Friday, 9 March 2018

It's Seed Sowing Time!

Seed Sowing Time

It's early March and as the gardens move slowly from the grip of winter in to spring, the trumpets of the daffodils are opening and the birds are collecting nesting material, work in the greenhouse is already focusing on this summer, it's seed sowing time! This year's annual display will be grown from seeds that have been chosen from the 'Chiltern Seeds' catalogue along with some of last year's unused seeds from 'Thompson & Morgan'. Small, shallow flower pots were filled with seed compost, levelled, gently firmed by pushing down on the soil using the base of one of the empty flower pots and then watered. The packets were divided into those requiring immediate sowing, February to March (March to May will be sown in a few weeks time) and, following the guidance on each packet, the seeds were scattered over the top of the compost, some had compost sieved over them and some not, labelled, lightly watered again and placed in the mist unit under glass. Cleome, Antirrhinum, Nicotiana, Amaranthus, Lobelia, Lavatera and Rudbeckia were the first to be sown, next will be the Cosmos, Tagetes and Zinnia.

The First Sowing, 27 Pots of Seed

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Reinforcing The Canal Hedge With Hazel Stakes And Binders

A Gap In The Hedge (Before)

A considerable amount of work has already been done on the canal side hedge this year, see blog entry 16th February 'Cutting The Canal Side Hedge And Shaping The Evergreens' and more work has been undertaken today.  

New Hazel Stakes

Two sections had been identified as 'weak areas' having very little vegetation and are in need of reinforcement. Wood that could be used for stakes and rods were cut from a number of hazel trees in the grounds and taken to the hedge for processing. The thickest pieces, about 2 inches in diameter, were cut in to 6-7foot lengths and one end cut into a point to create a stake. The long, thin pieces, 9-10 foot in length, had their side shoots removed to create binders for weaving through the stakes.       

The Gap Filled And Reinforced (After)

Filled With New Hazel Stakes And Binders (After)

The stakes were hammered into the ground to a depth of 1 foot, 2 feet apart, and then the long, flexible binders interwoven between them, the result, by the end of the day, a much stronger and more stable hedge.

Another Gap Filled And Reinforced

Filled And Reinforced With New Hazel Stakes And Binders

Friday, 2 March 2018

The 'Beast Of The East' Meets 'Storm Emma'

Front Quad

For two days the snow has been falling over Oxfordshire as the two weather systems, 'Beast of the East' and 'Storm Emma' met but the snow has fallen at a manageable rate sufficient for the team to cope with, that was, until today. When snow falls and begins to settle the team's priority is to keep the paths, steps and car park clear and to do this they use a variety of tools; the tractor mounted snow plough attachment; snow shovels; besoms; rock salt and flower pots. Flower pots, why flower pots? I hear you ask, well they make brilliant rock salt dispensers, fill them up and shake it through the holes, a 2 litre pot is perfect!

The Cottages (Rear View From The Nuffield Lawn)

The Quad And Cottages

The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre (SNSC)

View Of The Sports Field From The SNSC

View Of The SNSC From The Sports Field

Frozen, Snow Covered Lake

Since early Wednesday afternoon the team have been shovelling and brushing away the snow, and spreading and shaking the rock salt but today, due to the large amount of snow that fell over night, the snow plough had to be used. By lunch time today the paths, steps and car park had been cleared once again, four times in the last 48 hours, but as the snow fell heavily throughout the afternoon the team had to admit defeat as all the cleared areas were covered once again.

The Snow Plough Attachment In Use

Clearing The Snow From The Quad Steps

Clearing The Goldfish Bowl Path

Paths Cleared And Rock Salted

Covered Again With Snow

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Keeping Warm In The Bitterly Cold Northeasterly Winds

Forking Out The Wet, Heavy Leaves

Over the last week the team have been finding ways to keep warm and avoid the bitterly cold, biting northeasterly winds blowing in from Scandinavia. One such activity was to clear the leaves out from the ditch which runs from the top of the sports field and beside the canal side path, and also just happens to contain a foot of water as well as the leaves! Wellington boots on, and breaking the layer of ice that had formed on the top of the water, the leaves, wet and very heavy, were forked out from the ditch and placed on the bank to drain off. 

Forking The Leaves Into The Trailer

Piles Of Heavy, Wet Leaves On The Bank

Clearing The Piles Of Leaves

The numerous piles of leaves left to drain on the side were collected up and, using a pitch fork or leaf grab, were placed into either the wooden trailer or the large wheelbarrow and transported to the canal side hedge where they were deposited at its base as a leafy mulch. The physical exertion of clearing the leaves from the ditch, lifting them into trailers and, with the wheelbarrows, wheeling them over to the hedge and tipping them into piles then, with a pitch fork, spreading them along the base of the hedge, was a perfect way for the team to keep warm during the coldest of weeks.      

Heavy, Wet Leaves With Ice

A Leafy Mulch At The Base Of The Hedge

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Hazel Binders And Chestnut Stakes

Brittle Hazel Binders

The hazel binders that are used to edge the front of the two borders of the Broad walk usually last three years before they become brittle and need replacing. Unfortunately, those that front the first border have deteriorated in just two years since they were put in place, see blog entry 28th April 2016 'Hazel Binding The Front Of The Woodland Border' so now need to be replaced.

Off To The Chipper Pile

Stakes Removed

The old binders and stakes were removed and taken to the chipping pile where they will remain until chipped, the chipped wood will be used as a mulch on some of the woodland borders.

Preparation Table

The hazel binders and chestnut stakes were cut down by the team at the Harcourt Arboretum two weeks ago, see blog entry 6th February 'The Annual Work Trip To University of Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum' and were delivered to the college on Monday. Before the binding can begin the long pieces of chestnut need to be made into stakes by cutting them into foot long lengths and whittling one end into a point, fifty stakes are needed to support the long hazel binders. 

Whittling The Chestnut Stakes
Whittling To A Point

Hammering In The New Stakes

New Stakes

The front of the border is cut away with a spade to create a flat edge before the stakes are hammered in with a two foot spacing between them .

Bending The Binders Around The Stakes

With the stakes in place the long hazel binders are interwoven between them, in front-behind-in front-behind all along the border creating a natural looking edge. The last line of the blog entry from April 2016 read "This section will be replaced in three years, spring 2019!", let's hope this time it does last the expected three years and won't need to be replaced until spring 2021!

A New Edge

The New Edge For The First Border

Friday, 16 February 2018

Cutting The Canalside Hedge And Shaping The Evergreens

The Canalside Hedge, View From The College (After Cutting)

For several days the team have been working in the the area behind the sports pavilion, the west side of the college grounds. Armed with bill hooks, secateurs, hedge cutters, loppers and saws, Simon, Joss and Peter reduced the height of the mixed species hedge that forms the college boundary beside the Oxford canal. Six to eight foot of thick, messy, tangled and, in some places, very spiky growth was cut off leaving a very neat, tidy hedge of just three to four foot in height, making it a far more manageable hedge in the future.

The Boundary Hedge, View From The Canalside (After Cutting)

A Neat, Tidy Hedge With Shaped Evergreens Behind

Shaped Evergreens Shrubs Beside The Sports Pavilion

Once the cutting of the canal side hedge had finished, Ali and Graham moved into the area and, using a hedge cutter, a long arm hedge cutter, loppers and secateurs, shaped the evergreen shrubs in the border behind it. Having shaped these shrubs they moved on to shape the evergreens in the border to the side of the sports pavilion. With the work on the shrubs complete, Callum and Ady weeded the border and added a wood chop mulch to finish.

Shaped Shrubs And A Wood Chip Mulch

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Continuing Journey Of September's Cuttings

Cuttings Waiting To Be Potted On

Cuttings from the Argyranthemum, Plectranthus, Pelargonium, Fuchsia, Cuphea, Salvia, Osteospermum, Helichrysum and Felicia plants were taken last autumn, see blog entry 22nd September 2017 'A Mist Unit Full Of Cuttings',  and were separated into their individual small pots during the last two weeks of October.  

Rooted Argyranthemum

Gently Teased Apart

Five Rooted Argyranthemum

Tapped out of their pot, the cuttings roots, 5-10 plants in each pot, were gently teased apart and potted up into individual 9x9x10cm pots full of a 50/50 mix of John Innes Compost No1 and a seed compost. These young plants have been growing into these pots for the last four months and are now ready for the next step of their journey from a cutting to a plant in this year's summer display. 

Five Young Plants, October 2017

Rooted Plectranthus

Roots Needing More Space

The cuttings have now out grown these pot, roots now fill the compost and are poking out through the drainage holes desperate to find more space. 

Next Sized Pots

Moving To A Bigger Home

Diamond Into A Square

Tapped out of their pot, home since October, they are each potted up into a larger sized pots, 12x12x12cm. About an inch of compost is placed into the bottom of the bigger sized pot and the young plant is placed into the pot, diamond into the square (see photo above). Compost, the same 50/50 mix, is placed into the gaps and over the top of the root ball then gently firmed in. Placed in rows on the greenhouse staging they are all watered in.

Potting Up

On The Staging