Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' F1 Hybrid (Ornamental Millet)

Besse Builing Courtyard Planters

Corner Border

Last year during a visit to the plant distributor Ball Colegrave, see blog entry for the 27th July 'A Visit To Ball Colegrave's Summer Showcase 2016', the team were reminded of a plant they used to grow many years ago for the displays within the gardens. That plant was Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' F1 hybrid (Ornamental Millet) and, following its reintroduction to the displays this year, has been turning heads and causing quite a stir. Numerous visitors to the gardens this summer have been enquiring as to what the tall, dark leaved plant is and being very surprised with it being an ornamental millet. Received in plug form, in the past grown from seed, the plugs were potted up in to their individual pots, grown on and then planted out in to the gardens in June. The many plants are now at the best, their young green leaves have now turned to a dark purple with a dark flower head on a tall dark stem, truly majestic!

Herbaceous Border (L)

Herbaceous Border (R)

Ornamental Millet F1 'Purple Majesty'

Friday, 4 August 2017



Haematopus ostralegus

(Photo from the Internet)

It was the call in flight that first drew Ali's attention, a loud peep-ing call. Heard above the college over the last few days but dismissed as unlikely, the bird, thought to be the owner of this call, was confirmed this morning as it landed on the sports field for just a few minutes, an Oystercatcher! A black and white wading bird with a distinctive orange-red bill, it is usually found on tidal estuaries but, according to The Wildlife Trust, " have moved further inland over the last 50 years to breed on waterways and lakes". This sighting is the 50th different bird species spotted in the college grounds since the recording began in 2009.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Seeds Germinate In Just Four Days

Friday 21st July Already Germinating After Just 4 Days

10 Trays All Germinated

It's only been two weeks since the seeds were sown, see blog entry of the 18th July 'Seeds Sown For Winter/Spring 2017-2018' and they have all germinated. The wallflowers and stocks germinated the quickest, taking just four days before the first pairs of seed leaves were seen pushing up through the compost.

Ready To Be Pricked Out

Wallflower 'Sugar Rush Purple Bicolour',

Working through one tray at a time the strongest of the seedlings were gently eased out of the soil using a dibber, in this case the end of the plant label, and, holding a seed leaf, lifted free as it was pushed up from below.

Pricking Out

Choosing The Strongest Seedlings

Individual pots were filled with compost and a small hole made on the surface with a finger. The seedlings were carefully lowered in to the hole in their new pot and the soil firmed around its neck, just below the seed leaves. The pots were transferred from the large greenhouse to the smaller, cooler greenhouse and placed out in rows before being watered in. The remaining five trays will be pricked out as soon as they are large enough to transplant. 

5 Trays Pricked Out, 5 To Go

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Swans Return With Three Cygnets

The Swans And Their Three Cygnets

The pair of swans and their four cygnets were last seen on the lake two months ago, see blog entry 30th May 2017 'A Bad Year For The College Waterfowl' and, fearing the worst, it was thought that the cygnets had been lost to predators and that the adults had flown off following their loss. On Tuesday, 25th July, that presumption was proved wrong when the pair were spotted on the lake with three cygnets. From the seven cygnets that hatched their family is just three, now two months old the cygnets still have their grey down feathers. However, their return was short lived, a quick one day visit, disappearing again, it is believed, through a gap in the canalside hedge and on to the Oxford Canal. It is hoped that it won't be too long before they are all seen again on the college lake and return permanently.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Seeds Sown For Winter/Spring 2017-2018

Preparing For Seed Sowing

Three weeks ago the team planted out the last of the plants for this year's summer display, see blog entry 27th June 2017 'Planted In Triplicate', but today they turned their attention to the winter/spring display for 2017-2018! Peter and Ali spent a few hours in the greenhouse sowing the seeds that will help create this forthcoming display. (Notice the new uniform, the team are now wearing green 'Gardens & Grounds' polo shirts).

Filling Half Seed Trays

They began by over filling 10 half trays with seed compost, removing the excess using the side of a firming board, placing it on to the sides of the tray and gently moving it across the soil from one end to the other.

Removing The Excess Compost

Levelling The Compost

The firming board was then gently pressed down on the compost to create a level surface for sowing the seeds. Before sowing the full trays were watered to moisten the soil using a watering can with a fine rose.

10 Trays Watered

Ready For Sowing

Seeds Sown On The Compost

The chosen seeds are: Wallflower 'Sugar Rush Purple Bicolour', Wallflower 'Sunset Orange', Wallflower 'Sunset Bronze', Dianthus 'Bouquet Rose Magic', Stock 'Vintage Mix', Calceolaria 'Dainty Mix', Digitalis 'Dalmation Mix', Cineraria hybrida 'Jester Mixed', Primula Polyanthus 'Stella Banana Cream' and Primula Acaulis Primlet 'Lemon Shade'.

Working one packet at a time to prevent the mixing up of the seeds, especially the wallflowers, the packet was opened and a sufficient amount of seed was carefully tipped out in to the palm of their hand. The hand was then moved across the filled tray, gently tapping it to drop the contents on to the soil, evenly distributing them on to the surface of the soil.

Sieving Compost

A small amount of compost was then sieved over the seeds to lightly cover them and, once all the seeds had been sown in their trays, they were given another gentle watering. Placed in the smaller, old glasshouse it is now just a case of waiting to see if they all germinate.

Watered In

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Soft Landscaping Around The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre

Digging A Large Hole

The gardening team have had an extraordinary busy first six months of 2017 soft landscaping around the new Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre (SNSC) as well as the daily maintenance of the gardens and preparing for the college ball in June. From the series of photographs the vast SNSC project is now complete following a huge effort from all the team and, on the odd occasion, additional help from strong members of the building contractors and cranes to lift a number of giant trees in to position.
The planting began in December in the area to the rear of the building and then in February the work to the front began in earnest following the arrival of five, rather large, mature field grown River Birch trees, Betula nigra. Five very large holes were dug in the border area to the front, right of the building and each tree, with its heavy and awkward 200 litre root ball, was placed in to their hole and anchored in using the Platipus Rootball Fixing System, see blog entry for the 9th February 'Anchored By A Platipus'.

Very Large Root Ball

Planting The River Birch

Teamwork 8th February 2017

Five Trees Planted

The SNSC Border 9th February 2017

Evergreens, Rear Building Planting December 2016

Planting Liquid Amber 'Slender Silhouette'

Teamwork 9th February 2017

The following day the team returned to the rear of the building to plant three trees amongst the evergreen shrubs that were planted last December. With smaller root balls, but no less awkward due to their height and the location and accessibility to the rear, the trees, Liquidamber styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette', were dragged to the holes and planted and, as with the other trees, anchored using the Platipus system.

Shrubs Join The River Birch

In March, with the planting at the rear of the building now completed, the team returned to work on the border at the front, right of the building. First they planted three red twisted willow trees, Salix erythroflexuosa, six Myrtle, Myrtus communis and eight Viburnum, Viburnum x Hillieri 'Winton'.  From the leaf pits, located at the far end of the college, several full loads of leaf mould were transported down to the building site by tractor and trailer and tipped out at the entrance then, using wheelbarrows, taken round to the border and spread across the soil. A rotavator was hired and used to mix the mulch and soil together.

A Delivery Of Leaf Mould Mulch



Planting Tulips

A week later 300 tulips were planted in to the border, a late flowered, single white variety called 'Maureen'. These tulips were part of the delivery received last September, see blog entry of the 15th 'A Bumper Delivery Of Bulbs' but, due to the planting site not being ready, were planted in groups in to pots in preparation for planting in the spring.   

The SNSC Border 24th March 2017 Trees, Shrubs And Bulbs

A Crane Is Required

During the last week of March the planting of trees and shrubs continued in the border to the left of the SNSC building and in the two beside the lake extension. One of the four Katsura trees, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, had to be lifted by crane over the lake in to the hole that had been dug for it. In the autumn, as the leaves change colour, there will be a smell of burnt sugar in the air, some people say it reminds them of candy floss!

Katsura Tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Tulip 'Maureen' 21st April 2017

SNS Left Side, Planting Shrubs And Perennials 3rd May 2017

Planting The Two Lake Extension Borders, Shrubs And Perennials 3rd May 2017

In April and early May the planting continued, trees, shrubs and perennials filling all the borders. (Planting list will be added to this blog entry shortly).
By June the plants were all settling in, although in this very dry year they have needed alot of watering to keep them alive, but the borders have established rather quickly, as can be seen by the series of photographs below for June and July.   

 SNSC Right, Front Border, 12th June 2017

Path To The Sports Field, 12th June 2017

Lake Extension, 12th June 2017

Soft Landscaping Of SNSC Finished 7th July 2017

SNSC Border (Front, Right), 7th July 2017

View To The Sports Field, 7th July 2017

SNSC, 7th July 2017

SNSC Border (Front, Right) 7th July 2017