Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sweet Pea 'Juliet', 'Anniversary' and 'Apple Blossom'

The daffodil and tulips in the cut flower bed have all been picked and have filled many vases over the last few months. Now that the bulbs have no more flowers to give they have been dug up and put in storage to dry out. Today they were replaced by a frame for the sweet peas that have been growing in the greenhouse since they were sown back in mid March.

Simon and Ali came up with a new design and , hopefully, improved frame over last year's, see blog entry 12th June 'Sweet Pea 'Albutt Blue', 'Blue Danube' And 'Mars'. Needing more space for other cut flowers, the size of the frame has been reduced.

This year's Sweet Pea varieties are 'Juliet', 'Anniversary' and 'Apple Blossom', all carefully chosen for their links to the college. 'Juliet', for the Provost of the college, and Shakespeare scholar, Jonathan Bate,  'Anniversary', due to 2014 being the college Tercentenary year and 'Apple Blossom' for the college's very productive orchard. For those of you asking 'O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?', this sweet pea will, hopefully, make an appearance next year, maybe even with 'Juliet'! (For the desciption of this year's varieties see blog entry 17th March 'Sweet Peas And A Mouse Or Two!')

Monday, 28 April 2014

A New Pattern On The Quad Lawn

Straight lines, diagonal lines, circles, all have been seen on the quadrangle lawn over the last four years, now it's curves, sound waves, ripple effect and, some have even said, the wifi symbol!

The most important tools to start this new design, as always, is a long piece of string and a tape measure. The length of one end was measured and divided by four to find the quarter mark. A stake was then placed in a corner of the quad lawn and a piece of string, measuring the length of the quarter, tied to it with a sharp object at the end. Carefully moving the string across the lawn, the grass was lightly scored to mark out where the first curved edge would start and, once marked out, Joss guided the mower across the grass creating the new design.  

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Pruning The Plum Trees

Kieron pruned the plum trees today, the largest being Prunus domestica 'Opal'. The trees were not pruned over the winter with the other fruit trees in the orchard as plums are prone to a fungal disease called Silver Leaf. This disease produces its most infectious spores in the autumn/winter and, if pruned during that time, will leave the open wounds from the pruning cuts exposed to these spores. Having waited for the trees to finish flowering, and the risk to Silver Leaf reduced, it was given its annual prune, removing any dead branches and, as plum trees are heavy croppers, reducing the length of larger branches to prevent any breakages when full of fruit in the summer. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pricking Out The Seedlings

The seeds sown over the last month have been germinating rapidly in the warmth of the mist unit and are ready to be pricked out. Returning from the Easter break, Graham, Simon, Kieron and Ady pricked out hundreds of seedlings that will be used to help create this year's summer display. Choosing the largest, strongest seedlings from their overcrowded pot,s they gently eased them from the compost using a dibber, pencil or plant label whilst holding onto the seed leaves as they lifted, transferring them into individual pots or single cell seed trays.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Tulips And Wallflowers

The 300 Lily Flowered Triumph Mixed Tulips planted last November in the border at the bottom of the quadrangle are now in flower amongst the wallflower 'Sunset Primrose'. The "explosion of colour" that the team were looking forward to has arrived and is all they had hoped for.

The display seen in corner border is also, if not more than the team had hoped for when they planted it out last year. The summer display was removed in September, see blog entry 'Before Construction, Comes Destruction' and the Wallflower 'Sunset Orange' planted. The royal blue Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis, was added in October, blog entry 'Adding The Royal Blue To The Sunset Orange' followed by the planting of the yellow tulip 'West Point' a month later, blog entry 'Queen Of The Night, West Point, National Velvet and China Pink'. This week, in the warms spring sunshine, the college gardens are a blaze with colour which the students will be greeted with when they return on Easter Sunday. 

Tulips In The Rose Garden And Herbaceous Border

A few hundred additional tulips were planted in the Provost's rose garden last autumn to boost the display seen at this time in previous years. The result, a truely beautiful show of pink and rich, velvet red.

A display that was changed from last year can be found on the herbaceous border. Last November, 750 tulips were planted in the border, see blog entry 'A New Colour Scheme Of Tulips' 14th November, and now these bulbs are flowering. Tulips 'Black Hero', 'China Pink' and 'Purple Dream' are creating a new, softer pallet of colours compared to the previous colours, the red tulip is being removed as it flowers, see blog entry 27th April 2010 'Tidying Up The Borders'.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tulips In The Orchard

Last November, Kieron and Ali planted a further 100 tulips in the orchard to extend the area of display.  The two colours, 'National Velvet' and 'China Pink', have been in the orchard since they were first introduced back in January 2011, blog entry 'Not Long Now', and created such wonderful comments when they flowered for the first time in April of that year, blog entry 'Accident or By Design'. This year's display is even better than that first time three years ago.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

The River Of Blue, 1st April 2014
The Ruskin Building quadrangle garden, known by the team as 'The Serpentine' was officially opened on the 28th April 2009, see blog entry 'The Official Opening'. The planting has matured over the last five years with the Muscari, Grape Hyacinth, providing a gentle, meandering river of blue around the box balls at this time of year. Also, the four Magnolia trees, that were planted in the spaces created by the meandering shape of the border, have matured into beautiful specimens. These four trees, Magnolia 'Elizabeth', are covered in fragrant cup shaped, primrose yellow blooms. This stunning display is further enhanced by the ivory and green flowers of Tulip 'Spring Green' flowering in the border below.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Hardening Off Process Continues

The plants that were featured in the blog entry 'Potting Up And Moving Out' on the the 27th March, have been hardening off in the old peach house for almost 3 weeks and are ready for step two of that process, moving out into the cold frames. The space they leave behind is quickly filled by the plants that have been waiting in the greenhouse since they were potted up. These plants will be moved into the cold frames in a few weeks, replaced by the last of the plants that are still waiting in the greenhouse and, by the end of May, will all have been hardened off, toughened up, acclimatised, ready for planting out in the college gardens.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Creating A Safe, Accessible Leaf Pit Area

During the very wet winter the large leaf pit, at the top of the sports field, had become inaccessible to the tractors, with tyres spinning and getting stuck in the mud. Unable to safely load the trailers using the New Holland with the grab attachment, the leaf mould had to be loaded into the trailers with shovels, see blog entry 20th January 'Mulching The Rose Garden'. The team spent the day correcting the problems the winter had caused.
The New Holland tractor, with the front loader attachment, was used to level the area in front of the pit, removing the risk of loaded trailers tipping over in the future.

Once the soil had been removed, holes that had been created were filled with rubble and the wacker plate used to compact them.

Over the day, 20 tonnes of hoggin was tipped into the area, each trailer load levelled by rake and compacted with the wacker plate. A slight camber was created in the centre of the area to allow the water to fall away to the edges and into the leaf pit, removing the water logging that had caused the inaccessibility problems.

By the end of the day, a new, safe, accessible area in front of the leaf pit had been created.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Change In Shape

One of the two strips of lawn that run along the front of the herbaceous border has been altered, changing its shape and extending the border at the same time. The problem area, in need of repair every year, has been removed and a piece of metal edging added along the new straight edge.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Coverings Of Horticultural Fleece

Nuffield Lawn

These odd shaped coverings of fleece have been seen around the college on previous occasions, one of which is referred to in the blog entry 4th October 2012 'Egg Shaped Fleece'. Two sunken areas on the Nuffield were causing a problem when mowing last year, so have been infilled with soil to raise the height and grass seeded.

Front Entrance Lawn
The headland, the turning point for the mower, on one of the two lawns in the front of the college was also in need of repair. Top soil has been added and grass seeded.

A third area, which was also in need of repair, can be found in the orchard. Several old, tired roses have been removed and the holes they left behind have been filled with soil, levelled and grass seed sown. All these areas have been covered in horticultural fleece improving the germination and growing conditions by keeping the area warm, at the same time protecting the seed from hungry birds and, once germinated, the newly emerging grass from any frosts.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Incubation Of The Eggs Begins

Seven eggs have been laid and the pen has begun incubating them. The cob is still providing nesting material for her to build up the nest whilst she sits on the eggs, she leaves them only for short periods to feed and bathe, returning quickly to her precious clutch, hatching should take place after 35-42 days.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Weaving Plant Supports

Once all the shingle had been moved yesterday Ali, Simon and Kieron moved on to the herbaceous border to make this year's plant supports. Continuing today they created more supports, twisting birch in to many differant shapes and sizes, also using recently cut cornus from the gardens to weave around bamboo canes. The supports will eventually become invisible as the plants grow up through and around them. (For more information on the birch used for the supports, see blog 26th February 2014 'Coppicing Birch')

For Mr B. (From Simon)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

5 Tonnes Of 20mm Shingle

A large walnut tree in one of the college properties has been causing a problem when it comes to getting grass to grow under the shadow its canopy casts. Three times the area under the edge of the canopy has been sown with grass seed only for it to die off once the tree comes into full leaf. It was decided that instead of having an unsightly, dead lawn, the existing shingle area would be extended to the line of the canopy.

Five tonnes of 20mm shingle was delivered to the property and placed as close to the side entrance as possible, reducing the distance the shingle would need to be transported by wheelbarrow.

Once all five bags had been deposited safely their contents were shovelled into the barrows and pushed into the back garden.

Within an hour all the shingle had been moved into the garden and levelled. The front section of the old lawn will be reseeded.