Thursday, 30 April 2015

Birch Plant Supports

The coppiced birch cut down in January, see blog entry for the 22nd 'Coppicing At The Harcourt Arboretum', was delivered to the college a few weeks ago. This week Ali and Simon have been making the plant supports from the birch. Still pliable after 3 months they carefully weave the pieces together to create sturdy structures that will support the plants as they grow. New this year are decorative pieces made of willow, two spheres and a flower created by Ali on a recent willow weaving course.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Reed Bed Maternity Unit


The reed bed has three occupants, a swan, mallard and moorhen. The reeds provide the perfect nesting material for the water loving birds to use, three nests have been built in it so far. Hidden amongst the reeds the moorhen is the hardest bird to spot, the reeds providing camouflage from predators, and prying eyes. The mallard has ten ducklings nestled underneath her for the night whilst the moorhen and swan are still incubating their eggs, an ideal habitat for a reed bed maternity unit.  


Over on duck island, just across from the reed bed, the Canada Goose is incubating her eggs, a prime location not to be shared with any other water fowl, the male goose patrols the waters to protect her.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Triumph Of Tulips

Tulips And The Cottages (2015)

The project to introduce tulips, in large numbers, to the college gardens began 6 years ago, to provide a colourful display in the spring. This year has been a real triumph for the tulips, a hot, dry spring allowing them to flower for weeks and not being damaged by wind and April showers.

Tulips 'Lily Flowered Triumph Mixed'

The border at the far end of the quad has been a riot of colour, 500 'Lily Flowered Triumph Mixed' have been planted since November 2013 and, with the under planting of Wallflower 'Sunset Primrose' and Polyanthus 'Bright & Breezy Mixed' has created a stunning display.

 'China Pink', 'Purple Dream', 'Atilla', 'Black Hero', 'Black Parrot', 'White Triumpator'

In the herbaceous border the first tulips, 300-400, were planted in November 2009 and every year since then between 400-750 have been added. Tulip 'Black Hero' and 'Black Parrot', a double flowered maroon-black tulip and a dark maroon-black tulip with frilled margins respectively, were added last autumn creating another superb display.

Tulip 'Shirley'

Tulip 'Mount Tacoma'

In the corner border 200 Tulip 'Shirley' have had a relaxing effect, ivory flowers with a purple edge under planted with Wallflower 'Sunset Purple'.By the bridge, the border created last September, has a very serene feel to it, 200 Tulip 'Mount Tacoma', peony-flowered, double white blooms.

Tulips In The Orchard 'National Velvet' and 'China Pink'
Over in the orchard, the years of planting Tulip 'National Velvet' and 'China Pink' still stop people in their tracks, reaching for their cameras to record the view.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Six Years On

22nd April 2009

Six years ago the gardeners created a new, small garden in front of the Middle Common Room, 'The Black & White Garden'. As the pictures show it has matured, with April being the best time to see it at its best. The project to rejuvenate the garden started at the beginning of April 2009 and was finally completed three weeks later, on the 22nd. See blog entries 'Rejuvenation', 'Not Finished Yet!' and 'Finished'.

22nd April 2015

The planting scheme to create the garden was: Common box (Buxus sempervirens), Osmanthus (Osmanthus delavayi), Oregon grape 'Apollo' (Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'), White stemmed Bramble (Rubus cockburnianus), Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis 'Jacquemontii'), Clematis (Clematis armandii) and Black grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'). The black and white is broken up by the yellow flowers of the Mahonia, the evergreen leaves become very dark, almost black in the winter, and the Primrose Jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi).

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Swans Lose One Egg

Now Only Two Eggs

Having laid her first egg on Monday, by Friday there were three eggs. However, as Ali did her regular morning check on their progress she noticed there were now only two.

Walking back from the observation point the reason was discovered, a very large broken egg shell laying by the path. As the swan nest is surrounded by water it is unknown how it got there, although a heron had been seen near the nest yesterday.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Magnificent Magnolia

(L) Magnolia 'Iolanthe' (R) Magnolia x soulangeana

A number of new Magnolia have been planted in the gardens over the last two years, but it was the two oldest that have produced the 'wow factor', located at the exit from the path that takes you from the quad to the Nuffield lawn.

The many goblet shaped blooms are now fading fast having produced a magnificent display over the last few weeks. The warm, dry spring has allowed the flowers to go on blooming, the damage is usually caused by hard frosts, wind and rain, all of which have been of short supply this April.  

Magnolia 'Iolanthe'

Friday, 17 April 2015

Creating A New Pattern On The Quad Lawn

Simon and Joss were planning a new pattern for the quad lawn this afternoon. They worked out the half way point, long ways, and then placed canes out along this centre line point, pacing out equal distances between each cane.

Once in place Joss guided the mower aound the canes creating the first line of the pattern, removing the canes once this line was complete. Working off this first line he continued with the new pattern.

After a few hours the new design was finished, waves, not a straight line in sight. This is the first time waves have been seen on the quad lawn, just how long they stay is unknown, it may not be too long before another new pattern it cut in to the lawn!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Moving The Primrose

Primrose in the grass (moss)

One of the outside properties that the gardeners maintain has provided a large supply of Primrose, Primula vulgaris, that have grown wild through the lawn since it was renovated in 2010, see blog entry 28th September 'No 17 and Wild Flower Meadow' and 7th October 'Levelling Off'. The garden was completely cleared and returned to grass but, unknown to the gardeners, the Primrose were hidden in the soil and have multiplied over the last four and a half years. The grass has now all but disappeared, becoming a lawn of moss, so needs to be re-seeded once a moss killer has been applied and then removed by raking it out. Before this can happen all the Primrose had to be dug up and relocated in the college grounds. They are now in the orchard where they will continue to multiply, their pale yellow flowers brightening up an early spring day, a sight for all to enjoy.

2 of the 6 trugs of primrose moved to the orchard

Primrose In The Orchard

Swans (First Egg 2015)

The nest, used by the swans in previous years, has been changing in shape this week with, what looked like, new material on top. This activity was confirmed today with a sighting of the first egg and the swans working hard to build up the nest.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Unwrapping The Tree Ferns And Banana Plants

The tree fern and banana plants have been under wraps since the 22nd October protecting them from the cold of the British winter. The south of England has been basking in unseasonably high temperatures over the last week, reaching 21C today, so the gardeners took the opportunity to remove some of the wrapping.

First to be unwrapped were the 9 tree fern, Dicksonia antartica and Dicksonia fibrosa, all of which had both the hessian and horticultural fleece removed. On some of the crowns, newly emerging fronds were revealed, curled up tight waiting to unfurl.

The bananas, not as frost hardy as the ferns, had their hessian removed, leaving the fleece in place to insulate them until all risk of frost has gone, usually end of May.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Pricking Out 2015

The first of the seeds have germinated and are now showing signs of their first true leaves. The first set of leaves, seed leaves, are called cotyledons and are part of the seed, acting as a food source fuelling the seeds growth before it produces its first true leaf which will start to photosynthesise its own food.

For the last week Ali, Danny and Kieron have been spending the first few hours of the day in the greenhouse, when it is as its coolest, pricking out the many seedlings that are ready for pricking out in to their own individual pots.


The contents of each pot is carefully tapped out before each seedling is gently separated from its neighbour using a sharp object, in this case, the sharp end of the plant label.

Each seedling is handled carefully using just the seed leaves as the point of contact and not by the stem which bruises easily.

The seedling is placed in to its pot of compost which has been prepared with a planting hole sufficient for it to be lowered in to. The compost is then gently firmed around the young plant securing it in place.

The space on the benches, left behind by the removal of the cuttings, is filling up quickly and will soon be completely filled when the pricking out is completed over the next few weeks.

Moving In To The Cold Frames

Tender Plants In The Peach House, Time To Move Out

The tender plants have been hardening off in the cooler peach house for two weeks, today it is time for them to move out. Space is at a premium in the large, heated greenhouse and the seedlings are pushing for the prime location, so the next lot of tender plants need to be moved out and in to the peach house.

Moved Out In To The Cold Frame

The plants, all from cuttings taken in September, were moved in to one of the frames where they will remain until the end of May, beginning of June, when they will be planted out in to the gardens. The space they left behind in the peach house has been filled already leaving room on the bench in the heated greenhouse which will be filled by the, soon to be pricked out, seedlings. 

The lids have been put on the frames, during the day they are left up and at night they be closed whilst the overnight temperatures are below 5 degrees. 

Lids On At Night