Thursday, 28 May 2015

A New Porous Hose And A New Display For The Summer

Yesterday Ady and Graham started working on the border at the bottom of the quad preparing it for the summer plants. They began by clearing out the wallflowers and polyanthus that provided the winter display.

Having cleared out the winter plants, all of which were taken to the compost heaps, they removed the old porous hose, weeded, scattered Growmore, a granular fertiliser, and forked it in.

This morning they returned to the border to lay a new porous hose that will water the plants through the summer, should it be needed!

Once the hose had been set in place the plants, grown from seed and cuttings for the summer display, were brought over from the greenhouse and cold frames. Simon placed them out and the team planted them in to their final position. The plants used this year are Antirrhinum majus 'Royal Bride', Ammi visnaga, Salvia 'Penny's Smile', Diascia personata, Cleome spinosa 'Colour Fountain Mixed' Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield', Lavatera trimestris 'Loveliness Mixed', Daucus carota 'Dara', Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Burgundy Beau' and Cosmos bipinnatus 'Click Cranberries'.
The structure is provided by the permenant planting, the perennials and shrubs, Hemerocallis 'Catherine Woodbery', Artemisia 'Powis Castle', Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Crowborough', Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky', Geranium x oxonium 'A T Johnson' and Indigofera gerardiana

"Ton Sur Ton" (In Matching Shades)

Two days ago the team began working on changing the display in The Besse Courtyard (Provost's Yard). The seven oak planters were emptied off all the winter display plants; the wallflowers placed on the compost heaps; tulips put in trays to dry out; the ivy potted up and the evergreen shrubs planted in to the healing in border.

Before the planters were topped up with new compost they were moved from their central position within the yard to the side, building work in this area during the summer months influenced the need to relocate them. Using a pallet truck each planter was careful manoeuvred to its new position.  

By the end of the day the planters had fresh compost in them and were ready for planting.

This morning Ali and Simon had the pleasure of creating the summer display in the seven oak planters. The plants used are Salvia 'Amistad', Salvia microphylla 'Cerro Potosi', Salvia curviflora, Anisodontea 'El Rayo', Plectranthus coleoides 'Variegata', Actaea matsumutae 'White Pearl' (syn. Cimicifuga) and a rich pink pelargonium (variety unknown, but a real favourite of the gardeners). Thank you to a college Fellow who gave a name to the display upon seeing the shades of pink and purple,"ton sur ton", it's French for "the matching shades". 

In a shady corner of the yard three lead planters were also planted up for the summer, completely different to those just a few metres away but so much fun to create. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Marvellous, Magnificent, Majestic Wisteria

Since the blog began in 2009 the Wisteria has featured in many posts at this time of year. Blessed with several around the college gardens, visitors in May are amazed by their stunning display (only once have they disappointed the visitors, in 2011 they flowered in April, one month early, see blog entry 27th April 'Wonderful Wisteria'). Running out superlatives to describe this marvellous, magnificent, majestic display, here are a few photographs for you to choose your own.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Appying A Liquid Grass Growth Regulator And Fertiliser

With a new long hose attachment on the 60 litre pedestrian sprayer Joss can now apply liquid fertiliser safely to the banks. The previous method meant that Joss had to carry a full 15 litre piston pump knapsack sprayer on his back to accomplish the same task, filling it up 4 times!

The liquids applied today were a mix of 'Primo Maxx' and 'N Sure', a liquid formulation grass growth regulator and a slow release nitrogen fertiliser respectively.  According to the labels here is what they do!

"PRIMO MAXX inhibits vertical growth and diverts plant growth downward into the root system to produce increased lateral stem movement. This results in a thicker, healthier sward that better equips turf to withstand temperature extremes, moisture loss, traffic and wear and even helps in the management of Poa annua, Annual Meadow grass."
  • Reduces grass top growth, improves sward and root mass
  • Improves colour and appearance
  • Cuts down mowing frequency
  • One application can cut grass clippings by 50% 
"N SURE A liquid fertiliser that contains the unique slow release nitrogen source -triazone- a mechanism proven in the UK climate. The slow release properties of Triazone provide gradual nitrogen availability to the plant, reducing the amount of clippings produced and producing growth characteristics - even when comparatively large amounts of nutrients are applied."

Having safely completed working on the banks Joss detached the long hose from the pedestrian sprayer, unfolded the 2 metre 4 nozzle boom, and applied the remainder of the tank's contents to the quad lawn. Notice the foam dots on the lawn, a foam TurfTracker that tells Joss where the liquid mix has been applied, harmless to the turf and soon disappears.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Removing The Fleece From The Banana Plants

Under wraps since October the fist layer, hessian, was removed a month ago but now the hardy banana plants, Musa basjoo, are bursting out from their horticultural fleece protection.

The fleece is carefully removed revealing the new, lush green foliage that has been desperate to be released from the confines of the winter protection. Now free, these quick growing bananas will give this section of the border a luxuriant, exotic feel.

The Musa basjoo have faired a lot better under the winter wraps than the less hardy red Abyssinian Banana plants, Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'. The red banana are usually dug up and taken to the greenhouse for storage but, being too heavy, had to be left in situ for the first time, a chance had to be taken on them surviving outside through the winter.

The fleece and old leaves were removed to reveal a trunk but no fresh growth from the crown. Cleaned up it is hoped that now they are exposed to fresh air, rain, sunshine and given a feed they will soon start to regrow.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Summer Planting Begins (Being Careful Not To Tread On The Fledlings!)

Planting up the first pot

The nighttime temperatures are rising reducing the risk of frost, the screaming call of the swifts can be heard overhead, and the Blackbird chicks have fledged in the Pump Quad. All these signs tell the gardeners that it is time to start changing the displays around the college, removing the winter plants and replacing them with those grown for the summer. Ali and Simon begin with the central display pot in the Pump Quad, being careful not to tread on, or disturb the four fledgling Blackbirds that are moving awkwardly around the quad, calling out their location to their parents as they fly in and out of the area with food for them.  

A well hidden Blackbird nest

The young Blackbirds fledged over the weekend from their nest in a buddleja growing out of a wall. They were spotted on the stairs in staircase 15 and 11, the most unsuitable of places in a busy college, but now seemed to have settled out of harms way, in plant pots, on window sills and behind drain pipes!

Fledgling on a window ledge
Fledgling hiding behind a drain pipe

Can you see me?

Here I am!

Summer display pot
The first pot display consists of the succulent Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf', the variagated Swedish Ivy  Plectranthus coleoides and the deep crimson, velvet flowered Pelargonium 'Lord Bute' (grown from cuttings by Mr Beardmore, Thank you). The team will now spend the next few weeks creating the displays for the summer from the large selection of plants waiting in the cold frames and greenhouse.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Two Goslings

The Canada Geese mentioned in blog entry 27th April 'The Reed Bed Maternity Unit', had eggs that hatched during the weekend of the 2nd/3rd May. Six goslings were seen on the morning of the 4th but by the evening just two remained. Two weeks have passed and the goslings have stayed close to their parents, eating grass and sleeping, growing up fast.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cow Parsley 'Bashing'

The mass of frothy white flowers in the orchard signals that the Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, is once again in flower. The gardener's annual task of removing some of it, in an attempt to control it spreading, began yesterday and continued today, ('bashing' as they call it). Using forks they dig it out of the grass but the tap roots are long and deep in the soil, snapping off as it is lifted, leaving a small piece behind which will grow again.

Wildlife spotted in amongst the grass whilst forking out the Cow Parsley, a Damselfly, wings folded along its abdomen, gently resting.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Peony 'Molly The Witch'

Paeonia mlokosewitschii, that's quite a mouth full so let's call it by its other name, Peony 'Molly The Witch', it's so much easier!

The gardeners have been waiting a long time, some 6 years, for these peony to flower. One plant, very small when planted, was donated and the others were seedlings dug out from a gravel path in the Fellow's Garden; luckily the seedlings have come true, the same colour as the parent plant.

Planted in the tree circles of the Ruskin Building's Serpentine Garden, the single lemon-yellow flowers light up each circle replacing the faded primrose yellow flowers of the Magnolia 'Elizabeth' that stand above them.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Peaceful Purples In The Corner

17th March 2015
Planted out at the end of October 2014, see blog entry for the 23rd 'Wallflower Sunset Purple And Tulip Shirley', the border in the corner has matured well and has been at its best this week.

For the spring display this year the colour scheme was purple. The ivory tulips, with purple veining on the edge of the petals, seem to float above the rich purple, fragrant blooms of the wallflowers, together creating a relaxing, peaceful effect.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Restoring One Of The Memorial Benches

Over the last few months work on restoring one of the memorial benches began. The bench was in poor condition, its paintwork flaking and in desperate need of restoration. Last month the old paint was removed using a power washer, blasting off the dirt and paint. The bench was then put in to storage until Tuesday when work on it began again.

 Using sanding tools of various shapes and sizes, Danny carefully removed the remaining paint creating a smooth surface to which the wood finishing oil could be applied.

The finishing oil chosen was 'Danish Oil' to give an attractive, water resistant low sheen finish. Applied using a cloth the oil was worked in to the wood, two coats were needed to penetrate and protect it from the elements it may encounter whilst out in the gardens. 

The beautiful wood grain, hidden for so many years beneath dirt and flaking paint, can now be seen again. For four days Danny has lovingly restored this memorial bench, soon to be seen out in the gardens again, once it has dried that is.