Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Bumper Delivery Of Bulbs

Boxes of bulbs

Ordered on the 8th July the bumper delivery of spring bulbs arrived today from Peter Nyssen Ltd, 2926 in total, all to be planted from October to December. The bulbs this year are:
  • Tulips, 14 varieties, 'Angelique', 'Ballerina', 'Belicia', 'Black Hero', 'Blue Diamond', 'Cairo', China Pink', 'Gabriella', 'Havran', 'Maureen', 'National Velvet', 'Shirley', 'West Point', 'White Marvel'
  • Narcissus, 3 varieties, 'Peeping Jenny', 'Thalia', 'Ice Follies'
  • Allium, 2 varieties, 'Christophii', 'Purple Sensation'
  • Camassia, 2 varieties, 'Cusickii', 'Leichtlinii Caerulea'
  • Fritillaria, 2 varieties, 'Persica', 'Meleagris'
  • Anemone, 1 variety, 'Blanda White Splendour'
Once the boxes had been emptied and the contents checked the bulbs were put in to a dry, cool place until planting begins. 

A Bumper Delivery Of Bulbs

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Bat, An Unusual Daytime Visitor To The College

The Ancient Corridor

The college receives many visitors on a daily basis, open between 2-5pm in the summer, but today a rather unusual visitor was spotted at the end of an ancient corridor leading to staircase 1 and 2. The visitor, a solitary bat, was found roosting on the outside of the old stone wall above the round window. Believed to be a Pipistrelle, very small, brown fur with a small dog-like face but the team aren't bat experts so could be another one of the 17 species of British bats!

Above The Round Window

A Roosting Bat


Bat Update, Monday 20th September

The bat is no longer at the end of the corridor and has moved on to another, unknown, roosting spot. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Stihl Cordless Hedge Trimmer With Battery Belt

Trimming The Privet Hedge

Last year the team first started to use cordless hedge trimmers to cut the many box balls in the college gardens, see blog entry 18th September 2015 'Stihl HSA 86 Cordless Hedge Trimmer'. This year, as well as being used on the box balls again, it has been used to trim the large privet hedge but with a piece of additional kit for the Lithium ion battery. 

Stihl HSA 86 and Battery Belt

The battery is no longer placed in to the battery compartment of the trimmer but in to a battery belt, the trimmer is then powered by a battery adapter placed in to the empty slot which is connected to the machine with a cable. The hedge trimmer, already very light to use, becomes even lighter with this additional piece of kit.

Battery Pack and Cable

Battery Adapter In The Battery Compartment

Monday, 5 September 2016

Banana In Flower Again

Banana Plant

There are two groups of the hardy banana plant, Musa basjoo, in the herbaceous border and, in the smaller of the two groups, a flower stalk can be seen dangling from the top of one of the plants. This is only the third time this has been seen in the college since the plants were left out all year round, the first was back in September 2010, see blog entry 'Banana Flower' , the second time was two years ago, in October 2014. However, this year's flower emerged a lot earlier than on the two previous occasions, it was first spotted at the end of July!


In order to produce a flower and fruit, inedible in this case, the plant needs between 9 and 15 months of temperatures above 15 degrees centigrade (60 degrees Fahrenheit) and, although these banana plants are kept outside all year, it is the fact that they are wrapped under horticultural fleece from October/November to June that creates a warm micro climate, enough for a flower stalk to develop. The fruit can be seen behind the very unusual yellow/brown flower and are greater in number and in size than seen on both previous stalks.

Fruit and Flower

Inedible Fruit

This pseudostem (trunk) will not need to be wrapped this year as now that it has produced a flower and fruit it will die (monocarpic) so will be cut down to the ground in October, a smaller sucker (pup) is already growing to replace it though, no tall ladders required to wrap this new generation. To see the wrapping of the banana refer to blog entry for the 19th November 2015 'Wrapping Banana Plants During The Tail End Of Storm Barney'.

Banana Plant In Flower (2nd October 2014)

Fruit Stalk (2nd October 2014)

Fruit (2nd October 2014)

Banana Flower (2nd Oct 2014)

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Goodbye And Good Luck Danny

Danny (L) and Joss (R)

Today Danny left the gardening team. Achieveing his NVQ Level 2 & 3, NPTC Safe Use of Pesticides PA1 & PA6A and two years work experience he has completed his time as an apprentice. The 2 years, and his time as a volunteer prior to that, have flown by so quickly so it is with their best wishes, thanks and good luck for a future in horticulture that the team had to say their goodbyes.  

Thumbs Up From Danny

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Tragic End For The Pair Of Mute Swans

Ali has been photographing, filming and observing the pair of Mute Swans that reside on the college lake since they first arrived in early spring of 2012. It is with great sadness, therefore, that she now has to report the death of the female swan this morning at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, the vets were unable to save her and made the decision that the kindest thing for her was to put her to sleep. 

16th January 2013, Lake Frozen Over But A Path Through The Ice Has Been Cleared By The Pair

Is That A Cricket Ball On The Lake, Fancy A Game? No, I Can Hardly Stand Up!

The swan's story may have begun way back in 2009 when a young swan first visited the college gardens, well Ali likes to think so,and walked up to her, see blog entry 'Wildlife' dated 19th November, maybe the swan was checking out the lake for its arrival 3 years later!

The pair of swans first arrived on the college lake in March 2012, the blog entry on the 19th July noted:

"The pair of swans arrived on the college lake back in March and stayed for three months until the end of June. During this time the swans managed to crash land in the Fellow's Garden and on the front quad lawn, having to be captured and returned to the lake.
Where our swans have gone we don't know, but hopefully they will return next year."

And return they did, returning in early 2013 and, for the first time, built a large nest in amongst the reeds, see blog entry 1st May 'Nesting Swans'. The first ever egg laid by the swans appeared on the nest on Friday 3rd May, see 'The First Egg Laid', but alas after a long incubating period, see 'The Swans Are Incubating Their Eggs' , 'Four Swan Eggs' and 'A Strong Instinct To Brood' the nest and its precious contents were left behind as the swans flew off, see 'Swan Nest And Eggs Abandoned' on the 11th July, 4 eggs, no cygnets.

In 2014 they returned in January, the blog entry of the 9th January noted:

"By the end of a busy day by the weir, the team were treated to a visit by the swans that had just arrived on the lake. This time last year, 11th January to be exact, the swans arrived on the lake, the same pair possibly, the lake may well be their mating territory."
"If they are, it is their third year, always arriving in early January. In their first year they mated, started building a nest, then left and then last year they mated, built a nest, laid eggs but left after they failed to hatch. This year, hopefully, their 3rd and our 300th, they will go one step further and successfully hatch eggs and cygnets will be seen on the lake."

They began to rebuild the nest in mid March, six weeks earlier than last year, 'Rebuilding Last Year's Nest', laying their first egg on the 27th March 'The First Egg Laid (2014)'. By the 18th June they had again left the nest and its contents but stayed on the lake rather than fly away, 'Swans Abandon Their Nest', 7 eggs, still no cygnets.

In 2015 the swans left the lake at the beginning of the year but returned a month later, the blog entry for the 10th March, 'The Swans Return' noted:

"The swans left the college lake on the 10th February, to where is unknown, but today, exactly a month later, they have returned."
"Ali will be watching them to see when the begin to rebuild this year and, hopefully, it will be third time lucky for the swans."

The nest that the swans tentatively started to build in 2012 and rebuilt over the next two years was rebuilt again for this year. On the 16th April the Pen, female, started to lay her clutch of eggs, 'Swans (First Egg 2015), but 'The Swans Lose One Egg' a few days later, they continued to incubate through April and May, 'The Reed Bed Maternity Unit' and 'The Swan Is Still Incubating And The Goslings Are Growing Up Fast' but once again left the nest after the eggs didn't hatch, 'The Success And Failures Of The College Waterfowl', 3 eggs, still no cygnets.

12th April 2016

This year the swans never left the lake in February becoming permanent residents, begining to rebuild the nest on the 11th March, laying the first of this year's clutch ten days later, see blog entry 21st March 'Swans Lay Their First Egg (And Bird Update)'. The largest number of eggs were laid this year, 9 in total, and were incubated throughout April and May but, as with the last 3 years, the eggs did not hatch and the nest was abandoned on the 8th June. 

Six weeks later the female swan was discovered in the reeds near to her nest in poor condition, see blog entry for the 25th July 'Swan Rescue'. She was rescued from the lake by the RSPCA and taken to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital for treatment but after 5 weeks the desicion was taken by the vet that, although the wing injury had healed, her condition had deteriated and it would be kinder to stop her from suffering anymore so she was put to sleep, a tragic end for the pair of swans. 

Turning The 9 Eggs
12th April 2016 9 Eggs
22nd April 2016 The Cob Protecting His Pen On The Nest

Devoted To Each Other 22nd April2016

Bonded For Life

The Swan At Sunset

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

20,000 Honey Bees In Need Of A New Home

The unseasonably high winds have brought catastrophe to a large group of residents housed on a branch of an ash tree on the Nuffield lawn today. Those residents, unbeknown to the garden team, had built a hive attaching it to the tree, had came crashing down to the ground spilling its inhabitants on the lawn and smashing their carefully constructed home in to pieces, those residents, approximately 20,000 honey bees.


Above, a short piece of video showing the bees and the pieces of honeycomb on the ground.

20,000 Bees And Their Hive

Cordoning off the area a beekeeper was sought and Pete, a gardener and beekeeper at Christ Church College, kindly came to their rescue arriving with a new, wooden hive and set about repairing the damage.

A New Home

Donning his beekeeping jacket and thick gloves he placed the wooden hive next to the large collection of bees and within minutes the entrance hole had been found and they had begun to move in. 

Broken Honeycomb And Its Cells, Eggs, Grubs, Larvae

Collecting up all the pieces of the broken hive, clearly showing the intricate construction of the honeycomb, its hundreds of wax cells and their contents, eggs, grubs, larvae and pollen, he slotted it in to wooden frames securing it with elastic bands. 

Grub Bees (Look Closely)


Putting The Honeycomb In To Wooden Frames

Collecting The Honeycomb

Securing The Honeycomb With Elastic Bands

Rebuilding The Hive

A last check was made of the tree for any remaining pieces of the hive that were still attached to the branch. Knocking the pieces off the branch they too were collected up and placed in to a frame and slotted in to the new hive.

Have We Got It all?

Last Piece

Forming An Orderly Queue

Once the last piece had been put in the hive, the bees were left to move in to the hive in their own time. Pete estimated this colony of honey bees at about 20,000 made up of one queen, which he did locate amongst them, a few hundred male drones and thousands of female workers.

Waiting To Go In To Their New Hive
Update, Wednesday 24th August
The colony has successfully moved in to the hive and been removed from the gardens to their new location at a site in Binsey owned by Christ Church. Thank you Christ Church College and, in particular, Pete for you help and for a fascinating afternoon learning about beekeeping and the workings of a colony of bees and their hive, good luck to the bees too!

The Next Day Wednesday 24th August Almost All In