school garden

school garden

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

"An ounce of practice..

is worth more than a ton of preaching"


The weather warmed up considerably over the weekend and allowed some work to continue in the garden.  The enhancement and repair work for the willow classroom continued with a start being made on shredding the smaller branches.  The shredded bark has been distributed in the woodland walk to improve the path through there.

The warmer weather has triggered the frogs!  A slight change in water temperature and they come from nowhere and start laying frogspawn.   This year we have more than ever before which means that our pond and garden are in a very healthy state and frogs are surviving to return to their native pond.  A lot of pictures of the frogs but they have a magnetic appeal about them splashing and croaking in the pond.

In the greenhouse the crassulas are flowering well now.  we have waited a couple of years for this event.  The small, simple delicate flowers are pleasing to the eye

The sundew plants and venus fly traps are also awakening from the winter shutdown

Elsewhere Spring is in the air.  The Corsican Hellabore is in flower and nearby a lot of Pulmonaria is in flower.  This plant produces early flowers for bees.  There are few other options available for the bees at this time of year

On a Calendula flower an Angle Shades moth caterpillar was basking in the sunshine

Daffodils, yellow and blue crocuses are now flowering and the few bees and hoverflies on the wing were visiting them on Saturday afternoon.  Also seen was a Peacock and a Small Tortoisehell butterfly

Finally our Echium russula plants are doing well in the cold frame.  These will be transplanted out later and the bees will enjoy them

Monday, 16 January 2017

"Speak well of others..

not of their faults"


A gap in the weekend weather allowed a couple of hours in the garden to continue tidying up.  Work commenced on cutting up the field maple branches.  These have been separated into brash , small timber and bigger timber.  The lengths of timber will eventually be stacked in the woodland walk to make a bug hotel.  The brash, which is an important part of forestry in general, will be shredded and the chippings put back into the garden around the raised beds.  Nothing will be wasted.

All sorted. The brash to one side and the lengths of timber

Already with the removal of the field maples it was noted that the late afternoon winter sun was touching the willow classroom which means that in Spring and Summer the classroom will get all day sunshine which will  help the structure to recover.

Late afternoon sun hitting the willow classroom
Elsewhere general tidying was undertaken by garden volunteers.  There are a lot of leaves to take off of the beds and allow light to hit the many bulbs which are just poking above the ground.  As mentioned the daffodils are on the verge of bursting into flower.  The cold snap has put them back a little but the first should be in flower next weekend.

Daffodils waiting to burst open!

The periwinkle is flowering.  These lovely pastel blue flowers are a delight to the eye in the winter months.

Periwinkle flower (Vinca)

Nearby the Corsican Hellabore is about to flower.  There strange plants produce curious clusters of flowers.  This year once the flowering period is over the plant will be cut back to promote new growth from the centre.

As the day finished and the sun set in the west the grass garden came into its' own.  Backlit from the sun these grasses looked resplendent

The fading sunlight through the grass garden

There is always much to be done in the garden and as Winter slowly becomes Spring work in the garden  increases and the group always welcome new faces.  If you would like to volunteer and help manage this wonderful education asset to the school please get in touch with the office.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

"Nothing ever goes away..

until it has taught us what we need to know"

Pema Chodian

An American Tibetan Buddhist Nun

The garden has been ticking over during the Christmas and New Year festivities.  The soil has been too wet to work without causing damage so tidying up here and there, routine maintenance and repairing has been the order of the day.  There are still a lot of flowers out and have been over the New Year.

Geranium 'Rozanne' is still in flower much to the pleasure of the few bees still about

Bright Calendula's

Even Strawberries are flowering and forming!

The last of the raspberries- the blackbirds haven't found them yet!

The peanut butter plant is thriving in the shelter of banana plants and gingers

Colourful 'Salvia' still flowering in profusion

Attractive seed head of the ginger giving some winter interest

Plenty of interest in the grass garden

The grass garden

Iris reticulata appearing under the paper bark birch tree

In the Jurassic garden the chain ferns are slowing increasing in size.  By next summer they should look spectacular.  The name is derived from the delicate marking on the fronds

Chain Fern

One of the tit nest boxes had been destroyed by a Great-spotted Woodpecker who enlarged the hole looking for food inside.  They will often take young chicks from a box in the breeding season.  A new front has been made for the box and then re-positioned.

The damaged front to the nest box

All made good and ready for 2017!

Over the past two years the willow classroom has slowly been dying off on one corner of the structure.  This is because the Field Maples which were planted prior to the willow classroom have now grown so large and tall that they are starving the willow of light for photosynthesis of the leaves and also taking ground water away which willow thrives on.  These Field Maples have been cut down and then fresh Willow can be sourced, rooted and planted to replace to dead area.  The Field Maples trunks will be coppiced at ground level to encourage new growth but this will now be kept at a reasonable height to avoid further damage to the classroom.

The smaller sticks and branches will be fed into our shredder and used on the garden and the larger branches will be sawn into sensible lengths and positioned in the woodland walk to create a wildlife hotel which beetles will favour.  Nothing will be wasted or removed from the garden!

The first stage of managing the Field Maples

Nearby the Hazel has produced catkins

The first Hazel catkins of the year.

Finally in the shelter of the garden amongst the woodland walk the daffodils are about to burst into flower.  This is always a high point of the year in the school garden.  Hopefully the next blog update will feature daffodils in flower!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

"People who do not know how to laugh..

are always pompous and self-conceited"

William Makepeace Thackeray

Bad weather has curtailed garden activity lately but a quick look around revealed that the raised bed in the memory garden needed urgent attention.  The wooden posts which have been there since 2008 are starting to rot and there was a fear that the bed would collapse or at the very least dry out. This raised bed has some very interesting ferns growing in it and along with the rotting stumps there are lichens, moulds and fungi.  Although quite small this bed is of great interest and it is the only place in the garden where we record the Lesser Stag Beetle

The wooden retaining posts are slowly rotting
New posts sourced from Mole Valley Farmers

All cut into uniform length for replacing

Storing to keep dry and paint and preserve before re-positioning
The posts will be treated with ducksback and the ends dipped in black damp proofing paint to hopefully prolong their lifespan.

The damp weather has produced some wonderful slime moulds.  Seeming to generate from the last delivery of bark chippings they provided a colourful, if not brief and interesting display

The ox eye daisies which were grown from seed were finally transplanted into the pond area.  Twelve healthy plants were moved from the cold frame and positioned along the sunny side of the pond where we hope next year they will give a good display.  Our friendly Robin was quick on the scene and was hopping about between the trowel and the plants quickly picking out tasty morsels.

The ox-eye daisy plants

"Is that a small worm I see?"

"Come on, keep digging"
In the greenhouse the flowers of the living stones are slowly dying away but the two Crassula plants have developed small flower buds.  One of the cactus plants was also in flower.

The flowering Crassula
The moth trap has continued to be operated on warm nights.  We are particularly keen this time of the year to trap the Oak Rustic moth.  Several specimens were trapped last year.  This rare species has a very small distribution in Dorset and we are keen to prove breeding in the school grounds where it thrives on evergreen Holm Oak trees.

The Robinson Moth trap

Feathered Ranunculus- a master in camouflage

With a break in the weather when calm returned there was an opportunity to set a  small mist net  and these delightful avian visitors were trapped and ringed

Long-tailed Tit

Male Blue Tit
Colour still remains in the garden and there are many flowers still in full bloom.  Along with them the trees are also looking good as the lack of a hard frost has meant that the trees have still retained many of their leaves.

Cherry trees

Field Maple

The grass garden providing architectural interest and colour
The Field Maple trees will have to be cut back over the winter period as they are contributing to the  demise of one part of the willow classroom.  They have become so big now that they are not only taking moisture away from the ground which the willow needs but also shading out the plants.  The group have decided that the willow classroom is more important than the Field Maple but a small shrub or tree  will be planted in place of it.

Finally with the school carol service looming an initial test run was made positioning the lighting which is traditionally used. The service will this year be held in the Jurassic Garden where the choir can use the lookout platform and the service  will carry much better and heard by everyone