Monday, 22 September 2014

Choose to be optimistic... feels better.

A quote from the Dalai Lama

A quick look in the greenhouse recently revealed that the Lithops are now flowering. The flowers of the lithops or living stones as they are more usually known do not last long.

One of the tea plants has met with a visitor.  Possibly a moth of the Tortrix group. Several leaves have been grazed and the offending larva has now rolled itself up in one of the new leaves. We will try to identify the species which may favour Camellia plants

The ammonite shell path has progressed with the posts on the outermost ring now having been secured in the rubble.  Longer posts were required to be hammered deeper into the ground  help keep the shell shape intact once the infill has been laid.  Concrete was used for this operation.

Work on the path also continued with the eventual linking of the ammonite shape to the path to the eco-loo and into the school garden.  Initial groundwork was completed and by the end of next weekend this path should be in situ.

View from the eco-loo
The link from the ammonite shell

As autumn approaches many birds are returning to Africa for the winter months. A lot of Chiifchaffs have been noted through the garden in recent days and also one evening  a Spotted Flycatcher was observed doing what it does best- flycatching!  This brown bird has a silver breast and is very acrobatic as it flies out from a perch to catch a fly or even a butterfly.  They are returning to West Africa.

Spotted Flycatcher - a new species on the garden list!

Elsewhere the garden still provides colour and form and the butterflies are still there in good numbers.  The Comma- an unusual visitor was spotted this week. Four species of dragonflies were also seen including several pairs of Common Sympetrums.  The males have crimson red bodies- the females a more drab brown colour


Common Sympetrum -male  

As the summer ends it is time to start harvesting.  The turnips and tomatoes have done well this year.

Fresh turnips

A variety of tomatoes

The soil in many of the school plots is getting tired now and needs a lot of organic matter dug into them.  We are hoping to source some cow manure at the end of the season when all the plants have been dug out.  If anybody knows of a very local source where perhaps the farmer could deliver a trailer load to us then we would be very grateful.  Please leave a message in the school office. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014


"Failure is not in falling down but refusing to stand up again....."

An old Chinese proverb.  The garden group has over the past two weekends worked hard on the ammonite shaped path in the Jurassic garden.  We have had to move away from the original drawings as the spiral on the shell did not in our minds fit the true shape of an ammonite.  So we had to resort to mathematics.  A picture was sourced and a grid drawn over the sketch and from there we managed to move forward. This part of the project is taking up a lot of hours.  There is a lot of measuring and levels to be taken but at last the group  feels that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The working plan

At the end of the sunday on the second weekend we have now got to this stage

With the ground being rock hard and many a hidden obstacle in our way- tree roots or buried asphalt paths -we are slowly progressing.

There is still a lot of colour in the garden  as can be seen from walking around the various class plots.  Also a lot of produce is just beginning to ripen.  This year the tomato plants have avoided the blight which last year devasted the outdoor plantings.

The tumbling tomato plants

Almost ready to pick!

James Grieve apples and a handful of runner beans

Ripening grapes

Dainty Cosmos flowers

Buff tailed bumblebee

Queen Red-tailed Bumble bee

Late this afternoon there were four species of dragonfly in the garden.  Southern Hawker, Emperor, Migrant Hawker and Common Sympetrum.  The pair of Common Sympetrum were seen mating and later egg laying in the pond.

Common Sympetrum mating on the safety rope at the pond
Elsewhere the cabbage plants have been hit hard by the caterpillars of both the large and the small white butterflies

Not much left of this cabbage plant!

The rice plants are doing well

The Venus Fly-trap plant has had a growth spurt!
 A new butterfly species was added to the garden list this week.  A Silver-washed Fritillary.  A large and very attractive species.

Silver-washed Fritillary

Work will continue next weekend with the Jurassic garden and mathematics will again test the garden group members.  Finishing with a quote from  Rene Descatres (1596-1650) a French philosopher of note who said that,
"In my opinion all things in nature occur mathematically"

he appears to be correct!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


"If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it" 

Marcus Aurelius - one of the five good Roman Emperors.  One of the most important Stoic philosophers.  Taught in his early years by Emperor Hadrian.

The recent poor weather has put the construction of the path in the Jurassic garden on hold but there are always other jobs waiting.

The first job was to remove much of the dead pond weed and claim back some open water in the pond for the pond skaters and water boatmen to thrive in.  Four barrow loads were removed. The weed though was left at the side of the pond for 24 hours to enable any invertebrates in the weed to hop or crawl back into the pond.

Open water has returned to the pond!
There is a little more work to be done yet to complete the task. The second phase will be to tidy up the vegetation alongside the pond.  Although spectacular at present if not checked it will become too dominant.

Another job which was started was the removal of the large viburnum bush by the machine shed.  This had got out of hand and was blocking light from one of our paper bark birch trees causing the growth to slow considerably and forcing the tree away towards what light it could find.  The branches have been removed and the stump will be dug out in due course.  It will of course open up a small new area of the garden for another project!

Removal of the viburnum bush

The grass bed in the Memory garden continues to be improved on ready for 2015.  With the old dogwood gone a new open area has been created and a wide range of grass species has been planted to reveal texture and form.  The recent addition has been of a couple of Gaura -whirling butterfly- plants.  Their lofty flowering stems will compliment the grasses and bring a little more interest. The plants originate from North America but are favoured by bees and other insects. The range of grasses have been chosen to provide, hopefully, all year round interest.  Some will reach 2.4m tall- we hope!

New view across the memory garden

Some of the new grasses now planted up

Gaura- whirling butterfly plant
Many animals are found in the garden which are always trying to eat whatever we grow.  Woodpigeons and Grey Squirrels are the largest and most obvious we come across but early the other evening a snail was caught red handed helping itself to a tomato.  Its' neck was at full stretch!

Caught in the act!

In the greenhouse though safe from the snails the beefsteak tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Despite their appearance they are delicious

Finally this large slug was crossing the path no doubt looking for something tasty to eat.  Not the biggest slug we have seen there but approaching it on size

Slugs are always hungry!
With school restarting very shortly and an influx of new pupils we hope they will enjoy the garden and help make a contribution to it as have other children over the past years.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Enjoying the dragonflies..

"Do not speak unless it improves on silence"

This week's quote is taken from Tibetan teaching.  During the week when the working party was taking a pause it was so calm and peaceful you could hear the clicking from the wings of the dragonflies feeding over the garden.

Three species of dragonflies were noted in the garden one afternoon recently - perhaps the most interesting one was the Southern Hawker. An irregular visitor to the pond but it has been seen egg laying there in previous years.

Southern Hawker

The cabbage and curly kale plants have been devastated by the caterpillars of the large white butterfly.  The caterpillars are often cryptic to see but these two were caught unawares basking in the sun

In the bee nesting box many of the Red Mason Bees have hatched  but it appears that perhaps these boxes are not so good for the bees as spiders get inside them and spin cobwebs there and the newly hatched bees fly straight into the cobweb and fall prey to the spider.  A design fault maybe but the bees deserve better than this.  A modification will be considered.

The bee box in the pond area
Inside the box- several dead bees can be seen
Elsewhere in the garden Mrs Davidson's fig tree has produced a lot of fruit in the first year.

Ripe figs- ready for eating
In Mrs Legg's bed there is a profusion of colour and perhaps the most curious are the Mexican Hats which were sown last year

Mexican Hat flowers
In the Jurassic Garden work on the path continues.  The main run of the path leading into the ammonite shaped centre piece had been laid and secured. The recycled edging has proved to be a good choice and is very flexible.  The posts which came with them are also very strong.

The entrance which leads in to the garden

The stubby posts work well in the very hard ground here!

The path into the garden area

Lengths were joined using sawn-off bolts and hammered together
At one stage six lengths of edging were joined together to enable the garden group to get a good round curve instead of fixing one length to another. This required some considerable man-handling but luckily some visitors were only to pleased to help!

The garden has also been visited on several afternoons recently by our friends next door in Highclere House who have enjoyed wandering around the garden and taking in the peace and quiet here.

Finally the Sparrowhawk which regularly flies over the garden was caught taking a bath the other afternoon.  Some stealth was required but a couple of pictures were taken before it took off again