Thursday, 12 January 2017

Removing The Parthenocissus

16th May 2014, Virgina Creeper Facade

It is unknown just how long the self clinging Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Virginia Creeper, has been attaching itself to the terrace building of the quadrangle as it climbs along the facade. A rampant climber, the Virginia Creeper has spread along half of the terrace building and half of the library and, in the autumn, adds a stunning splash of red to their elegant facades.

18th November 2014, A Splash Of Red

 Dormant For The Winter

However, the little suckers it uses to cling to the wall have, over the years, caused damage to the 18th century stone so the decision has been made to remove it. 

Cutting The Creeper

The team have spent the week carefully removing the creeper cutting the thick stems with secatuers and loppers, and stripping and peeling the growth with a wallpaper stripping knife. As the creeper was removed the damage to the 300 year old stone was revealed. 

Almost Finished

Damage To The Arch
Damage Revealed

All Gone

Gardens & Grounds Team 2017

(L-R) Graham, Kieron, Joss, Peter, Andy, Ady, Callum, Ali, Simon and Henry

With all the team now back at work it is time for the team photograph for 2017. Taken in the orchard amongst the apple and pear trees this year's photograph includes Henry, the 13 year old Labrador of Head Gardener Simon, who comes to work everyday and is a honorary, and very important, member of the team.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Swans Have Been Making Headlines In The Local Newpaper

Happy New Year and welcome back to the gardener's blog. The college has reopened its doors today following the Christmas and New year shut down and, whilst the gardening team were enjoying their well earned break, the swans have been making the headlines in the local newspaper.
On the 23rd December, just a few days after the college closed, one of the swans was hit by a vehicle out on Beaumont Street just outside the college entrance. A specialist swan unit was called to assist the injured bird before they took it away to be checked out by a vet. (For the newspaper article and the full story of the accident see the link below).

Bobbies on the beat step in to save intrepid swan in Oxford

For those of you who have been reading the blog over the years you may recall the sad story of the pair of swans last year, see blog entry for 26th August 'A Tragic End For The Pair Of Mute Swans' advising of the death of the female. On the 21st October the remaining swan paired up with a new partner and they have been on the lake ever since until the new swan was involved in this accident, a futher tragic end to the story, maybe? (For the ending to the story on the 29th December, see the link below)

Christmas love story: injured swan returned home for new year with his bird

Following its rescue and treatment the swan has been sexed as a male, a cob, and named Chris, which has lead to more questions and possible answers to the lack of fertilised eggs over the last four years. Since 2012, when the two swans on the lake paired up it was obviously belived that it was a male and female pairing, but when one of the swans died in August it was sexed as a female which would leave a male on the lake. However the new swan has been sexed a male which means that the new pair is male/male? Ali likes to think that the previous pair was, more likely, female/female, hence the reason for the eggs never being fertilised and the new pair is one of the remaining female from the original pair and the new male, cygnets this year, only time will tell if Ali's theory is correct and a truly happy ending to the story of the Worcester College swans.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Merry Christmas And A Very Happy New Year

The Gardens and Grounds team of Worcester College would like to wish all the readers and followers of their blog a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Thank you all for your continued support through reading the blog, posting comments and for coming to visit the gardens and saying such kind words, 'Hello, I really enjoy reading your blog' and 'The gardens are stunning, the best in Oxford', they really are very much appreciated. Work will continue in the gardens during December until college shut down on the 21st, but this blogger is off to sunnier climates. Written since February 2009, there are almost 8 years of college gardening activities to read about and, as the blog approaches its 9th year, there will be new projects to read about, the main one being the landscaping around the new Nasrin Shah Building, an auditorium and conferencing centre, as well as all the other day to day maintenance requirements in the gardens and grounds.  

Friday, 2 December 2016

10 Months, From Pruning The Fruit Trees To Picking And Pressing The Fruit

Keiron Picking Good Quality Apples

The process of producing the 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice', from pruning the fruit trees to picking and pressing the fruit, takes about ten months. The fruit tree pruning began at the end of last year, see blog entry 15th December 2015 'An Early Start To Pruning The Fruit Trees', and continued until the end of January/beginning of February.

Ady Hand Picking Apples

Peter Selecting Quality Fruit

During the first two weeks of October, having seen the trees flourish and produce a good amount of fruit, the team picked the apples and pears. All the fruit used in the juice is hand picked, no windfalls, and are carefully placed in to trays for transportation to Waterperry Gardens for juice pressing. 

Callum Checking The Quality Of The Fruit

The First 18 Trays Ready For Transportation

This years harvest filled 48 trays which, once at Waterperry, were tipped in to two large wooden crates each containing 1/3 of a tonne of Worcester College apples and pears.

Crate 1, 1/3 Of A Tonne

Crate 2, 1/3 Of A Tonne

The First Of 711 Bottles Up For Sale

The two large crates of fruit were pressed, and the resultant juice pasteurised and bottled, producing 711 bottles for sale this year, the first day of which was yesterday, with another day of sale today. The juice will be on sale over the next few weeks when, hopefully, all bottles will have been sold.

Ali And Kieron Selling The Juice

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Path and Ditch Clearing

Frost Covered Sports Field

The freezing temperatures forecast at the start of the week arrived as predicted resulting in the first few hours of the working day being very cold and frosty. As all the grass areas were covered in frost the team stayed off them and, as the secret to staying warm is to keep moving, the perfect job is path and ditch clearing which involves lots of movement with the raking and lifting of leaves.

Blown Out Leaves

The path that is next to the sports field was the place to start, beginning yesterday morning. Using the backpack blowers the leaves were blown out from the shrubs that align the path, then raked up and lifted in to the back of the trailer for transportation to the nearest leaf pile.

Cutting The Overhanging Shrubs

Once the leaves had been removed, the overhanging shrubs were given a light cut back to widen the path and the trimmings taken to the chipper pile for chipping 

Path Widened

Backpack Blower

Today, on the other side of the path, the ditch clearance began. The backpack blowers were used along with rakes and leaf grabs to remove the leaves, creating large piles along the side of the ditch ready for collection. 

Raking Leaves

Leaf Grab

Lifting leaves In To The Trailer

The smaller leaf piles were placed in to the trailer using the leaf grabs but on one massive pile a machine was used, the New Holland with the grab attachment. The grab, with its large tines, easily picked up the leaves and, in several huge mouthfuls, had picked up all the leaves and dropped them in to the trailer, a lot of lifting by the team with leaf grabs averted.  

New Holland With The Grab Attachment

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Adding Extra Heat To The Top Of The Christmas Tree

The Chilli-Box

A tradition that started 3 years ago, see blog entry for 29th November 2013 'Hot & Spicy, With A Slice Of Orange', has just got a little hotter. A 'Chilli-Box', containing some super hot chilli peppers, was given to the team by the chefs to put on the tree but, due to their very high SHC, Scoville Heat Unit values, (The Scoville scale is used to measure the heat of chilli peppers), had to be put at the top section of the tree out of reach from any brave soul that may be tempted to take a bite out of the Christmas decorations, which does happen every year!

Adding Extra Heat To The Top Of The Christmas Tree

Adding extra heat to the top of the Christmas tree, the chillies, Yellow Scorpion, Wrinkly Pink Bhut, Big Brown Bhut, Naga Nightshade, The Dementor chilli and Carolina Reaper, range in SHC values from 250,000 to 1.5million respectively, with the latter being the Guinness World Record Holder for the hottest chilli.

A Very Hot Top

The Decotated Christmas Tree