Friday, 9 February 2018

Sensory Overload From The Winter Flowering Shrubs

Top Terrace, Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

The bright colours from the summer flowering perennials and annuals have long gone and the colourful winter berries have all been eaten by the hungry wildlife but now, rather than a visual sensory overload it is the sensory receptors in the nose that are being spoilt by the sweet scent coming from the many winter flowering shrubs in the gardens.

Winter Flowering Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

The Highly Scented Flowers Of Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

The scent that drifts across the top terrace path of the quad is coming from the very fragrant winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, this delicious sweet scent coming from its many creamy white flowers.

View Across The Quad To The Top Terrace
Winter Border, 5th May 2010

Another highly scented shrub in the gardens is Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', the intense fragrant coming from the clusters of soft pink flowers that adorn its evergreen stems. Located in the bottom border of the quad and in the winter border by the path to the Linbury building, the scent actually stops people in their tracks who just have to lean in to the flowers and take a deep breath, inhaling its glorious scent!
The highly scented winter border was created in 2010, see blog entry 5th May 2010 'Three Borders In One Day', and, as can be seen from the photographs, has matured well. With the Daphne, which are now 6-7 feet tall, is Sweet Box (Sarcococca confusa), another evergreen shrub which has many small, sweet scented, white flowers along its stems, it is this combination of the two shrubs together that is creating a sensory overload on the nose in this area of the gardens.
5 Years On, Winter Border 5th February 2014

9 Years Later, Winter Border 2018

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

 Sweet Box (Sarcococca confusa)

The scent from the Sarcococca doesn't just stop at the end of the winter border it continues all along the path to the Linbury building. Nine years ago, 10th February 2009, the planting in the Linbury building borders was changed, the dead bamboo were dug out and replaced with Sarcococca and, as can be seen by the following photographs, has created a lighter entrance to the building, not too mention, a highly scented winter pathway. 

10th February 2009 In Front Of The Linbury Building

Digging Out The Bamboo 10th February 2009 In Front Of Linbury Building

9 Years Later, Front Of The Linbury Building, Sweet Box (Sarcococca confusa)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Annual Work Trip To University of Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum

Cutting Down Silver Birch

Six members of the team and Ben, the student volunteer, spent the morning at the University of Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum cutting down the silver birch, chestnut and hazel that will be used to create the wooden plant supports on the herbaceous border and a new border edge on the lakeside broadwalk respectively. 

Dragging Out The Birch

Splitting in to two groups, one group spent the first few hours working in the silver birch coppice and the other in the sweet chestnut coppice. In the birch coppice the trees that would make the best plant supports were selected, cut down and dragged out to a clearing to be processed. Cutting the tree in to two pieces, the thick, lower part of the trunk that is not needed is put in to a pile that will be chipped or used to create a wood pile wildlife habitat, and the thinner, top halves, which will be used to create the plant supports, placed in to a pile for delivery to the college at a later date. (The stump or stool left in the ground contain dormant buds that will grow, creating new, replacement birch trees.)  In the chestnut coppice the other group were selecting wood that would make good sized stakes to hold the hazel edging.

Processing The Birch

Processed Silver Birch

Silver Birch Coppice

Silver Birch Stumps or Stools

Sweet Chestnut For Stakes

Processed Hazel Rods

After tea break their attention turned from silver birch and chestnut to a small hazel coppice. Selecting the longest, straightest stems, these were cut down and dragged out for processing. Using billhooks the branches and side shoots were removed to leave a clean rod perfect for creating a wooden edge, for last year's coppicing see blog entry 2nd February 2017 'Coppicing Hazel And Silver Birch'

 Hazel Coppice

Friday, 2 February 2018

Gadwall And Goosander

Female Gadwall (Anas strepera) On The Lake 26th January 2018

No sooner had the 53rd bird species been recorded in the gardens, see blog entry 15th January 'Bird Species Number 53, The Nuthatch', than the 54th different species was spotted on the lake, a female Gadwall. Smaller than a Mallard she was spotted on the 26th January swimming tentatively at the water's edge, emerging occasionally from beneath the overhanging shrubs only to swim back to her safe place every time a larger Mallard swam close to her.

Male Goosander 22nd January 2018

Female Goosander 22nd January 2018

A species of bird expected to have been seen on the lake this winter are the Goosander who have, this year, been very low in numbers arriving, only one pair having been seen so far. The pair arrived on the 22nd January and stayed for two days but no more birds have been spotted since. Over the previous nine years they have arrived in greater numbers, ranging from as little as 12 birds to as many as 26 birds between January and early March, this year has been very slow, hopefully the migration will begin in earnest in the coming weeks. For previous years dates and numbers see blog entry 28th February 2017 'Goosander Sightings For Winter 2017'.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Extending The Five Year Old Yew Hedge

11th March 2013, New Hedge Containing 50 Yew

30th January 2018, 5 Years Later

The curved yew hedge beside the Provost's garage was planted five years ago, see blog entry 11th March 2013 'A New Yew Hedge' and today it was extended. Fifty yew were used to create the original hedge and now a further 15 have been added to it, the above photographs show just how much the original plants have grown (the large Lime tree on the right of the photo had to be felled due to disease). 

Ready For The New Section

Delivery From Branch Nurseries

Planting The Yew

The Yew were purchased from 'Branch Nurseries' in the East Midlands and delivered this morning, very good quality, British grown, rootball plants of between 80cm-120cm in height. Taken over to the area beside the Provost's garage, the yew hedging plants were placed along a string guide line to check the spacing, 3 plants per metre, and to make sure the hedge would be straight. Working one plant at a time, each was moved from its space in the line and a sufficient sized hole dug out where it had stood. The plant was then carefully lowered in to the planting hole, making sure it was upright and deep enough for the top of the rootball to be level with surrounding soil, the dug out soil was then back filled in to the hole around the rootball and then healed in to firm in. Lastly, when all had been planted they were given a good watering. In a few years the new hedge should blend in with the old.  

Extending The Hedge

A Right Angle At The End Of The Curve

Fifteen Yew

The Old And New Hedge

Monday, 22 January 2018

Nine Years Of Fruit Tree Pruning

Discussing The Job At Hand

The pruning of the fruit trees in the orchard has begun, albeit later than last winter when, by now, it had almost been completed. Once again the team received help and guidance from Chris Lanczak, Orchard Manager of Waterperry Gardens, who has been offering his wealth of knowledge on fruit tree pruning since February 2009, nine years of fruit tree pruning. 
The objectives following that first visit, were as follows; to formative prune the young trees; rejuvenate the oldest trees; prune the trees to produce a large crop of good quality fruit sufficient for juicing; reduce the height of many of the large, mature trees for easy picking; to open up the centre of the trees to create a goblet shape which would allow more light into the canopy to ripen the fruit. The results, well shaped young trees, rejuvenated mature trees, low, open canopies resulting in easily accessible fruit and increased, high yields of fruit for juicing as can be seen by the number of bottles now being produced, from just 360 in 2009 to 1058 in 2017!

One Year Scion Wood Successfully Grafted

One particular tree in the orchard was given special attention by Chris was the new family tree. A project started last spring to create an apple tree producing fourteen different Oxfordshire varieties on it, see blog entry for the 6th April 2017 'A New Oxfordshire Family Tree In The Orchard' . Of the 36 pieces of one year old scion wood that were grafted on to the host tree only a few have not taken, a successful first part of the project. The next step, to reduce the new growth by a third to a half, cutting off at an outward facing bud to creating side branches and a low, open canopy. Hopefully the first fruit will be picked in the autumn of 2019.  

Pruning The Oxfordshire Family Tree

Cutting A Third To A Half Off

Kieron And Chris Working Together

Growth Pruned By A Third To A Half

The Oxfordshire Family Tree

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cutting Back Hundreds Of Iris Sibirica

The SNSC Iris Border

The borders around the new Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre (SNSC) were planted last spring/summer, see blog entry 11th July 2017 'Soft Landscaping Around The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre' and now that the perennials have faded it is time to cut them back.

The Withered, Brown Foliage Of Iris sibirica 'Persimmon'
The borders to the left of the two pools contain hundreds of iris, Iris sibirica 'Persimmon', which produce blue white eyed flowers on tall stems in the summer. The foliage has withered and turned an unappealing brown making the borders look rather messy beside the new building. Using secateurs the team cut the dead foliage to the ground, placing it into tonne bags for carriage to the leaf pits for composting.

Iris' To Be Cut Back

Cut Down And Mulched

Poolside Iris Border

The SNSC Border Awaiting Cut Back

Once the iris and the other perennial plants in the poolside borders had been cut back and the debris cleared, the weeds were dug out and a mulch applied to the soil. The next border to be cut back was to the right of the building also containing perennials and many iris too, a white variety, Iris sibirica 'White Swirl', which, in June-July, produce ivory-white flowers with yellow at the base of the fall, if you can picture an iris flower, the fall are the lower petals that fall down or flare out. As with the poolside borders, once cut back, cleared of debris and weeded, a mulch was applied.

The SNSC Border Cut Back

Monday, 15 January 2018

Bird Species Number 53, The Nuthatch



In early December last year a bird song not heard in the gardens before was recorded and it is only now that the bird behind this song has been identified, a Nuthatch. For a few weeks this bird was seen and heard in the trees at the bottom of the Provost's garden, up high, it could not be seen enough to identify and the pattern of notes the bird was singing had not been heard before. The bird was eventually identified by a member of the BTO (British Trust For Ornithology) who knew the song as soon as they heard it. This Nuthatch has become the 53rd different species of bird recorded in the college grounds since the list began in 2007. (The Nuthatch photographs above are from online sources).   

Goldcrest  (Male, Orange Centre In A Yellow Crest Stripe)

A bird seen easily in the gardens at the moment is the Goldcrest. The UK's smallest bird, they are regularly seen moving quickly in the fir trees looking for insects, rarely keeping still, this male, orange centre in a yellow crest stripe, was captured on camera by Ali. 


Worcester College Bird List – 15th January 2018

1.       Blue Tit 
2.       Great Tit 
3.       Coal Tit 
4.       Blackbird 
5.       Song Thrush 
6.       Mistle Thrush 
7.       Redwing 
8.       Fieldfare 
9.       Robin 
10.   Sparrow  (Tree and House)
11.   Dunnock 
12.   Long Tailed Tit 
13.   Chaffinch 
14.   Greenfinch 
15.   Goldfinch 
16.   Goldcrest 
17.   Treecreeper 
18.   Reed Warbler 
19.   Blackcap 
20.   Chiffchaff 
21.   Wren 
22.   Great Spotted Woodpecker 
23.   Green Woodpecker 
24.   Pied Wagtail 
25.   Grey Wagtail 
26.   Jay 
27.   Kingfisher 
28.   Magpie 
29.   Goosander 
30.   Mute Swan 
31.   Mallard (inc Domestic Ducks, Muscovy, Crested Duck) 
32.   Grey Heron 
33.   Canada Goose 
34.   Greylag Goose 
35.   Moorhen 
36.   Coot 
37.   Cormorant 
38.   Wood Pigeon 
39.   Collared Dove 
40.   Jackdaw 
41.   Crow 
42.   Rook 
43.   Starling 
44.   Sparrowhawk (Nesting 2007-2009) 
45.   Little Grebe (Spotted 2009) 
46.   Rosybill Pochard (Escaped from captivity, visited April 2012) 
47.   Greylag Goose X Canada Goose (Visited March 2016) 
48.   Grey Parrot (Escaped from captivity, visited 2009 ) 
49.   Parakeet (Spotted January 2012) 
50.   Oystercatcher (Spotted Friday 4th August 9.00am on the sports field) 
51.   Black-Headed Gull 
52.   Common Gull 
53.   Nuthatch (6th December 2017)

54. Gadwall (26th January 2018)
55. Siskin (9th February 2018)