Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hazel Binding The Front Of The Woodland Border

Brittle Broken Hazel Binders

It is three years since the hazel binding was replaced in front of the first section of the border on the Broadwalk, see blog entry for 22nd March 2013 'Weaving Hazel On The Broadwalk'. The hazel binders only last three to four years before they become very brittle and start to break up in to pieces.

Old Hazel Binders And Stakes

Hazel Binders

Fresh lengths of hazel, 8 to 10 foot in length, were acquired from Harcourt Arboretum and stakes made from pieces hazel and birch not used in the making of the plant supports on the herbaceous border.  

Hazel And Birch Stakes

All the old hazel binders were removed from the front of the border and then the old stakes were removed and replaced with the new ones.

The long hazel binders were then carefully woven between the stakes, in front-behind-in front-behind, creating a natural looking edge along the woodland border. This section will be replaced in three years, spring 2019!

A New Edge

Natural Edge In Front Of The Woodland Border

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Ducks, The Almost Perfect Natural Pest Controllers

These three ducks, a very close-knit team, wonder up from the lake several times a day and begin to forage amongst the plants, but what are they looking for? The ducks, 2 Indian Runner and 1 Crested, are the perfect natural pest control devouring snails hiding in the foliage and once they have had their fill they waddle back down to the lake.

Only one slight drawback with having these feathered friends looking for food within the plants, as can be seen by the photograph below, they are not the most dainty of creatures, not caring what they tread on to get at their favourite delicacy, l'escargot.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Aluminium Plant Labels

Labelling Kit

When new specimen plants are planted out in the garden a plant label is usually produced to identify it. The aluminium labels, Professional Alitags, come in several different shapes and sizes, three of which are used in the gardens, Victorian Hanging (1 hole),  8" x 3/4" Label and Edwardian Stem. The label is placed in the jig, clamped in to position and using the character punches the letters are tapped in to the surface.  

Label In The Jig

One of the labels produced today was for the recently planted Japanese Alpine Cherry, Prunus nipponica 'Brilliant' which is covered in small pale pink, almost white flowers and can be found beside the large magnolia on the Nuffield Lawn. 

Victorian Hanging (1 hole) Label

Prunus nipponica 'Brilliant'

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Pruning The Olive Trees

Large Sprawling Olive Tree

In front of the Gloucester House building there are three olive trees in the gravel garden that have not been pruned for several years and have become very large and sprawling in habit.

Instructions In Hand

Before pruning guidance was sort through the internet and pruning books as the olives were young, small trees when they last received any attention. With instructions in hand Simon, Kieron and Ali began the prune with lopppers, secatuers and a very sharp saw. (According to the guidance, 'Any major pruning should be undertaken in the spring').

Reducing The Canopy

In order to reach the top of the canopy a tripod ladder had to be used. The large, upright branches were removed to create a better shape and a more sensible height for future maintenance. The branches in the centre were thinned out to allow in more light and all the dead, diseased and damaged branches were also removed. All the removed wood was taken to the chipping pile.

Thinning Out The Centre

The olive trees will receive a prune annually from now on, but will be revisited in the summer to reduce any regrowth caused by this major prune.


Gravel Garden

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Cleaning The Cricket Sight Screens

The two cricket sight screens on the sports field are in need of a clean, no longer white but a very dirty grey. 

Using a small power washer Simon spent the morning blasting off the dirt from the screens returning them to white.

The screens were towed back to the cricket pitch ready for the first match next week when they will be put in place to block out the surroundings and help the batsman to see the cricket ball as it is bowled at him. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Pricking Out Seedlings And Moving The Cuttings


The seeds are germinating rapidly and the seedlings now need to be pricked out which has lead to a problem of space in which to house them within the large greenhouse.

No Room, Seedlings and Cuttings

A few weeks ago the first of the seedlings were pricked out and have occupied the space that was made following the removal of the plants, produced from last September's cuttings, in to the colder, smaller greenhouse. In order to continue this movement of the seedlings and cuttings the plants in the colder greenhouse now have to be moved again, this time in to the cold frames outside.

Cuttings In The Colder, Smaller Greenhouse

 Empty Cold Frames

The cold frames have been cleaned out and are ready to be filled by the cuttings which will leave a large space where they once stood, but not for long! 

Filled Cold Frames

Back in the large greenhouse the next section of staging is emptied by the movement of more plants in to the cold greenhouse but by the end of the day this would be filled by the newly pricked out seedlings.

Pricking Out

In a few weeks time this process will begin again as the last dozen pots of seedlings will need to be pricked out and there is no space for them to go. The plants that were moved in to the small greenhouse today will be moved out in to the cold frames, the remaining cuttings moved in to the space and the last dozen pots of cuttings pricked out and placed on the empty section of staging. By mid May all the cuttings will have been moved in to the cold frames ready to be planted out at the beginning of June when they will be used to create the container and borders displays this summer.

The Space Filled

Monday, 18 April 2016

A New Path To The Fellow's Garden

The Slope And The Concrete

Last month a new border was created along two sides of the Besse Building, see blog entry 11th March 'Tanalised Easy Edge Timber and Ilex Aquafolium Alaska'. Last week the work on the path around it began culminating, today, with the new section that leads to the Fellow's Garden. First the problem of the slope had to be solved which resulted in a retaining wall, on the right side, being built to support the path. The large piece of concrete by the door was also an obstacle so it was broken up and the debris used as the new path's hardcore base.

Building The Retaining Wall

Breaking Up The Old Path

The tine muck grab attachment on the New Holland tractor was used to break up the old path, the sharp tines digging in to the surface.

The Old Path Broken Up

With the old path loosened and the hardcore base in place several tonnes of hoggin was spread over the top and raked to form a camber.   


Using a wacker plate the newly laid hoggin was compacted to create a smooth surface, the vibrating plate compressing the new hoggin in to the old path below, binding the two together.

The New Path

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Deadheading Daffodil Flowers

Brown, Spent Flowers and Seed Pods

The flowers on the daffodils have faded and some have already started to develop a seed pod. In the mixed bulb area on the Nuffield Lawn the dead heads on the daffodils need to be removed. The reason for this removal is not just to prevent them from putting all their energy in to producing seed rather than in to root and leaf growth but also for aesthetic purposes. With the Tulip 'Jan Reus', Tulip 'Queen of the Night' and Camassia leichtlinii flowering later than the daffodils the removal of the brown, spent flowers allows their colourful heads to be seen clearly and unimpeded.  

Dead Heads

The removal of the heads is quick and easy, using the thumb and forefinger to pinch them off just below the spent flower or seed pod.

Deadheaded Daffodils

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The New Gardener's Yard

The Hidden Space

Behind the compost heap bays is an area that is hidden from view and covered in the Russian Vine, Fallopia baldschuanica better known as 'mile-a-minute'. This rampant climber has been left unchecked for years but needs to be removed so the space it occupies can be reclaimed for a new yard. The clearance project was outsourced to the University Parks who spent two weeks removing all the vine, levelling the soil and creating a hard standing area.

The Space Reclaimed

23rd March 2016

Finished two weeks ago the team moved in the tractor attachments and trailers today, collecting them from various places around the gardens, now they all have a home in one area, the new gardener's yard.

The New Yard

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Wood Anemone and Primrose

Wood Anemone, Anemone blanda

The Wood Anemone, Anemone blanda, and the Primrose, Primula vulgaris, have been giving a pretty floral display along the canal side path brightening up even the dullest of early spring days. A path not walked down by many, this display is rarely seen but is so worth a look should you visit the college at this time of year,   

Wood Anemone and Primroses

Both plants have naturalised well in this woodland environment spreading along the banks of the ditch, the base of the trees and between the path and the canal hedge. The Anemone has delicate, blue daisy like flowers that remain closed on the dull days but they lift their heads towards the sun and open wide to acknowledge it when it shines upon them.  

Primrose, Primula vulgaris

The Primrose also has delicate flowers,  pale yellow in colour arising from a rosette of tongue shaped leaves. The yellow and blue flowers have created a colourful, yet subtle carpet on the woodland floor and this covering will get larger as they both continue to spread.

Primrose on the side of the ditch

Primrose on the edge of the lake