Monday, 5 December 2016

Merry Christmas And A Very Happy New Year

The Gardens and Grounds team of Worcester College would like to wish all the readers and followers of their blog a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Thank you all for your continued support through reading the blog, posting comments and for coming to visit the gardens and saying such kind words, 'Hello, I really enjoy reading your blog' and 'The gardens are stunning, the best in Oxford', they really are very much appreciated. Work will continue in the gardens during December until college shut down on the 21st, but this blogger is off to sunnier climates. Written since February 2009, there are almost 8 years of college gardening activities to read about and, as the blog approaches its 9th year, there will be new projects to read about, the main one being the landscaping around the new Nasrin Shah Building, an auditorium and conferencing centre, as well as all the other day to day maintenance requirements in the gardens and grounds.  

Friday, 2 December 2016

10 Months, From Pruning The Fruit Trees To Picking And Pressing The Fruit

Keiron Picking Good Quality Apples

The process of producing the 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice', from pruning the fruit trees to picking and pressing the fruit, takes about ten months. The fruit tree pruning began at the end of last year, see blog entry 15th December 2015 'An Early Start To Pruning The Fruit Trees', and continued until the end of January/beginning of February.

Ady Hand Picking Apples

Peter Selecting Quality Fruit

During the first two weeks of October, having seen the trees flourish and produce a good amount of fruit, the team picked the apples and pears. All the fruit used in the juice is hand picked, no windfalls, and are carefully placed in to trays for transportation to Waterperry Gardens for juice pressing. 

Callum Checking The Quality Of The Fruit

The First 18 Trays Ready For Transportation

This years harvest filled 48 trays which, once at Waterperry, were tipped in to two large wooden crates each containing 1/3 of a tonne of Worcester College apples and pears.

Crate 1, 1/3 Of A Tonne

Crate 2, 1/3 Of A Tonne

The First Of 711 Bottles Up For Sale

The two large crates of fruit were pressed, and the resultant juice pasteurised and bottled, producing 711 bottles for sale this year, the first day of which was yesterday, with another day of sale today. The juice will be on sale over the next few weeks when, hopefully, all bottles will have been sold.

Ali And Kieron Selling The Juice

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Path and Ditch Clearing

Frost Covered Sports Field

The freezing temperatures forecast at the start of the week arrived as predicted resulting in the first few hours of the working day being very cold and frosty. As all the grass areas were covered in frost the team stayed off them and, as the secret to staying warm is to keep moving, the perfect job is path and ditch clearing which involves lots of movement with the raking and lifting of leaves.

Blown Out Leaves

The path that is next to the sports field was the place to start, beginning yesterday morning. Using the backpack blowers the leaves were blown out from the shrubs that align the path, then raked up and lifted in to the back of the trailer for transportation to the nearest leaf pile.

Cutting The Overhanging Shrubs

Once the leaves had been removed, the overhanging shrubs were given a light cut back to widen the path and the trimmings taken to the chipper pile for chipping 

Path Widened

Backpack Blower

Today, on the other side of the path, the ditch clearance began. The backpack blowers were used along with rakes and leaf grabs to remove the leaves, creating large piles along the side of the ditch ready for collection. 

Raking Leaves

Leaf Grab

Lifting leaves In To The Trailer

The smaller leaf piles were placed in to the trailer using the leaf grabs but on one massive pile a machine was used, the New Holland with the grab attachment. The grab, with its large tines, easily picked up the leaves and, in several huge mouthfuls, had picked up all the leaves and dropped them in to the trailer, a lot of lifting by the team with leaf grabs averted.  

New Holland With The Grab Attachment

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Adding Extra Heat To The Top Of The Christmas Tree

The Chilli-Box

A tradition that started 3 years ago, see blog entry for 29th November 2013 'Hot & Spicy, With A Slice Of Orange', has just got a little hotter. A 'Chilli-Box', containing some super hot chilli peppers, was given to the team by the chefs to put on the tree but, due to their very high SHC, Scoville Heat Unit values, (The Scoville scale is used to measure the heat of chilli peppers), had to be put at the top section of the tree out of reach from any brave soul that may be tempted to take a bite out of the Christmas decorations, which does happen every year!

Adding Extra Heat To The Top Of The Christmas Tree

Adding extra heat to the top of the Christmas tree, the chillies, Yellow Scorpion, Wrinkly Pink Bhut, Big Brown Bhut, Naga Nightshade, The Dementor chilli and Carolina Reaper, range in SHC values from 250,000 to 1.5million respectively, with the latter being the Guinness World Record Holder for the hottest chilli.

A Very Hot Top

The Decotated Christmas Tree

Monday, 28 November 2016

A Extra Thick Layer Of Protection

Shovelling Leaf Mould

With the overnight temperatures over the next three nights forecast to plummet to below freezing, -2 to -4 Celsius in Oxford, the gardeners need to protect the tender plants that remain within the herbaceous border. Beneath the surface the tubers of the dahlia, the rhizomes of the canna and hedychium, and the root balls of the hardy banana, Musa basjoo, all need an extra layer of protection for the winter. 

Barrowing The Leaf Mould

The protection, in the form of a extra thick layer of leaf mould of about 3-4 inches in depth, is barrowed on to the border and tipped over the plants that are most at risk from any future penetrating ground frost that may occur this winter. Over the coming weeks the rest of the border will be mulched with a much thinner layer of leaf mould as a soil conditioner and as a top dressing for the bare soil.

Tipping The Leaf Mould

A Leaf Mould Covering For Banana Root Balls

Leaf Mould Covering For A Dahlia Tuber

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Small Tree, Big Tree

Small Tree, Big Tree

The majority of the decidous trees in the gardens have shed all their leaves, the Horse Chestnut, Beech, Lime and most of the Plane are bare but for a few their autumn display is just reaching its peak. Two such trees can be found next to each other on the Nuffield lawn, a Persian Ironwood, Perrotia persica 'Venessa', and a Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus. The big tree, the Hornbeam, towers above the small tree, the Persian Ironwood, but it is the smaller of the two that is producing a far more eye catching display of autumn colours. Planted four years ago this young tree has been the perfect addition to the autumn display in the gardens and will only get better as it grows, although it will never be as big as its neighbour. 

Parrotia (Persian Ironwood) Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)

Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'

Great Choice Of Tree For Autumn Colour = Happy Head Gardener

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Coping With The Onslaught Of Leaves

9th November 2016

The autumn leaf fall has been fairly steady since the deciduous trees started their annual leaf drop. The frosts have been few and far between and, with the winds being light, the drop has been controlled and manageable for the team to keep the paths, hard landscaped areas and lawns clear. 

14th November 2016 (8:30 in the morning)

However, these perfect conditions have started to change this week as the overnight temperatures have dropped, the wind speed has increased as well as it constantly changing direction, the fun Mother Nature seems to have with the leaves has begun in earnest! On Monday morning the team were met by the results of a weekend of heavy leaf fall around the college grounds so began by working together to clear the Nuffield lawn of its leafy covering, but due to the sodden soil were unable to go on to the lawn with the ride-on mower to mow them up so had to rake them up instead. (Wherever possible the preferred method of leaf collecting on grass is by the ride-on mower as the blades chop the leaves up in to tiny pieces that rot down faster in the leaf pits and create a better quality of leaf mould.)

Leaf Piles

Leaf Collecting Equipment


One Of The Many Leaf Pits

14th November 2016 (4:00 in the afternoon)
By late afternoon, having spent the day clearing leaves, the gardens were again being covered by a colourful layer of autumn tones, the team, all the while knowing that leaf clearance will be their main activity for days and possibly for months to come as they cope with the daily onslaught of leaves until they are all down. The trick to coping with the deluge is not to look back to the area that has just been cleared, keep going forward on to the next area, looking behind can be so disheartening! With the first of this winter's named storms, Storm Angus, due to hit the UK this weekend, Sunday through to Monday, the team know that next week will be much the same as this, raking up leaves.

15th November 2016 (8:00 in the morning 24 hours later)

16th November 2016 (48 hours later)

16th November 2016 (48 hours later)

Beech Tree Autumn Colour

Sun Light Filtering Through The Branches

A Thick Layer Of Colourful Autumn Leaves

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Delayed By Pollinating Insects

3rd November 2016, Partial Shade Border

The herbaceous border is split in to two sections, one section is in full sun and the other in partial shade. A few weeks ago the decision was made to cut down the section that is in partial shade as most of the plants had finished flowering and the border was starting to look rather shabby. Before the cutting down could begin the birch plant supports had to be removed and taken down to the chipping pile ready for chipping. Once cleared of the wooden supports the team, using hedge trimmers, worked their way along the border cutting the herbaceous plants down to ground level. The cut down material was then raked off from the border and put in to the waiting trailer for transporting to one of the compost pits where it will be mixed in with some of this years autumn leaf fall and grass cuttings. 

Cut Down

Herbaceous Border, Full Sun Section

Today, two weeks later, the sunny section of the border has been cut down, the reason for the delay was down to the pollinating insects. The team had noticed that, in this unseasonably warm November, many pollinating insects were still visiting the flowers so decided to delay the cut back whilst they continued to feast on the flowers and the vital food source they provide . The weather has now changed, the temperatures have dropped and the insects gone so today the sunny side of the border was cut down. Both borders will be mulched with leaf mould in the coming weeks as soon as the wisteria leaves have stopped dropping on to them.

15th November 2016, Full Sun Section

Cut Down, Waiting For A Mulch (Wisteria Still In Full Leaf)

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Autumn Colour Spectacle

An Autumn Rainbow

In the college grounds the leaves on the deciduous trees are putting on quite a colourful spectacle this autumn as their foliage changes colour. Not to be outdone, the sky put on its own display today with a colourful spectacle of its own, a rainbow during a short, heavy downpour this afternoon. Arching over the greenhouse, as the sky got darker and the rain heavier, the colours in the rainbow got stronger and brighter, a sight not seen too often during this dry autumn but very much appreciated.

Autumn Leaves