due to the build up of thatch. The tractor mounted Amazone scarifier, last seen two years ago, see blog entry 6th September 2011 'Blowing A Gale', was brought out from storage to remove the thatch once more. The thatch seems to take two years to build up before it becomes a problem to the ride on mowers. Previous to 2011, the scarifying of the Provost's lawn was 27th October 2009, see blog entry 'Scarifying On A Large Scale'.

The grass was very dry, and with a gentle breeze, Simon had to wear a face mask and glasses to protect himself from the huge amount of dried grass and dust particles being produced by the Amazone.

Kieron, using the Iseki ride on mower, collected the thatch and grass that was dropped by the Amazone. By the end of the day the lawn was brown, but will soon recover in the morning dews and warm temperatures of late summer, perfect conditions for grass growing.

Monday, 2 September 2013

A Good Year For Butterflies


After last year's washout summer, this year has seen a noticeable increase in butterflies around the college gardens. The sunny weather, throughout July and August, has brought the butterflies out in huge numbers, with the Buddleia, Echinacea and Verbena bonariensis being the most popular amongst our beautiful, dainty winged visitors. 

Speckled Wood

The Large White, Small White, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell have been seen in abundance but others have also been a welcome sight. From the early first sightings of Orange Tip, the gardens have also been visited by Marbled White, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Gatekeeper, Comma, Brimstone, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Speckled Wood.

Small Tortoiseshell

Hopefully the warm weather extends well in to September and the butterflies continue to flutter around the gardens as this summer, the sight of them, has been just magical.  

Painted Lady