Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A Bad Year For The College Waterfowl

The euphoria that surrounded the long awaited arrival of cygnets on the college lake has been short lived. Seven cygnets were first seen last weekend, 20th -21st, but their numbers quickly reduced to just four by Thursday the 25th. These four looked healthy and were growing quickly but, alas, the whole family have now disappeared from the lake, where to is unknown. 
This year has been a bad year for the waterfowl that live and breed on the lake following  the removal of the reed bed during dredging. The loss of this protective habitat used by many species as a nursery and safe area to raise their young, appears to have had a dramatic effect on their nesting, breeding and the successful rearing of their young.
For the last five years the swans have built their nest in the reeds but now had to make their nest on the island. The island belongs to the Canada geese pair who, for the last two years, have successfully hatched their eggs and reared their goslings from this safe area, but, as the swans moved in it put them in direct competition. The male swan, the cob, protected his female, the pen, as she incubated their eggs by chasing off the pair of geese, destroying their nest and the clutch of eggs, refusing to let them back to their nest for three weeks. (Video clip below shows the male swan chasing the geese and sitting on their nest, the 3 goose eggs can be seen laying on the edge of the island). Although the geese did manage to get back on their nest it was too late for the remaining eggs. 
The Moorhen also relied heavily on the protection of the reeds, building their nests amongst the many stems with successful hatching and raising of their young over the last few years, no nests were made on the lake this year and the adults have left.
The reed warbler have also not been seen or heard this year, (nesting reed warblers could eventually mean cuckoo at Worcester who love to lay their egg in the host's nest).
It is hoped that the reeds will grow back over the next few years and the safe habitat returned.

April 2016 Swans In The Reed Bed

The Empty Reed Bed 2017

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cygnets On The Lake

Four Cygnets Following Dad

It's happened, the swans have cygnets! Seven were spotted on the lake at the weekend, Sunday 21st May, and although their numbers have reduced to just four their arrival has created great excitement amongst the college community. Since the spring of 2012 the lives of the swans has been documented on this blog, here are the links to their story:

18th April 2017 'Nesting Birds'.
3rd January 2017 'The Swans Have Been Making Headlines In The Local Newpaper'.
26th August 2016 'A Tragic End For The Pair Of Mute Swans'. (This entry has the links for their story between March 2012 and August 2016).

Staying Close To Dad

 On The Island

On Mum's Back

Wanting A Ride

On Dad's Back

Two Cygnets On Dad's Back

Three Of The Four Cygnets

Friday, 19 May 2017

Wisteria Old And New

Wisteria floribunda Far End Of The Quad (After pruning photo 30th January 2017)

The many wisteria in the gardens have been putting on a beautiful floral display over the last four weeks, their amazing racemes with their delicate fragrance have been gracefully adorning the railings and walls of the college, a sight to behold. Pruned throughout January, see blog entry 30th January 2017 'January, The Month For Winter Pruning', all the hard work by the gardening team has really paid off.

Wisteria floribunda Far End Of The Quad In Flower 15th May 2017

Wisteria floribunda Far End Of Quad and Quad Lawn (View From The Terrace)

Wisteria floribunda Far End Of Quad (View From On The Quad Lawn)

Wisteria floribunda Far End Of Quad (View From The Provost's Rose Garden)

Wisteria floribunda 'Black Dragon' On The Top Terrace (see blog entry for 30th January 2017 for the after pruning photo)

Wisteria floribunda Over The Lower Archway (see blog entry for 30th January 2017 for the after pruning photo)

Provost's Wisteria floribunda (see blog entry for 30th January 2017 for the after pruning photo)

Wisteria sinensis (Back Of The Cottages, 24th April 2017)

Introduced to England in the 19th Century, it is unknown when the old, mature specimens in the college gardens providing this wonderful display were actually planted, but who ever planted them, thank you. With gratitude to the gardening team of old for their vision, the current team have continued to plant new varieties of wisteria over the last few years, hopefully to be enjoyed by the staff, fellows, students, visitors and future generations to the college over the next 100 years.

Wisteria brachybotrys 'Murasaki Kapitan'

The old, mature specimens in the gardens are:
  •  Wisteria floribunda (Japanese Wisteria), its long racemes of flowers appear at the same time as the leaves and its stems twine clockwise.
  •  Wisteria sinensis (Chinese Wisteria), its short racemes of flowers appear before the leaves and its stems twine anticlockwise.
The five new wisteria are:
  •  Wisteria brachybotrys 'Murasaki Kapitan', short racemes of fragrant deep violet flowers (Silky Wisteria from Japan with silky hairs on the leaves)
  • Wisteria brachybotrys 'Showa-Beni', short racemes of strong pink flowers (Silky Wisteria from Japan with silky hairs on the leaves).
  •  Wisteria floribunda 'Schiro Kapitan Fuji', short racemes of pure white flowers
  •  Wisteria floribunda x sinensis 'Burford', long racemes of lilac blue and purple flowers
  •  Wisteria floribunda 'Shiro-noda', long racemes of  white flowers
These new plants will be trained against the walls and railings as there ancient cousins were and, in time, will add to the already spectacular display. 

Wisteria brachybotrys 'Showa-Beni'

Wisteria floribunda 'Schiro Kapitan Fuji'
Wisteria floribunda 'Burford'

Wisteria floribunda 'Shiro-noda'

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

From Lavender To Bearded Iris

Nuffield Border (Left)

Nuffield Border (Right)

The lavender in the borders in front of the Nuffield Builing have been looking rather scruffy for some time despite the best efforts of the team to keep them looking a neat and tidy hedge. Now very woody and brittle the decision has been made to remove it and replace it with something completely different, Bearded Iris, Agapanthus and Nerine.

Woody And Brittle Lavender

Removing The Lavender
The work to change the border started today with the removal of the lavender and the weed suppressing membrane. The top dressing of gravel was dug in to the soil, then raked level ready for planting as the lavender was taken to the chipper for chipping.

Weed Suppressing Membrane And Gravel

Trailer Of Lavender

The Iris Swathe Through The Gravel

The iris, given to the college by the Oxford Botanic garden last year, see blog entry for the 21st July 2016 'Washing Bearded Iris', were placed out in a swathe along the gravel and then planted with the rhizome above ground and facing south as much as possible, they love to feel the heat of the sun. The Agapanthus and Nerine will be planted in the next few week.

Planting The Iris

South Facing Rhizome

The New Iris Border

Bearded Iris 'Wabash' In Flower

Friday, 12 May 2017

Escaping The Confines Of The Fleece

Wrapped But Trying To Escape Their Fleecy Confine

Not since 2014 have the group of hardy banana plants, Musa basjoo, been unwrapped during the first two weeks of May, although last year was only a few days later, the 16th. According to the Met Office, this winter has been the ninth mildest and driest winter since records began in 1910. These unwrapping dates also coincide with the even milder, but wet, winters of 2013/14 and 2015/16.  

Being Unwrapped

Warmer under the horticultural fleece, the plants have been stretching and pushing their winter protection up and out of the ground in attempt to escape from their fleecy confine, some have even made a hole in it as if gasping for the cooler fresh air! A day of heavy rain is forecast which will be a relief to these plants that have been wrapped up since the 3rd November.

Breaking Through

Pushing Up The Fleece From The Ground


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Normality Resumes In The Nursery

Summer 2014

In September 2014 the gardener's nursery area was leased out for 2 years to the contractors who would be working on the reconstruction of the former Ruskin College (Exeter College) building. Once the cold frames had been demolished and the nursery area cleared, Portakabins were moved on to the area, see blog entry 6th October 2014 'From Nursery To Portakabins', and temporary wooden cold frames built on the nursery beds. 

 October 2014 Demolition Site (Nursery)

Portakabins In Place For The Next 2 Years
Temporary Cold Frames On The Nursery Beds

Two and a half years later, (yes it was supposed to be only two years!), the gardening team have their nursery, cold frames and nursery beds back.  

11th January 2017, The Portakabins Have Gone

As the reconstruction project drew to a close in January the Portakabins were removed and another reconstruction project began in the nursery area.

23rd March 2017, The Old Cold Frame Bases

The nursery site was cleared once again exposing the bases where the cold frames once stood and the temporary frames were also removed from the nursery beds. Over the next few months discussions were held with the gardening team as to the required configuration of the new frames and nursery beds and, once agreed, the rebuild began.

23rd March 2017, The Temporary Cold Frames Are Removed

28th March 2017, Gone

31st March 2017, Reconstruction Of The New Cold Frames

By the end of March the rebuild was well under way, two new brick cold frames, two new nursery beds and a new lawn laid, all completed by the beginning of May.

9th May 2017, Finished And In Use

Within a few days of their completion the frames were full up with plants. Normality has resumed in the nursery, the plants are where they should be a this time of year, gently acclimatising them to the British summer temperatures before they are planted out in to the borders for this year's summer display.


Filled With Plants

Filled Up With Plants, Lids On To Protect From Overnight Frost

9th May 2017, New Nursery Beds