Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue'

Blue At The Far End Of The Herbaceous Border

First mentioned in the blog entry of the 17th May 2013 'Blue Is The Colour', the Ceanothus growing against the wall at the far end of the herbaceous border is now putting on an even more impressive blue floral display. Now a much larger, more mature shrub that towers above the wall it once sat at the bottom of and, with its mass of pale blue flowers, has stopped a number of visitors in their tracks all asking the question, what is that amazing blue plant? The answer Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue', (Californian Lilac).

Towering Above The Wall

Panicles Of Blue

Monday, 24 April 2017

Tulip 'Blue Diamond', Surely It's Purple?

View From Above

The border at the far end of the quad was planted up for the winter/spring display back in October, see blog entry for the 13th 'From Pastels To Blue Diamonds'. The colour theme is purple this year, Wallflower 'Sunset Purple' and Tulip 'Blue Diamond', but why a 'blue' tulip when the colour theme is purple? As can be seen by the photographs there is actually no blue to be seen!

Wallflower 'Sunset Purple' and Tulip 'Blue Diamond'

Not sure why the tulips were named 'Blue Diamond' but their large, double violet purple blooms on long stems look perfect planted amongst the purple wallflowers. Pleased with this combination of planting more of these tulips will be added to the border in the autumn for an even better display this time next year.

Purple not Blue

Tulip 'Blue Diamond'

Friday, 21 April 2017

Inspired By A Visit To Madrid

Colour Inspiration, A Visit To Madrid April 2016

For this year's spring display the colour scheme in the corner border is based on the borders seen outside the Royal Palace of Madrid last year, yellow pansies, orange pansies and yellow daffodils with an orange trumpet.

All Planted (October 2016)

Using the Spanish planting as inspiration, to recreate the colours the gardeners planted 406 wallflowers, 'Sunset Yellow' and 'Sunset Orange', and 200 tulips, 'Ballerina' and 'Westpoint', see entry 12th October 2016 'From Venice To Madrid'.

Heat In The Corner (April 2017)

Since the start of this month the heat of Madrid has been felt in a small corner of Worcester College and, as the plants mature, it seems to be getting hotter and hotter. The team are really pleased with the result, the best display seen in the corner in recent years, but where will their inspiration come from for next year's display?  

All Planted (October 2016)

Wallflowers And Tulips (April 2017)

Wallflower 'Sunset Yellow' and 'Sunset Orange'

Tulip 'Ballerina'

Tulip 'Westpoint'

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nesting Birds 2017

Robin's Nest

The unusually dry spring has seen the birds begin to nest and breed quite early this year with a pair of robins nesting in the nursery area. A robin was spotted flying in and out of a pile of plastic bread baskets followed by the sound of calling chicks from within so, to prevent their disturbance, a warning sign was quickly made and carefully tied in place. The chicks will fledge the nest at 14 days old so the bread baskets will be quiet again by the end of April.  

Warning Sign

Swans On The Lake

Over on the lake things have changed since last year with the swans now nesting on the island. The change in their nesting site is due to the removal of the reeds they have used over the last five years to create their nest following the recent dredging of the lake, with no reeds they have moved on to the island. This change in location has caused a problem on the island as in the previous two years it had been successfully used by the Canada geese to rear their family but the male swan is so protective of his nesting female he has pushed the goose eggs from their nest, destroyed their nest and regularly chases them around and off the island.(Don't think goslings are going to be seen on the lake this year!). 

Building Their Nest

The swan's activities have been closely followed by Ali over the last five years, since the spring of 2012, the last update can be found on the blog entry dated 3rd January 2017 'The Swans Have Been Making Headlines In The Local Newspaper'. Following the death of one of the swans, a female, last August and finding a new mate in October, (the previous pairing believed to be female/female hence the production of eggs but no cygnets) this year the swans were seen mating on the 31st March and the 5th April, with the first egg seen soon after in the nest two days later on the 7th. The nest is not as spectacular as the one built in the reeds, it has been made from sticks, twigs and small tree branches, green leaves from the hogweed that is found on the island, leaf matter and feathers. It is hoped that the pair, known to be male and female, will successfully incubate their clutch of eggs and cygnets will be seen on the lake over the late May Bank Holiday. 

Beside the bridge by the lake the Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been seen and heard on the Ash tree making a new hole, it is hoped that the pair, as with last year, will use the tree again to successfully rear their young (last year they were seen feeding their young from mid May until they fledged on the 1st June).

Great Spotted Woodpecker On the Ash Tree

Swan Update:

Tuesday 25th April, 4-5 eggs spotted beneath the female swan as she moved on the nest, she has been sitting on the eggs since the 18th April. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Common Morel (Morchella esculenta)

Every now and then something unexpected is found in the gardens, the most recent being a wild fungi not seen or noticed before. Protruding through a small patch of gravel beside the garage in the Provost's garden, next to the orchard, its unusual shape and form caught Ali' s eye, but what species of fungi is it? A quick search on the Internet revealed it to be a Common Morel (Morchella esculenta), brown in colour, its deeply pitted egg shaped cap is quite distinctive. Emerging between April and May, Ali will check again next year to see if it regrows and maybe next time there will be a group of Common Morel . 

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'