school garden

school garden

Monday, 25 January 2016

"Better bread with water..

than cake with trouble"

 Russian proverb

The wet weather in early January has curtailed gardening operations.  We cannot dig or weed as the soil is so wet there is fear of compacting it which is not good.  However there is always something to do.  Many small jobs have been carried out. 

The weather over the past two weeks has been very varied.  The garden has seen 40mph gusts of wind, frost, ice on the school pond and over the weekend temperatures of 12C.

This was the first time that the pond had frozen over this winter.

Detail on the ice

Nature has a way of creating wonderful design as shown on this frosted leaf

Over the weekend the finishing touches were made to the Jurassic Lookout platform.  The stepping stones which allow access have been laid and it is now clear to be used.  We hope that it will be used constructively and provide the children with the excitement of a different view over the Jurassic Garden for drawing and observations. The structure is not a play item.

The stepping stones leading to the Jurassic platform

It was a bit of a frog weekend!  There seemed to be frogs everywhere.  One -a regular friend- lives in the green tool shed.  It usually scuttles away before the camera can be produced but this time we managed to photograph it!  Another frog seemed keen to pose for the camera.

One morning whilst enjoying the daffodils a Hoverfly  was found sheltering from the frost in the cup of the flower.  This winter we have seen several Hoverflies which is very unusual.  This one awaits identification

This wasp was also discovered in a lethargic state.  It is a Common wasp - identified by the inverted mushroom room shape on the face.  The jaws are wide open and coloured yellow.  Another unusual winter find.

It was time to prune the James Grieve apple tree in the World War 2 garden.  The tree looks much better and hopefully will produce another crop of delicious apples.

The pruned apple tree
The Snowdrops have also appeared and around the garden there are small clumps of these delightful flowers.


Work in the greenhouse has continued.  We have acquired a few new succulent plants and a splendid cactus.
The cactus has very large curved spines.  It is of the Ferocactus type and it is thought from old documents that the Mohave Indians used the spines in early days as fish hooks and the central vein stripped from yucca leaves as fishing line.  The spines are very sharp and the plant has to be treated with great respect.  It has wonderful flowers which in the wild are pollinated by birds and insects.

Ferocactus or Fish Hook cactus
Two other succulents have been sourced

Possibly Echiveria agavoides

Possibly Haworthia limifolia

The cold weather has spurred the Pseudoplanax plants and they have grown considerably over the past two months and now showing fabulous green leathery leaves.


After  working in the gloom and the grey for most of the day it was a bit of a boost to see the sun appear just before it set in the West.  We close this blog update with the obligatory sunset picture!

The setting sun

Thursday, 31 December 2015

"A bad word whispered....

...will echo a thousand miles"

Chinese proverb

After several weeks of grey skies and rain it was a delight to see the sunshine during this last week.  The first daffodil to flower in the garden this year was on January 12th.  It was a complete surprise then to see that the daffodils had flowered again and many were in full bloom on December 19th.  This is almost a month early from the usual date.  Also in flower were the Pulmonarias.  We can only hope that when the bees awaken in the Spring there will be some flowers for them to visit on their first forage trips.

December daffodils

Corsican Hellabore in flower

A lone Nasturtium flower!
The warmth had stirred a large Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen and the biggest surprise was a Painted lady butterfly which darted amongst the remaining flowers and settled in the sunshine on the picket fence by the pond for a quick 'grabshot' to record the event.

Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee enjoying the December sun

Painted lady butterfly doing the same!

Not much gardening can be done until the ground dries after the days of rain.  In the greenhouse the Sweet pea plants are doing well and have been stopped to promote plenty of side shoots

Sweet Pea plants
In the Jurassic Garden the plants and ferns are still growing and looking healthy.  The chain ferns are producing many new fronds and the banana plants still producing new leaves.  The planting is slowly maturing and by next summer it is hoped that the Jurassic garden will start to look good with plenty of impressive plants.  A Ginkgo bilboa tree has to be sourced early in the new year.  This is one of the oldest members of the tree family and a place has been kept clear for it. The pictures below are from the internet.  It is an amazing, if not slow growing, tree!

Ginkgo leaves in the Spring
The same leaves in the Autumn
Some shots of the Jurassic garden.  The green carpet around the ferns is called ' mind-your-own-business'. It is very invasive but will cover the ground quickly holding the earth together.  It must though be kept away from the crown of the ferns.

This blog usually closes with a view of the skies and tradition holds.  As the sun sank in the west the clouds were edged with silver.

Finally a very Happy New Year to our readers!

Monday, 14 December 2015

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled...

but a fire to be kindled"


Despite being December it is still very mild this year.  In the garden there are many signs that plants are still growing and thriving in the unseasonal temperatures.

The Tree ferns are still thriving

The growing point of the Gunnera plant- an unusual pink

A view of the Chain ferns, Pseudopanax and Tree Fern.

New shoots on the Helianthus- in December!
The leaves have gone but the Kiwi fruits hang on!

 Wildlife too, is still evident.  A casual wander around produced a Buff-tailed Bumble-bee, a Harvestman      ( not a true spider) and a 'Marmalade' Hoverfly.  The hoverfly was very late and basking on an Echium leaf.

Harvestman - not a true spider

'Marmalade' Hoverfly

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

 As the term ends this week for the Christmas break it was only fitting that the Jurassic garden should join in the fun.  Our two resident dinosaurs were quick off the mark. Those teeth do not look  quite so formidable under the cover of a seasonal red hat!

The garden group would like to wish staff, pupils and our friends next door at Gracewell House a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year and we hope to see you all in the garden next Spring armed with packets of seeds and plants!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

"Those who get lost on their way to school..

..will never find their way through life"

A German proverb

Work in the garden continues despite the shorter days.  The group has been making the most of the many leaves which have been shed from the sycamore trees around the garden.  They have been regularly swept up and bagged up and stored behind the eco-loo.  Over twelve months or so the leaves should turn into a useful compost.  We did similar last year and that compost has now been spread over many of the beds.

All swept up!

Bagged up

Stored out of the way
At the Memory Garden the paperbark birch trees are shedding their outer coat of bark. This is always a spectacular sight. The trees are growing well now since the large nearby Viburnum bush  was taken out.  The Viburnum was shielding a lot of light from the trees but now they are sorting themselves out.

The Celeriac plants are almost ready to harvest.  They were very slow growing and took a while to establish but now over the Christmas period we can enjoy this delicious vegetable roasted in the oven. The taste is quite exquisite!

The Celeriac plants
The major project after Christmas will be the pond.  A lot of vegetation needs to be removed and the the bank taken back.  Although the tall plants look impressive during the summer months they do keep light away from the pond.  Some rogue willow has also self seeded. This last year we were plagued with thick green algae which is not desireable.  By removing a lot of vegetation we will open up water which will help dragonflies and damselflies next year find suitable places to breed and also enable pond skaters and water boatman to swim freely.   The pond is also covered in duckweed which arrived mysteriously.  This also has a long term harmful effect as it carpets the water surface.  There is a lot to do but in the Spring the results should be beneficial!

The pond- now in need of a lot of attention!
 Flowers still hang on in the garden.  The purple Agastache is still flowering although there are very few insects still about to make use of it.  However a couple of late flying buff-tailed bumble bees are still on the wing.  A lone Penstemon is also still flowering.


It is also a time to start digging over the beds and let the weather break down any vegetable matter.  The worms also help with this process.  Most of the class beds have been dug over now and work started last weekend on the edible beds around the summer house.

Digging over the old Sweet Corn patch

Finally it is announced that the Christmas Carol service held annually  in the School Garden has been unfortunately cancelled this year.  We hope that it will return in 2016!