Friday, 27 February 2015

First Cut Of The Quad Lawn And The Banks

The banks had their first cut on Tuesday, 24th, a month later than last year, see blog entry 'First Cut Of The Banks' 23rd January 2014. (The winter of 2013/14 was warm and wet, and the grass never seemed to stop growing!) The colder weather of this winter, 2014/15, have given the mowers a rest but the re-emergence of the Flymo and Allett mowers have signalled the start of the grass cutting season. The fist cut of the year for the quad with the Allett cylinder mower, cutting height of 22 millimetres, was completed today.

Reducing The Height Of The Portuguese Laurel Hedge

Before (Provost's Garden View)

The Portuguese laurel hedge, Prunus Lusitanica, at the bottom of the Provost's rose garden has not been pruned for several years so, before the birds start to build their nests in it, the decision was made to cut it down to the level of the top of the wall which stands behind it. The task to remove 5-6 feet from the top was started yesterday

Before (Secret Garden View)

A tall ladder was placed inside the hedge and the top cut off using a very sharp Silky Gomtaro straight blade handsaw. The cut branches were dragged over the wall from the secret garden, which overlooks the rose garden, and taken down the steps to the truck for transportation to the wood chipper.

By the end of the day the team had almost finished reducing the top of the hedge, had finished reducing its depth by a foot and managed to trim it with the long reach hedge cutter to remove any uneven edges from its side.

Today the remainder of the top was cut off and the thick ivy removed from the secret garden wall, opening up the views across the quad to the front of the college that had been hidden for so many years.

After (Secret Garden View)

After (Provost's Garden View)

View from the quad's top terrace

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Goosanders, Just Passing Through

Goosander pair, male (L) female (R)

The Goosander have returned to the lake again this year, not in the large groups seen last year but predominantly in pairs. Always expected to arrive in mid February they did not disappoint, here are the recorded 2015 sightings:
10th February - 1 male/1 female (pair)
16th February - 1 male/1 female (pair)
18th February - 1 male
23rd February - 2 male/1 female
24th February - 1 male/1 female (pair), joined by 1 female

Additional date
9th March - 1 male/1female (pair)

For the previous years recorded sightings, see blog entry 7th February 2014 'Goosander's Arrival 2014'.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Four Days Of Splitting Logs

Thursday and Friday's Split Logs

Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday, for the last four days two members of the team have been located at the top end of the college grounds, by the sports field, splitting logs. Six trees of Cedar, Ash, Chestnut and Cherry have been felled to make way for the construction of the new sports pitches leaving a large amount of timber needing to be split. (All the tress have been felled with authorisation from the councils Tree Officer). On Thursday and Friday it was Danny and Callum who split the logs replaced by Simon and Ali on Monday, Danny replaced Simon today.

Demolition Site

Chainsaw Required

The more awkward and larger pieces of timber required the help of a chainsaw to cut them to smaller pieces before the axe could be used on Monday. 

Simon Wielding The Axe

The Result Of Three Days Of Log Splitting
 By the end of the third day two large piles had been split and will be allowed to dry out, Seasoned, before they will be used as firewood to fuel the fires in the Provost's Lodgings and the main hall of the college. The pile has been covered with a tarpaulin to prevent it reabsorbing moisture, a more permanent roof will be erected in the coming weeks. (Seasoning is the process of reducing the moisture content sufficiently to make it suitable for the use as fuel. Felling trees during the winter, when the sap and moisture content within the wood is at its lowest, means that the wood will dry out faster and can be used as firewood a a lot sooner.)

Danny The Axeman

Today Danny and Ali worked together to split the third pile of timber, four trailers filled with split wood taken to the Provost's wood store.

Split logs being dried out, Seasoned

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Potting Up Pelargonium

The 130 Pelargonium cuttings taken last September and potted up in to their own individual pots at the end of October are now ready for the next size pot, moving up from the smaller 9x9x10cm to the larger 12x12x12cm. These plants will remain in the new pots until they are planted out in to the gardens in June.  

In addition to the pelargonium grown from cuttings, an order of 84 plug plants, Pelargonium crispum 'Angeleyes Randy' were received from Ball Colegrave (the UK's leading wholesale distributor of seeds and plants to commercial growers and local authorities). Each plug plant was potted up in to the small pots but it will be a while before they are ready for their final move to the larger pot, end of April possibly. The clusters of white edged, burgundy flowers will be seen in the various pots and planters, and in the border at the bottom of the quad this summer.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Reclaimed Trellis

On the look out for materials around the college that may be used for future projects in the college gardens, the team have had their eyes on the trellis that adorned the top of two bike sheds that were earmarked for demolition when the construction of the new building began. See blog entry 3rd February 'A New Kerb Stone Edge In The Tomato House' for a previous example of the gardeners use of reclaimed/recycled materials, these kerb stones had been stored in the nursery for about 10 years before a use for them was found!

Removed last week Ady, Graham and Callum spent yesterday painting the reclaimed trellis with Sadolin Ebony Wood Stain.

Today the trellis was taken to one of the college's properties where it was erected, replacing the old fence that had fallen down and giving new support to climbing roses.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Adding Fruit To The Hedgerow

The hedgerow that runs along the canal side edge of the college grounds had some new plants added to it today. Found in what was once the student allotment garden, now a building site, six blackcurrant bushes were rescued and transferred to the hedge to add fruit for the wildlife to feed on. Usually the birds are unwanted guests feeding on soft fruit bushes but they will welcome to eat them all.

Reinforced with Hawthorn, Privet, Spindle and Common Hazel in December 2011, see blog entry 'Hedge Reinforcement', this is the first time fruit has been added. The two variates of Blackcurrant planted are 'Ben Sarek' and 'Ben Lomond', both high yielding with large berries.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

3 Planters, 69 Lavender Plants and A Tonne Of Gravel

The project to bring the large planters on The Sainsbury Building balconies back in to use began last August and was finally completed today. A further 69 Lavender plants had been purchased, Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead', flowering in the summer it produces spikes of bluish-purple flowers above grey-green, aromatic leaves.
It produces dense spikes of fragrant, bluish-purple summer flowers above slender, aromatic, grey-green leaves - See more at:
It produces dense spikes of fragrant, bluish-purple summer flowers above slender, aromatic, grey-green leaves - See more at:
It produces dense spikes of fragrant, bluish-purple summer flowers above slender, aromatic, grey-green leaves - See more at:

Twenty three young plants were placed out on the planters, crosses cut through the membrane, the edges folded back, soil carefully removed and placed temporarily in a pot, the plant placed in the hole, the soil in the pot used to backfill around the plant and the membrane edges folded back around its neck. Before the top dressing of gravel was added the surface was swept clean of soil debris created from the digging. Trugs, with ropes attached, were filled with gravel and lifted from ground level to the planters, their contents poured around the plants covering the membrane. Lastly the plants were given a good watering in.

This process was repeated on the other two planters and the project in now finished.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cyclamen coum

The Broadwalk

To add more colour to the gardens for remaining week of the winter over 80 Cyclamen coum have been planted, particularly in the border on The Broadwalk and beneath the old ash tree beside the lake. Pink and Magenta flowers are now mixing with the snowdrops complementing their white flowers. Ideal for naturalising, these coum will, one day, create a carpet of soft pastel colour as they spread, brightening up the dreariest of future winter days.

The Old Ash Tree Beside The Lake

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Reattaching Taps, Soaker Hose and Weed Suppressing Membrane

Three of the large planters on the Sainsbury Building balconies were refilled with soil on Monday. The next step was to reattach the taps to a new, short length of hose which would then be attached to new soaker hose and covered with a weed suppressing membrane.

The existing hose did not come off the tap easily, tucked away in the most awkward of places to reach. Once it had been removed the new piece was too rigid to fit on the tap so a cup of boiling water was called for. Carefully dipping the end of the new hose in to the water it became more flexible and went over the tap end with a little less effort than it took to take it off! (Thank you to the students who very kindly offered cups of tea and coffee everytime a cup of boiling water was requested).  Next, the black porous soaker hose, a tangled mess in a cupboard, it was easier to mark out the required pattern using string and take it to the cupboard rather than take the huge spool of hose up to the planter. The string was used to mark the length of pipe needed.

The cut length of pipe was then taken up to the balcony and pegged down on the soil with small wire pegs individually cut from a larger roll of wire.

Next it was back down to ground level to cut the membrane to the required size, the roll being far too big and cumbersome to take up to the balcony.

Returning to the balcony, the membrane was rolled out over the soaker hose and soil, and anchored down with plastic garden pegs.

Up and down, up and down the ladder all day, two of the three planters were completed, the last one will be finished tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A New Kerb Stone Edge In The Tomato House

With the paths and steps all cleared of snow and salted around the college, Danny and Kieron moved inside to the tomato house. During the summer the daily watering of the tomato plants causes a flood of soil from the borders on to the path so to stop this a new stone edge had been planned. With the grounds covered in snow, today was the perfect day to do this.

A trench was dug out along the path, broken kerb stones placed in the trench as a bedding and a string line fixed in place as a guide for the level. Concrete kerb stones were carefully placed along the edge of the path in the trench and mortar, 4 parts builders sand to one part cement, used as a haunching to hold them in place. Due to the freezing weather conditions outside the tomato house, a frost proof, quick set additive was also added to the mortar mix. By the end of a cold day a new stone edging was set in place, goodbye to the wet, muddy path of the past.