Friday, 28 February 2014

Repotting Into Larger Pots

The cuttings that were taken from the summer display plants last September and potted up a month later, see blog entry 21st October 2013 'Potting Up September's Cuttings', have been repotted for the final time this week. They will now remain in the larger 10x10x11 pots until they are planted out as part of this year's summer display at the beginning of June. In April, to begin the process of hardening off, they will be moved out of the heated greenhouse into the unheated, south facing greenhouse then into the cold frames in May.

Wooden Storage Shed For A Lawnmower

Over the last few weeks, during periods of heavy rain, Ady and Graham have built a wooden storage shed for a lawnmower. Using spare pieces of feather edge board, left over from the building of the potting shed, see blog entry 19th October 2012 'It Now Looks Like A Shed', they designed and built this storage shed. The need for the shed was highlighted following the completion of a risk and manual handling assessment undertaken for the transporting of a heavy lawnmower up the steep steps to the garden above. The mower can now remain in situ preventing the need for the carrying of this heavy, awkward load.  

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Coppicing Birch

Newly Planted 2 Year Old Birch Trees

Every year the team take delivery of a trailer load of coppiced birch to make the supports for the plants on the herbaceous border, for an example of the supports made see blog entry 15th March 2011 'Basket Weaving'. Today Ali went on a training day at The Harcourt Arboretum to learn about this ancient form of woodland management, Coppicing, that produces these plant supports. Working with the staff at the arboretum they started the day in a new area of coppice, planting 2 year old birch trees which, in 5 years time, will be cut down. Each tree was supported by a bamboo cane and protected by a clear plastic tree guard.
Having helped to create a woodland for the future, they then moved onto the coppicing of a small birch woodland that was planted in 2000 and is cut on a three to five year rotation. This rotation can increase the biodiversity in the woodland, the clearance results in the variation of light levels reaching the woodland floor as well as altering the number of stools, size and age of the trees.

Birch Coppice

Coppicing is the repetitive cutting down of multi stemmed trees, in this case birch, creating a stump, a coppice stool, which will regrow from dormant buds or root buds producing new wood for future. The stems are cut using a saw, making a sloped cut which is thought to shed water and prevent fungal decay. The part of the woodland coppiced is called a 'coupe', also known as a sale, fell, cant, panel or burrow depending on locality.


Coppice Stool


Joined by volunteers the 'coupe' is methodically cleared. As the team go deeper into the woodland, the cut down wood in called 'underwood', the further they have to drag it back to the path for collection, being careful not to trip over the newly created stools!

Cleared Birch Coppice


At the end of a very tiring day the area of birch had been coppiced and the underwood, approximately 750 pieces are stored ready for use as plant supports.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Goodbye Sophie

(L-R) Ali, Ady, Kieron, Graham, Simon, Sophie, Joss, Callum.

Today the team said "goodbye" and "thank you" to Sophie who, for the last 14 months, has been volunteering on Mondays in the gardens. Sophie it has been a real pleasure to work with you and wish you all the best with your future career in horticulture.

The Provost's Drive Border

Two years ago the team spent three days clearing the overgrown border next to the Provost's drive, see blog entry 5th March 2012 'The Provost's Drive'. Since then the weeds, mainly bindweed, have been controlled by regular spraying with the weedkiller Glyphosate, the final application being last summer.

Today Ady, Graham and Callum planted the border with the winter flowering shrub, Sarcococca confusa, Sweet Box, which, in a few years time, will fill the air with their fragrance, see blog entry 5th February 'Sweet Smell Of Winter Flowering Shrubs'. Once all the Sarcococca had been planted the border was finished off with the addition of a leaf mould mulch.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Planting A New Yew Hedge

Today's task, to prepare the ground and plant 75 young, 2 foot tall Yew trees to create a hedge along the side of the orchard next to the car park.

Before the turf could be removed the area for the new hedge had to be measured out and guide lines put in place.

The turf was then cut into small squares using an edging iron, lifted with a turfing iron, placed into a trailer and taken to the compost area to make a turf stack.

As the turf was removed a trench was dug and the soil placed on boards to one side.

Once the trench had been dug the bottom was forked through to break up the base and a layer of leaf mould added. A guide line was then placed along the centre of the trench. The young yew hedging plants, purchased from Penwood Nurseries Ltd, were then placed into the trench, a few at a time, along the centre line and the soil back filled around them.

By the end of the day, through sunshine and rain, a new hedge had been created between the orchard and the car park.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cutting The Grasses Down

The grasses in the Serpentine Border have been battered in the recent heavy rain and gale force winds making them look very untidy. Simon and Ali spent the morning cutting the grasses down with a hedge cutter releasing the box balls from their grassy covering and exposing the newly emerging flowers of the Muscari, which will soon create a river of blue meandering through the surrounding hard landscaping. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Mulching Borders

Goldfish Bowl

Since Monday of last week, Ady, Graham and Callum have, weather permitting, been clearing out a very old leaf pit which is full of lovely dark brown, crumbly leafmould. Having spent years rotting down, the leaves are now ready to be spread on the college borders as a mulch. Starting by the Casson Building, also known as The Goldfish Bowl, they have worked their way round the borders that surround the Nuffield Lawn finishing in the centre of the lawn mulching amongst the snowdrops. 

Lindbury Building

Herbaceous Border (right)

Herbaceous Border (left)

Nuffield Lawn

Friday, 7 February 2014

Replacing And Painting Glass

Following a collision between a pigeon and three panes of glass, the glass came off worse by the way, Simon and Callum spent a rare, dry afternoon repairing the old glasshouse. As well as the three broken panes on one end, two additional panes on the roof, that has been cracked for sometime, were also replaced.

Once the new glass was in place, Callum painted all the panes with 'Coolglass', a greenhouse shading, to protect plants from the spring/summer sunshine should it ever sop raining.

Goosander's Arrival 2014

Goosander (female)

Goosander have been seen on the lake, and their arrival dates recorded, since the blog began in 2009. This year they have been arriving constantly since the team returned to work on the 2nd January, but on two days, 30th January and today, their numbers have been more noticeable.
  • 30th January 8 birds, 4 female and 4 male
  • 7th February 10 birds, 2 female and 8 male
Always 'just passing through', it is a sight that the team, especially Ali, looks forward to seeing.
Previous year's visiting dates are:

2013 - 28th January, 11th February
2012 - 17th February
2011 - 19th January
2010 - 18th February
2009 - 16th February

This winter has seen the college lake visited by more Goosander than ever before, hope to see more of you next year.

Rising Water Levels

While not on the scale seen around other parts of the country, the water levels have been steadily rising in and around the college. Situated next to the Oxford Canal, and with the volume of water that has fallen out of the sky over the last six weeks, the ditch is full and over flowing, the canal side path flooded and Nuffield lawn is saturated. It is hoped that the water levels will fall before the next lot of water filled clouds drop their heavy load on to the college grounds, not too mention, on to the gardeners, who are getting thoroughly fed up with this continued wet weather.

Oxford Canal


Canal Side Path

Nuffield Lawn

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lonicera fragrantissima

The winter themed border by the Lindbury Building is not the only area of the college gardens that has a sweet fragrance being produced by a winter flowering shrub. On the top terrace of the front quad, the shrub that is creating a wonderfully sweet aroma is Lonicera fragrantissima, Winter Flowering Honeysuckle. Home of a resident Robin, who is always singing a song as you walk by, this large deciduous honeysuckle is covered in pairs of very fragrant, two lipped cream flowers, even bees have been seen visiting these flowers this month, feeding on the flowers nectar and enjoying their scent.  
Lonicera fragrantissima

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sweet Smell Of Winter Flowering Shrubs

A number of visitors and staff have enquired as to which plants were creating the lovely sweet scent they could smell as they walked past the winter border on their way to the Lindbury Building. The border was created in February 2010 and planted up a few months later, see blog entry 5th May 'Three Borders In One Day', the photographs show how well the planting has grown and it is these mature plants that are now filling the air with such a beautiful fragrance.

Sarcococca confusa
The two shrubs that are behind the wonderful scent are Sarcococca and Daphne. Sarcococca confusa, Sweet Box, is an evergreen shrub which has clusters of tiny, fragrant creamy white flowers and Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is also evergreen with intensely fragrant, pale pink flowers. In the recent winter winds, and gales, this corner of the college has been filled with their sweet perfume.  

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Lesson In Apple Pruning

The team have been receiving training and guidance from Chris Lanczak, Orchard Manager of Waterperrry Gardens, since February 2009. Over the last six years, since the blog entry "The Great Apple Prune Begins" 28th February, the large, old trees have been reduced in size and the younger trees formative pruned to create their adult shape resulting in a very productive orchard.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Welcome To Year Six

The first post was on the 2nd February 2009 and today marks the start of the blog's 6th year. There have been 96,000 page views of the 910 posts recording the 5 years of Worcester College's garden history. The first post recorded the weather, snow, and this one, the first of year 6, records the weather as gale force winds, rain and more rain! In fact, as of the 30th January, the Met Office statistics show that Southeast and Central Southern England has had more than twice the average rainfall in January 2014 making it the wettest January since records began in 1910.
UK extreme weather occurrances seemed to have increased over the last 5 years, recorded on the blog:
  • Winter months 2009-10 recorded the coldest temperatures in the last 31 years
  • November 2010, the coldest November in 17 years
  • December 2010, the coldest December in the last 120 years
  • February 2012 (first two weeks) the coldest for 26 years
  • March 2012, the third warmest since 1910
  • April 2012, the wettest since 1910
  • March/April/May 2013 (Spring 2013), coldest spring for 50 years

The wet weather is set to continue, hopefully this will be the only extreme weather recorded during the blog's 6th year.