Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Goosander Sightings For Winter 2017

2 Pairs of Goodander 1st February 2017

The Goosander visit the college lake every year stopping off on their journey, whence they came and to where they go, the gardeners do not know, but it is always a pleasure to see them. Ali has been recording their arrival dates since 2009 with a more detailed account since 2014:

9th January-12th January 2017, 1 male/1 female (Pair)
17th January 2017, 2 male/2 female (2 Pairs)
30th January 2017, 1 male/1 female (Pair)
31st January 2017, 2 male/2 female (2 Pairs) * at 8:42am a single male landed on the lake joining the 2 pairs making 3 male and 2 female.
1st February 2017 2 male/2 female (2 Pairs) * single male has flown off.
3rd February 2017 1 male/1female (1 Pair)
6th February 2017 1 male only
16th February 2017 1 male/1 female  (1 Pair) *joined by another female making 3 birds (all remain on the lake until 22nd February 2017
28th February 2017 1 male/1 female (1 Pair)

Additional Sighting 

22nd March 2017 1 female

2 Pairs Of Goosander 1st February 2017

For 2016 dates see blog entry for 21st March 'Swans Lay Their First Egg (And Bird Update)'.
For 2015 dates see blog entry for 26th February 'Goosanders, Just Passing Through'.
For the arrival dates for 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 see blog entry 7th February 2014 'Goosander's Arrival 2014'.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Aftermath Of Storm Doris

Raked Up Old, Dead Wood

The team spent the day dealing with the aftermath of 'Storm Doris' that had blown across the country yesterday bringing with it gusts of about 70 miles per hour across Oxfordshire. A visual inspection of all the trees in the grounds was completed and, in response to the findings, a number of dangerous 'hangers' were removed from their precarious positions over paths and lawn areas. Luckily no major damage had been caused to the trees by 'Doris', she only managed to blow a huge amount of old, dead wood from the trees canopies and deposit it safely on the ground, which, of course had to be raked up!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Restoring The View

Obscured By The Vigorous Laurel

From the Nuffield lawn the view of the Provost's lodgings has, over the last few years, been gradually obscured by the growth of the laurel in the tree fern border. Last week, in order to to rectify this, the team began to restore the view of this building by reducing the height of the largest of the laurel shrubs.

Cutting The Laurel

Today the team returned to the border to continue reducing the laurel's height, once again chipping all of the removed branches to create a wood chip mulch in another of the college borders. By the end of this second day the view of this beautiful 18th Century building had been restored.

Dragging The Laurel

Ready For Chipping


View Of The Provost's Lodging Restored

Friday, 17 February 2017

Cutting Down The Untidy Marginal Planting

Untidy Marginal Planting Behind The Weir

It is that time of year when the marginal planting behind the weir looks very brown and untidy so needs to be cut down.

A Brown And Untidy Waters Edge

Before the cutting down can begin the small, temporary willow fence needs to be removed, it is erected as a preventative measure to try and keep the Canada Geese from entering the Provost's garden from the water's edge. The marginal plants have grown up around the small arched fence so it is well hidden but is easily pulled up through the planting, only a few of the willow stems have rooted sufficiently that they need to be dug up. 

Salix Smothered

Salix Freed From It's Marginal Covering

Once the fence has been removed the marginals that have grown too close to the shrubs, Salix alba 'Chermesina' (Scarlet Willow) and Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' (Dogwood) are cut down using secateurs. The area is now ready for its cut down using a long handled hedge cutter.  

First Cut
Second Cut

The marginals are cut down twice, the first cut removes the long, top growth, about two thirds of its height, and the second cut removes the remaining third, taking it down to ground level. All the cut down material is raked off the area and placed in to empty ton bags then loaded in to the trailer for transporting down to the skip, none of this material is placed in to the compost due to there being a rather invasive reed amongst the marginal planting so the risk of it spreading to other parts of the garden is too high.  

Both Sides Cut Down

Wood Chip From Pollarded Poplar

With all the planting now cut down the final task is to dress the area with a decorative wood chip. The wood chip this year is from a large Poplar tree in the college grounds that has been recently pollarded. 

Ready For Spreading

The wood chip is loaded in to the trailer and, using a wheelbarrow and shovels, is evenly distributed over the cut down marginal planting, it took three trailer loads to cover both areas.

Decorative Wood Chip Mulch

Finished For Another Year

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Anchored By A Platipus

Two Sizes Of Platipus Anchors

The New Platipus Rootball Fixing Kit

The team have spent the last few days planting 8 new trees in the grounds but, unlike all previous plantings, there isn't a wooden stake or tree tie in sight. The reason for their omission is due to a 'Platipus', a new rootball fixing system that replaces the need for a tree stake and tie. 

Placing The Anchor

Putting the tip of the drive rod in to the base of the anchor it is placed in to the bottom of the hole and, using a sledgehammer, driven in to the soil until the eye of the anchor is showing by just a few inches. Using the eye, the anchors are pulled upwards to lock the them in to place, three anchors are used for each tree.

Driving In The Anchor

Plati-mats And Ratchet Tensioner

A length of galvanised wire is then threaded through the eye of each anchor and left loose around the top of the hole. Once the tree has been moved in to the hole, three pieces of Plati-Mat are placed on to the rootball for protection, the wire placed on to the protective mats and tightened using a ratchet tensioner. Once sufficiently tightened the excess wire is cut and the soil back filled in to the hole covering the Platipus Rootball Fixing System. A new, modern way of securing trees in to the ground but will that really be the last time the team uses tree stakes and ties? 

Rootball Secured

Hole Backfilled And Platipus Covered

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Coppicing Hazel And Silver Birch

Birch Coppice

Five members of the team, Ali, Kieron, Graham, Callum and Peter spent the day working with the arboriculturalists, tree surgeons, of  the University of Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum. The reason for their 'away day' was to coppice the birch and hazel for the creation of this year's plant supports on the herbaceous border and and a new border edge on the lakeside broadwalk respectively.

Cutting Down The Birch

They began their day in an area of 8 year old silver birch trees that required cutting down. These older trees had been used as a natural wind break protecting the younger, newly planted trees amongst them but, as these newer trees had established themselves, the older trees were no longer required and could be cut down and used for the plant supports. The birch occupies an area that was farmland just 10 years ago and since that time the birch has been allowed to colonise the land naturally and is now part of the managed woodland of the arboretum, the silver birch is known as a 'pioneer' species, one of the first species that will occupy suitable land.

Step Cut

Having been shown two different types of cut by the arboriculturalists, the step cut and gob cut, the team, preferring the step cut, cut down 130 birch trees and dragged them to the awaiting trailer where they were processed, the thick lower trunk was cut off and discarded for chipping leaving the multi branched top lengths of 8 to 10 foot, perfect for a plant support. For birch plant supports see blog entry 15th March 2011, 'Basket Weaving'. The remainder of the trunk below the step cut was then cut down to a few inches above the ground, known as a stump or a stool, and will regrow as the dormant buds burst into life creating new, replacement birch trees.

It Takes Two

Dragging The Birch

A Birch Stool

A Trailer Full

Once the team had finished cutting down the birch they moved on to the hazel coppice. The hazel has produced many 'rods' since it was last 'coppiced', cut down, about 5 years ago and is ready to be coppiced again, these rods being perfect material for the basket weaved border edging.

Hazel Coppice


The hazel was cut down to 2-3 inches above the ground using a chainsaw, the remaining stool, as with the birch, will create new growth from the dormant buds.

A Hazel Stool

Cut Down Hazel

The cut down hazel was then processed, the branches and side shoots removed using a billhook to create a clean, single rod of hazel. The bent, curved, crooked rods were also cleaned but cut in to pieces to create piles for natural homes for wildlife, and the thicker pieces will be used as hedging stakes.

Bill Hooking The Hazel

Perfect Cleaned Hazel Rod

The Team Bill Hooking Hazel

By the end of the day the team had cut and processed 130 birch trees and a similar amount of hazel rods, both of which will be delivered to the college tomorrow. The new hazel basket weave edge will be created next week and the birch plant supports in the spring, April-May.

Processed Hazel

Ready For Delivery


A Nature Pile

The pictures below show the basket weaved edge using the coppiced hazel rods.

Hazel Basket Edging 6th February 2017

Basket Weave Edging