Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Goodbye And Good Luck Danny

Danny (L) and Joss (R)

Today Danny left the gardening team. Achieveing his NVQ Level 2 & 3, NPTC Safe Use of Pesticides PA1 & PA6A and two years work experience he has completed his time as an apprentice. The 2 years, and his time as a volunteer prior to that, have flown by so quickly so it is with their best wishes, thanks and good luck for a future in horticulture that the team had to say their goodbyes.  

Thumbs Up From Danny

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Tragic End For The Pair Of Mute Swans

Ali has been photographing, filming and observing the pair of Mute Swans that reside on the college lake since they first arrived in early spring of 2012. It is with great sadness, therefore, that she now has to report the death of the female swan this morning at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, the vets were unable to save her and made the decision that the kindest thing for her was to put her to sleep. 

16th January 2013, Lake Frozen Over But A Path Through The Ice Has Been Cleared By The Pair

Is That A Cricket Ball On The Lake, Fancy A Game? No, I Can Hardly Stand Up!

The swan's story may have begun way back in 2009 when a young swan first visited the college gardens, well Ali likes to think so,and walked up to her, see blog entry 'Wildlife' dated 19th November, maybe the swan was checking out the lake for its arrival 3 years later!

The pair of swans first arrived on the college lake in March 2012, the blog entry on the 19th July noted:

"The pair of swans arrived on the college lake back in March and stayed for three months until the end of June. During this time the swans managed to crash land in the Fellow's Garden and on the front quad lawn, having to be captured and returned to the lake.
Where our swans have gone we don't know, but hopefully they will return next year."

And return they did, returning in early 2013 and, for the first time, built a large nest in amongst the reeds, see blog entry 1st May 'Nesting Swans'. The first ever egg laid by the swans appeared on the nest on Friday 3rd May, see 'The First Egg Laid', but alas after a long incubating period, see 'The Swans Are Incubating Their Eggs' , 'Four Swan Eggs' and 'A Strong Instinct To Brood' the nest and its precious contents were left behind as the swans flew off, see 'Swan Nest And Eggs Abandoned' on the 11th July, 4 eggs, no cygnets.

In 2014 they returned in January, the blog entry of the 9th January noted:

"By the end of a busy day by the weir, the team were treated to a visit by the swans that had just arrived on the lake. This time last year, 11th January to be exact, the swans arrived on the lake, the same pair possibly, the lake may well be their mating territory."
"If they are, it is their third year, always arriving in early January. In their first year they mated, started building a nest, then left and then last year they mated, built a nest, laid eggs but left after they failed to hatch. This year, hopefully, their 3rd and our 300th, they will go one step further and successfully hatch eggs and cygnets will be seen on the lake."

They began to rebuild the nest in mid March, six weeks earlier than last year, 'Rebuilding Last Year's Nest', laying their first egg on the 27th March 'The First Egg Laid (2014)'. By the 18th June they had again left the nest and its contents but stayed on the lake rather than fly away, 'Swans Abandon Their Nest', 7 eggs, still no cygnets.

In 2015 the swans left the lake at the beginning of the year but returned a month later, the blog entry for the 10th March, 'The Swans Return' noted:

"The swans left the college lake on the 10th February, to where is unknown, but today, exactly a month later, they have returned."
"Ali will be watching them to see when the begin to rebuild this year and, hopefully, it will be third time lucky for the swans."

The nest that the swans tentatively started to build in 2012 and rebuilt over the next two years was rebuilt again for this year. On the 16th April the Pen, female, started to lay her clutch of eggs, 'Swans (First Egg 2015), but 'The Swans Lose One Egg' a few days later, they continued to incubate through April and May, 'The Reed Bed Maternity Unit' and 'The Swan Is Still Incubating And The Goslings Are Growing Up Fast' but once again left the nest after the eggs didn't hatch, 'The Success And Failures Of The College Waterfowl', 3 eggs, still no cygnets.

12th April 2016

This year the swans never left the lake in February becoming permanent residents, begining to rebuild the nest on the 11th March, laying the first of this year's clutch ten days later, see blog entry 21st March 'Swans Lay Their First Egg (And Bird Update)'. The largest number of eggs were laid this year, 9 in total, and were incubated throughout April and May but, as with the last 3 years, the eggs did not hatch and the nest was abandoned on the 8th June. 

Six weeks later the female swan was discovered in the reeds near to her nest in poor condition, see blog entry for the 25th July 'Swan Rescue'. She was rescued from the lake by the RSPCA and taken to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital for treatment but after 5 weeks the desicion was taken by the vet that, although the wing injury had healed, her condition had deteriated and it would be kinder to stop her from suffering anymore so she was put to sleep, a tragic end for the pair of swans. 

Turning The 9 Eggs
12th April 2016 9 Eggs
22nd April 2016 The Cob Protecting His Pen On The Nest

Devoted To Each Other 22nd April2016

Bonded For Life

The Swan At Sunset

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

20,000 Honey Bees In Need Of A New Home

The unseasonably high winds have brought catastrophe to a large group of residents housed on a branch of an ash tree on the Nuffield lawn today. Those residents, unbeknown to the garden team, had built a hive attaching it to the tree, had came crashing down to the ground spilling its inhabitants on the lawn and smashing their carefully constructed home in to pieces, those residents, approximately 20,000 honey bees.

Above, a short piece of video showing the bees and the pieces of honeycomb on the ground.

20,000 Bees And Their Hive

Cordoning off the area a beekeeper was sought and Pete, a gardener and beekeeper at Christ Church College, kindly came to their rescue arriving with a new, wooden hive and set about repairing the damage.

A New Home

Donning his beekeeping jacket and thick gloves he placed the wooden hive next to the large collection of bees and within minutes the entrance hole had been found and they had begun to move in. 

Broken Honeycomb And Its Cells, Eggs, Grubs, Larvae

Collecting up all the pieces of the broken hive, clearly showing the intricate construction of the honeycomb, its hundreds of wax cells and their contents, eggs, grubs, larvae and pollen, he slotted it in to wooden frames securing it with elastic bands. 

Grub Bees (Look Closely)


Putting The Honeycomb In To Wooden Frames

Collecting The Honeycomb

Securing The Honeycomb With Elastic Bands

Rebuilding The Hive

A last check was made of the tree for any remaining pieces of the hive that were still attached to the branch. Knocking the pieces off the branch they too were collected up and placed in to a frame and slotted in to the new hive.

Have We Got It all?

Last Piece

Forming An Orderly Queue

Once the last piece had been put in the hive, the bees were left to move in to the hive in their own time. Pete estimated this colony of honey bees at about 20,000 made up of one queen, which he did locate amongst them, a few hundred male drones and thousands of female workers.

Waiting To Go In To Their New Hive
Update, Wednesday 24th August
The colony has successfully moved in to the hive and been removed from the gardens to their new location at a site in Binsey owned by Christ Church. Thank you Christ Church College and, in particular, Pete for you help and for a fascinating afternoon learning about beekeeping and the workings of a colony of bees and their hive, good luck to the bees too!

The Next Day Wednesday 24th August Almost All In

Friday, 19 August 2016

Pricking Out And Pot Washing

Seed Trays Full Of Seedlings
An unseasonal low pressure front affected today's weather resulting in a day of rain and, therefore,  wet weather jobs for the garden team. Tidying tool sheds, vehicle maintenance, greenhouse work and pot washing, all jobs suitable for keeping dry.

Pricking Out
The greenhouse work consisted of pricking out some of the trays of seedlings, seeds that were sown last month, see blog entry 15th July 2016 'Eleven Half Trays And Six Shallow Pots'. Eight of the eleven half trays of seeds have grown sufficiently, the first pair of true leaves have emerged so are ready for pricking out. Using the tapered end of the plant label, the tiny seedlings were gently eased out of the seed compost, holding them by the seed leaves and transplanting them in to individual pots of multipurpose compost. Placed in to trays the seedlings were taken in to the much cooler Peach Glasshouse where they will remain until it is time to re pot them all in to the next size pots.

Sweet William Seedlings
The seedlings pricked out today were Matthiola incana 'Pillow Talk' (Stocks), Dianthus barbatus 'Bouquet Rose Magic' (Sweet William), Wallflower 'Sunset Primrose', 'Sunset Orange' and 'Sunset Bronze', Schizanthus x wisetonensis 'Dr Badger's Mix and 'Angel's Wings Mix' (Butterfly Flower) and Lupinus polyphyllus 'Noble Maiden' (Lupin).

Once the pricking out was complete it was time to start preparing for the cuttings that will be taken in September, the requirement, clean shallow pots. With a trug full of warm soapy water, a bucket of cold water and a cloth each pot was washed, rinsed and left to dry over the weekend. A stack of five dozen pots are now ready for the hundreds of cuttings that will soon accommodate them.  

Washed Pots

Friday, 12 August 2016

Swan Rescue Update

The blog entry for Monday 25th July 2016 has now been updated with regard to one of the resident pair of swans that had to be rescued by the RSPCA and taken to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital for assessment. Click on the following link: SWAN RESCUE

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Three Trays Of Wallflower Plug Plants

Three Trays Of Wallflowers

With a 'Spanish Plume' weather front forecast to arrive next week bringing warmer weather it didn't seem quite right to the team to be potting up the winter bedding plants. Three trays of wallflower plug plants arrived yesterday from Ball Colegrave, 230 x 3 total 690 plants, all needing to be potted up in to their own individual pots.

Wallflower Plug Plant Tray

Three varieties have been chosen for the displays around the college gardens, 'Sunset Purple', 'Sunset Orange' and 'Sunset Yellow' which will be planted out during the end of May to first few weeks of June depending on the frost risk.

Potting Up

Working on one tray at a time the tiny plugs were gently pushed out of their cells and planted in to small pots of multipurpose compost.

Add caption

The newly potted plug plants were placed outside in the cold frames where they will remain until planting out time, although they will be potted up in to the next sized pots at some point in the future before they become pot bound and, as they get larger, their growing tips pinched out to make them more bushy plants. 

Potted Up Wallflowers In The Cold Frames

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Five Months In The Life Of The New Wildflower Meadow

Tulips, 29th April 2016

The development of the the long grass, bulb and wildflower area at the far end of the Provost's garden began in mid October last year. The large area of grass was scarified in preparation for the planting of the bulbs and wildflowers a few weeks later, see blog entries 14th October 2015 '600 Tulips, 500 Allium and 100 Camassia' and 13th November 2015 'Planting Wildflower Plug Plants', and has now had its first cut down at the end of its season.

Tulips and Camassia, 10th May 2016

First to emerge were the many hundred tulip bulbs providing a vibrant, colourful display in April and May. More colour joined the display, large spikes of blue from the camassia and purple of the snakeshead fritillary, the first of the wildflowers to appear were the delicate, yellow cowslip.

Cowslip, 10th May 2016

Fritillaria meleagris (snakeshead fritillary), 10th May 2016

Allium, 31st May 2016

As the tulips and camassia faded the spherical heads of the allium took over providing a splash of purple seemingly floating above the long grass.

Ragged Robin, 31st May 2016
Towards the end of May to early June there was also a change amongst the wildflower planting, the yellow was now provided by the meadow buttercups and the bright centre of the Oxeye Daisy with the Ragged Robin and Meadow Cranesbill providing the pastel colours.  

Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium), 31st May 2016

Oxeye Daisy, 31st May 2016

Allium, Ragged Robin and Meadow Buttercups, 8th June 2016

 Field Scabious 22nd July 2015

The bluish-lilac flowers of the field scabious were the last wildflower to make an appearance, blooming after all the others had faded.

Flail Cutting

During all the various floral displays the grass had continued to grow and had started to collapse. The decision was made to cut the grass down using the flail attachment on the small Iseki ride-on mower, this would allow the cut grass and yellow rattle seed to drop and settle before the grass is eventually collected and taken away to the compost heap. 

The team are quite happy with the first year's display but, in order to make improvements, more bulbs and wildflowers will be added this autumn.
Flail Cut Area

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Views Of The Quad Lawn From The Roof Top And Ground Level

Joss has now been cutting the triple width curves in to the quad lawn since the 20th May, see blog entry 'Using Pythagoras Theorem To Create The New Lawn Pattern', and this pattern has now well and truly bedded in. Taking advantage of work being undertaken on the roof, Ali gave her camera to to the workmen to take a few photographs of the quad, a view not seen too often by anyone.

Content to have her feet remain on the ground Ali took some photographs at ground level. From both elevations the lush green curved stripes of the quad lawn looks absolutely stunning!