Friday, 15 July 2016

Eleven Half Trays and Six Shallow Pots

Seed Sowing Kit

It has only been a matter of weeks since the last of the plants were planted out in the gardens for the summer display but, before they can be enjoyed, the gardeners are already starting to think about the display for the coming winter and next spring. The tulips, plug plants and seeds were ordered last week, the seeds arrived in a matter of days and are now ready for sowing.

Filling The Trays

With the seed sowing kit ready, Ali and Callum spent a few hours in the greenhouse this morning sowing the chosen seeds; Cineraria hybrida 'Jester Mixed', Matthiola incana 'Pillow Talk' (Stocks), Dianthus barbatus 'Bouquet Rose Magic', Wallflower 'Sunset Primrose', 'Sunset Orange' and 'Sunset Bronze', Digitalis purpurea 'alba' and 'Dalmation Mixed' (Foxgloves),  Schizanthus x wisetonensis 'Dr Badger's Mix and 'Angel's Wings Mix' (Butterfly Flower), Hesperis matronalis 'Purple Violet' and 'White', Lupinus polyphyllus 'Noble Maiden' (Lupin), Primula polyanthus 'Stella Neon Violet', Calceolaria 'Dainty Mixed' (Slipper Flower), Primula candelabra 'Spectaculat Tiers Mix' and Primula acaulis 'Primlet Lemon Shades'.

Levelling The Compost

Eleven half trays and six shallow pots were filled with seed compost, the excess levelled off before being gently firmed to create a smooth, flat surface perfect for sowing seeds.

Gently Firming

A Handful of Seeds

Dealing with one packet at a time, a few seeds were tipped in to the palm and, moving the hand slowly over the filled tray, was gently tapped to make them fall off uniformly over the compost.

Sown Seed


The seeds were covered over by a thin layer of compost which was sieved over them. Each tray was then clearly labelled with the name of the seed and the today's date, then watered    

Labelled and Watered

Placed in the cooler small greenhouse, the seeds should start germinating over the coming weeks.   

Eleven Half Trays and Six Shallow Pots

Update 18th June:
The three trays of wallflowers have all germinated over the weekend.

Wallflowers Have Germinated

Monday, 11 July 2016

Duck Family Jump Off A Balcony (UPDATE)

For those of you that have read the blog entry of the 17th June 2016 'Duck Family Jump Off A Balcony' an update on the fate of the 9th duckling has been posted as a footnote on the original entry following the receipt of an email from Tom, one of the student duckling rescuers, and it's a happy ending after all!
Here's a link, click on DUCKLING 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Columns, Curves, A Cushion and A Caterpillar


Over the last two weeks, apart from mowing, weeding and dead heading, the team have been focusing their attention on cutting the many hedges inside and outside the grounds. Having cut two of the hedges outside the college, a privet and a lonicera located at two of the college properties, the first of the hedging inside the grounds, the 20 yew columns in the Provost's garden, were cut.

With the columns complete, the next to be cut were the curved hedges of yew, also in the Provost's garden.

Having finished in the Provost's garden last week, this week the team moved the hedge cutters in to the car park area to cut four more hedges.The first, a laurel hedge, a different shape to cut, this time a complete curve to create a cushion shape.


Columns, curves, a cushion and next a caterpillar! The latter shape was first seen in the gardens last year, see blog entry 28th September 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Privet Hedge'.

Giant Yew Hedge

The fourth, and last hedge in the car park area, was the giant yew hedge. To reach the top of the high sides the long arm hedge cutter had to be used, three of the team worked on this one yesterday. The two longest hedges are still to be cut, a task for the coming weeks.  

Monday, 4 July 2016

Shades Of The Colour Purple

Clematis viticella 'Etoile Violette'

Purple, in various shades, is the prominent colour seen around the gardens at the moment. Three plants contributing to this purple fest are clematis, nicotiana and salvia.
Using a climbing rose as support, the vigorous Clematis viticella 'Etoile Violette' is scrambling up the south facing wall of one of the 13th century cottages. Planted last year, the section of wall is now covered in a profusion of deep purple, single flowers with creamy yellow centres.  

Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple'

Beneath the clematis can be found the tobacco plant Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple'. Sown in March, this half hardy annual has just started to produce its star shaped deep purple flowers along a slender stem.

Salvia 'Amistad'

Not to be out done by the clematis and nicotiana, to the right of them, Salvia 'Amistad' is also producing its own show, long upright stems of purple flowers are enhanced by the near black calyces.

Shades Of The Colour Purple

Three different shapes of flowers, three different shades of purple all adding to this wonderful purple fest.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Rose 'Rhapsody In Blue'

'Rhapsody In Blue'

When working out in the garden the gardeners can often be questioned about the plants that are out in flower. One such plant causing quite a stir at the moment in the floribunda rose 'Rhapsody In Blue'. This rose has been flowering since the beginning of June and will continue to due so, with regular dead heading, throughout the summer months.   

On each stem are large clusters of sweet scented, semi-double flowers that seem to change colour as they mature, purple, mauve and the blue(ish) for which it got its name. Rose of the Year in 2003 (Floribunda) and given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 2012, this rose is a favourite amongst the gardeners and, it would seem, the visitors to the gardens too. Highly recommended, this rose would be a worthy addition to any garden. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Three Iron Crates Make An Unexpected Return

Three Iron Crates, Two Tied Staging

The three iron crates, used as part of the display in the corner border during last summer, have made an unexpected return as part of one of the college garden displays this year, see blog entry 4th June 2015 'Three Rusty Iron Crates'. Last seen being removed from that display in October, see blog entry 15th October 2015 'It Seems Like Only Yesterday', they have now been used as staging for a two tiered pot display outside the entrance to the Ruskin (Nash) Building. The idea for using the crates was Danny's and what a great idea it turned out to be!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Duck Family Jump Off A Balcony

Lavendar Nesting Site

An unusual event occurred today on the balcony of the student room A10 of the Sainsbury Building, not the fact that a clutch of duck eggs hatched but the unusual location! Charlotte had noticed a female mallard visiting and sitting in the lavendar for the last month, the reason was discovered this morning when she was awoken by lots of quacking, 9 ducklings appeared with the mallard on the balcony.

Mallard And Her 9 Ducklings

Wary at first the ducklings remained close to their mothers side until a large tray was brought up to the balcony and filled with water for them to drink, however their instinct was not to drink it but to go straight to the water and swim in it.

Time For A Swim

Balcony Up Heigh

As the day progressed this instinct to be on water become stronger resulting in the mother flying down from the balcony and calling to her brood to follow. Only 8-12 hours old, and unable to fly like their mother, they had to jump!



Being encouraged by their mother, quacking to them from the ground below, the first duckling looked over the edge of the balcony and jumped, landing with a bump on the floor. Getting up unscathed, the landing had been softened by its down feathers, it waddled over to its mother's side. However, the duckling may not have felt anything, but it was all too much to bear for students Tom and Julia who decided to help the 8 remaining ducklings, catching each one of them in a box as they jumped and fell from the extrodinary height for such a small, young bird.

The Group Waits For Their Mother

Gathering them up, the mother duck lead her brood along to the water's edge and jumped in. More encouragement followed, quacking at the youngsters to jump one last time.

This Way

One Last Jump

Looking over the edge they trusted their mother once again and jumped in to the water. Gathering them up she lead them away from the helping humans and out on to the water. (A sad note, the mother unfortunately miscounted her brood and only took 8 ducklings to the lake, leaving 1 behind up on the balcony which would not come out from beneath the lavander planter, its fate is unknown).

On The Lake At Last

Footnote   'It's A Happy Ending After All'

After the mother had taken the other 8 down to the lake, Julia and I went to try and coax out the 9th, and it eventually managed to find a way out from behind the lavender and jumped, so we managed to scoop him up into a box and carry him down to the lake. We found the rest of the brood with the mother on the lake’s edge, and thankfully the moment we tipped him out of the box and he went onto the lake, the mother came over to collect him and swam off with all 9 ducklings.