Thursday, 6 April 2017

A New Oxfordshire Family Tree In The Orchard

Young Bramley Apple Tree

Passionate about fruit trees, particularly apple trees, Kieron has long held a dream of creating an 'Oxfordshire Family Apple Tree' in the college orchard and today that dream has become a reality. A family tree is a tree that, unlike a standard one variety tree i.e Bramley, will have numerous different varieties of apple on one tree, an extraordinary example of this can be found in the garden of Paul Barnett in Chidham, near Chichester, West Sussex, where 250 different varieties grow on one tree! (Click on this link to read an article on the 'MailOnline' dated 29th September 2013).

Grafting Kit

With help and guidance from Chris Lanczak, Orchard Manager at Waterperry Gardens, Kieron began to transform the chosen tree, a young Bramley, in to the 14 variety family tree. Armed with the grafting kit of sharp saws, grafting knives, grafting tape and wax, a paint brush and multiple lengths of dormant one year old scion wood that had been cut from the donor trees last December, wrapped in clingfilm and refrigerated until now, the optimum grafting time, March to April when the sap starts to rise, the transformation began.

Removing The Branches

Removing the required number of branches on the Bramley, the rootstock, and the support for the scion wood, the grafting began.

Rootstock Cut

The method of grafting best performed at this time of year is known as 'whip and tongue', a cut is made in to the rootstock where the branch was removed to make a flap, the scion wood is cut to between three and four buds in length, an angled cut made at the base then the newly pointed end gently inserted in to the rootstock cut so that one of the buds is within it.

Scion Wood Placed Inside The Rootstock

The cuts on both the rootstock and scion wood have exposed the trees repairing cells known as the cambium and it is these cells that will knit themselves together and join the two pieces of wood as one.

Three Pieces Of Scion Held Together By Grafting Tape

Hot Grafting Wax

Two to three pieces of scion wood from each variety were grafted to the cut branches of the rootstock tree and secured using grafting tape, hopefully one or two of each will successfully bind together, then all the exposed surfaces painted with hot grafting wax to seal the wounds. 

Painting On The Wax

Grafted and Waxed 'Oxford Sunrise' Scion Wood

More Grafting

All in all a total of 36 pieces of scion wood were grafted on to the tree but only time will tell how successful this first attempt at creating an Oxfordshire family tree will be and if one man's dream becomes a reality. A mix of culinary and dessert apples, the varieties used are: Wardington Seedling, Corry's Wonder, Eynsham Dumpling, Peggy's Pride, Sargeant Peggy, Caudal Market, Jennifer Wastie, Old Fred, Oxford Beauty, Oxford Hoard, Oxford Sunrise, Oxford Yeoman, Oxford Conquest and Eynsham Challenger. All were raised in Eynsham, Oxfordshire apart from Wardington Seedling which was raised in Banbury.

Three More Varieties

The Oxfordshire Family Tree

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fritillaria's Floral Diversity

Fritillaria meleagris on mass in the long grass

Fritillaria meleagris (Snake's Head Fritillary)

From the dainty 'meleagris', the elegant 'persica' to the flamboyant 'imperialis' the flowers of the Fritillaria are adding a touch of floral diversity in the college gardens at the moment. At the far end of the Provost's garden the distinctive, dainty purple or white chequerboard bell shaped flowers of the many hundreds of snakes head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, can be seen are nodding above the uncut, long grass below.

Fritillaria persica

Fritillaria persica flower spike

In the border at the rear of the kitchen the elegant Fritillaria persica can be found with its tall raceme (spike), 60-100cm in height, of deep purple nodding bells. This plant is a new introduction to the gardens and a worthy addition to the growing number of fritillary on show.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Aurora'

At the base of an old Holm Oak, the flamboyance is provided by the Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis 'Aurora' and 'Lutea', with orange and yellow flowers respectively. At the top of erect stems, 60-90cm in height, a cluster of bell shaped flowers hang beneath a crown of leaves. All look so different but all are Fritillaria.  

Fritillaria imperealis 'Lutea'

Friday, 31 March 2017

Waiting A Decade For A Flower!

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf'

The gardening team have been treated to a rare flowering spectacle in the greenhouse which has only just finished today. One of the collection of the succulent Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf' has been in flower since the beginning of the year, but it was at the start of December last year that the plant started to elongate one of its black rosettes to form the yellow flower panicle at the tip. As the flower faded the stem that once held this impressive bloom started to die back and has now been cut off. These plants have been part of the summer display for the last ten years but, due to their lack of frost hardiness, are kept in the heated greenhouse over the winter, October-May, only to be returned to the outdoors in June for five months, let's hope that the team don't have to wait for a decade for the next flower to appear! 

Impressive Yellow Panicle

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

As March Draws To An End Another March Begins

The Staging Is Full

As March draws to an end another march begins, the march of the plants out of the heated greenhouse and in to the unheated old peach house. The staging in the large heated greenhouse is fully occupied by the plants that were cuttings taken last September, however, with the seeds that were sown at the beginning of the month now germinating rapidly, there is a need to create space on the staging for the seedlings.    

Seeds Germinating Rapidly

A Space Has Been Created

This move is the first step of their march towards the outside world, beginning this morning with the transfer of the hardiest of the cuttings, Salvia, Argyranthemum, Penstemon, Cuphea, Plectranthus and some Pelargonium varieties, which were placed out on the peach house staging. Their journey will continue in a months time when they march onwards to the cold frames before they reach their final destination in a border or container display out in the gardens in June, by which time they will be fully acclimatised to the British summer weather.

Full Staging In The Old Peach House.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Road To Nowhere

Sloping Border

In the past the border in the corner of the Linbury Building courtyard has been used as a heeling in bed to store plants temporarily until a more permanent place was found for them and as a tropical themed border back in 2015, see blog entry for the 11th June 'A Touch Of Tropical In The Linbury'. The slope does however cause a problem when watering the plants so recently the border has been left empty until a solution could be found. The idea of terracing was discussed, agreed and yesterday the team began the project to terrace this small sloping border

Victorian Edging Tiles

Victorian edging tiles were collected from storage and taken to the work area whilst the first lot of 6 to 1 concrete was mixed (6 shovels of sharp sand to 1 part cement plus a small amount of water) to bed and support the tiles, also known as haunching.

Mixing Up The Concrete

A string line was used to mark out the curves required and a small trench dug out along the two lines. Working on a small section at a time, moving along the trench, the concrete mix was laid out in to the trench sufficient for the tiles to be bedded in to then, using a small rubber mallet, were tapped level. Concrete was then placed at the base of each tile, behind and in front, smoothed at an angel to support them using a pointing trowel and left to set overnight 

Bedding And Haunching The Tiles
Adding Leaf  Mould To The Border

Returning to the site this morning, the soil in each section was forked through, leaf mould added and then levelled ready for the first shrubs to be planted.


Pittosporum tenuifolium

The shrub chosen to be planted along the edging tiles is Pittosporum tenuifolium, a glossy leaved evergreen with clusters of small, deep purple flowers in late spring and early summer. However, the team, pleased with the result of the terracing project, were asked by a number of passers by, "Where does the road lead to?" The border has now been named 'The Road To Nowhere'.

Road To Nowhere

Monday, 20 March 2017

Hardy Ferns

Having spent a few days last month reducing the height of the large shrubs in the tree fern border, see blog entry 22nd February 'Restoring The View' and, after weeding and mulching the soil below them, the gardeners returned this morning to plant the border with ferns. 

Adiantum venustum

The five different genera (types) of hardy ferns were purchased during a visit Fibrex Nurseries Ltd of Pebworth, Stratford-upon-Avon, the chosen ferns are: Adiantum venustum, Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa Gracilis Congesta', Dryopteris affinis, Asplenium scolopendrium Crispum Group, Polypodium cambricum 'Richard Kayse', Polystichum polyblepharum and Polystichum setiferum 'Plumoso-Multilobum'. (For more details and advice about these ferns click on the above Fibrex Nurseries Ltd link).

Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa Gracilis Congesta'

Dryopteris affinis

Asplenium scolopendrium Crispum Group

These ferns, dwarfed by the tall tree ferns in the border, were chosen to provide different foliage, form and texture beneath them and also, who can resist the sight of an unfurling fern frond rising from the soil waking up from its winter sleep and announcing spring is here!

Polypodium cambricum 'Richard Kayse'

Polystichum polyblepharum

Polystichum setiferum 'Plumoso-Multilobum'

Newly Planted Ferns

Tree Fern Border

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Narcissus 'Ice Follies'

Newly Planted Bulb Area  25th October 2016

At the end of October last year the team planted approximately 425 bulbs in to an area in front of the Linbury Building, see blog entry for the 25th October 2016 '25Kg Bag Of Daffodils, Narcissus Ice Follies' and it is only now that the results of the time they spent planting the bulbs is being seen.

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' In Flower

The Narcissus 'Ice Follies' is a large cupped daffodil so, rather than having the distinctive trumpet shaped part in the centre, it has a large flattened cup which, in this variety, opens yellow which will turn white in the coming days as it fades with age complimenting the white perianth of outer petals that surround it, for a comparison of flattened cupped and trumpet see the photographs below. (The team are so pleased with this display they may well be planting more 'Ice Follies' in the autumn to make an even better display for March 2018). 

Narcissus 'Ice Follies''
 Cupped (Narcissus 'Ice Follies')

 Trumpet (Narcissus 'Peeping Jenny')

Daffodils And Scilla siberica (Blue)
Additional Note:

27th March, the flattened cups have started to fade.

Flattened Cup Faded To White