school garden

school garden

Thursday, 16 April 2015

"There is nothing as eloquent... a rattlesnake's tail"

A Navajo Indian saying.

The fine warm weather over the weekend meant that the working party managed to get much done.  A lot of gardening was undertaken including weeding, pruning, thinning out and planting up. One major job was to tidy the sheds.  Another was to refresh the paint on the HQ shed.

The window frames get a refresh

All tidy for the time being!

The potatoes were planted up along with the barley and field poppies

The potato patch.  Desiree variety this year

The barley and poppy patch is pigeon proofed!

In the pond the first Marsh Marigolds are flowering and also White Deadnettle.  Despite best efforts the green algae is building up in the pond again.  Some barley straw has been sourced and after removing as much algae as we can next weekend we will put the straw in and hope that the magic works!

White Deadnettle

Marsh Marigold
Dwarf tulips in the grass bed

Thrift in flower also in the grass bed
In the machinery shed as the bits and pieces were taken out for sorting and cleaning we found a sea of woodlice all over the floor.

The sea of Woodlice
Bee species continue to increase as the weather warms up.  There were plenty about over the weekend but this one Andrena bicolor is a real stunning insect

Andrena bicolor
The Alkanet is growing quickly and is much loved by bees, including Honey Bees

The tree ferns are responding well to watering.  New fronds are now showing and we are hoping that by the end of next week there will be visible evidence as the fronds unwind.

New fronds appearing

Nearby the Royal Fern Osmunda regalis is also starting to move.  This fern should grow quite tall and has beautiful delicate fronds.  It does like the soil quite wet!

Osmunda regalis
The Rhubarb is responding well to being forced.  This year we have seen our best early crop of Rhubarb and hopefully we can soon harvest the first stems which will stimulate the plant to keep producing more leaves.

The forced Rhubarb
 Nearby the planted Eschalots have all sprouted and we look forward to a good crop.  This long  variety of French shallots  are the best and tastiest for casseroles.

The bed of Eschallots

The refreshed Aeolian wind organ has now been linked with decorative flags from Tibet.  These colourful flags convey hope, prosperity and happiness.

The wind organ with the flags fluttering behind

The Amelanchier  which was moved in the Autumn last year is now enjoying the new position which gives it more light. The beautiful delicate flowers appear before the leaves.  The flowers resemble a snow storm.

Amelanchier flowers
Finally with the day and night time temperatures now rising quickly it will soon be time to start sowing vegetable seeds. The last few evenings with clear skies have offered good views of the Internation Space Station as it zoomed over the school garden.  The following picture is by Dave Walker from Earth Sky

With warm Summer evenings approaching it is worth looking to the heavens to watch this amazing spectacle

Monday, 6 April 2015

"Let us put our minds together....

..and see what we can make for our children"

Attributed to Chief Sitting Bull. (1831-1890)

 Last Wednesday we were advised that our two tree ferns (Antarctica dicksonia) had arrived and were ready for collection. They just fitted into the car with a few centimetres to spare.  The next evening they had been planted and the intensive period of regular watering had begun.  Until the fronds appear the plants must be watered every day.  Over the weekend in almost summer conditions other plants which had been held in the school greenhouse were planted out.  Instantly the Jurassic Garden took on a new appearance.  With Tetrapanax, Pseudopanax, Shuttlecock Ferns, Chain Ferns, Royal Fern, and Gunnera all planted up the previous areas of landscaped earth took on a new dimension.

A tight fit!

The first Tree Fern is positioned

Bananas and Geranium maderense are planted in the sunny area.

A view across the garden with the ferns in place
The Gunnera was planted at the rear of the garden where it would be allowed to develop and generate huge leaves

The Gunnera showing the first leaf

With warmer weather now firmly established  it was time to plant out the Sweet Peas which have been in the greenhouse since the seed was planted on November.  Again we make no apologies but have planted our firm favourite... culpani  which has a wonderful scent carried on dark red and blue flowers.

On Easter Sunday the school garden was used to broaden the search area of the Easter egg hunt which had been set up by Highclere House.  Our good friends next door were invited in to try to find the many hidden Easter eggs which had been carefully positioned around the garden- some easy to find and some not so easy to find.

Start searching...

Almost there....

One of the more difficult ones to spot

Two eggs floating in the pond on a raft
Over the weekend many butterflies were recorded.  Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Brimstone, Comma and Peacock were seen along with a very unseasonal Hummingbird Hawk Moth on Easter Monday.  In recent years this species has been suspected of  hiberating along the South Coast although with the recent fine weather and favourable winds this could well have been a migrant.  Talking of migrants a few Swallows were recorded over the garden over the weekend and plenty of Chiffchaffs and a single Willow Warbler.  Summer is on the way.  Bee species were also evident on Easter Monday with no less than 7 species recorded including  Andrena haemorrhoa. 

The working party is set for next weekend.  Come along on Saturday and enjoy the peaceful environment which is the school garden.  There are many jobs to do.  From tidying the tool shed to painting the fence you will be most welcome!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"If you have a garden and a library..... have everything you need".

  Marcus Tullius Cicero 

With the construction of the Jurassic garden almost complete the group have spent the  past week or so doing repairs and gardening proper.  The Aeolian wind organ had been looking a little tired since being installed just after the Olympic celebrations and it was time for a refresh.  The wood itself was staining with the weather and it was decided to put a touch of Japan in the garden by painting them bright signal red.  The result provided a stunning impact in the garden.

The refreshed bamboos
 The school competition to name the Pteranodon resulted in the name 'Terry' being declared the winner with the casting vote being given to the members of the garden group.  Below 'Terry' we have now varnished the eggs to try to repel the weather and planted  several ferns which will enhance the area

The ferns have been specially chosen as they will spread quickly and cover the ground. They will enjoy the semi-shade which will be improved as the Spring slides into Summer.

Frog Spawn becoming tadpoles
In the pond the masses of frog spawn are now developing into tadpoles.  The tadpoles will have  a struggle to survive as there are many things living in the pond which will prey on them. Newts and dragonfly larvae are very partial to the tadpoles and are adapted to catch them. Even birds will take them and the innocent Blackbird would not turn away such an easy meal.

Both the Borage and the Alkanet have started to flower and this will result in some of the early bee species being recorded.  Both plants are very good for bee species at his time of year.



The winter pansies which have struggled with the cold nights have finally got going.  The leaves which were tarnished by the cold nights have now greened up and the flowers are appearing.  Unfortunately the pigeons are eating the flowers. They are also eating the daffodils. Beak marks are very obvious on them!

Winter pansies doing well
In the corner which was tidied up by the tool shed the new' Stumpery' is taking shape. Various shaped stumps have been positioned and amongst them have been planted an interesting variety of ferns.  Included with them has been a couple of delicately white flowered Vinca 'gertrude jekyll' plants which will over time enhance the area.

The 'Stumpery' taking shape.

As day ended the night sky appeared.  The Moon with Venus showed itself in the West.

The day draws to a close!

The working party in the garden will be held on Saturday 11th April. All are welcome.  Old friends and new.  There is much to do to get the garden ready for the summer.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

"You cannot open a book....

...without learning something"

A quote from Confucius

The garden group has been busy making some purpose built compost bins.  The plastic ones did not seem to work that well so we decided to make some traditional bins.  It will enable us to turn the compost regularly and get it back onto the plots

The compost bins will be finished next weekend. We have used decking planks as they hopefully will last for many years.

Elsewhere we have start planting up ready for the Jurassic garden ferns and trees.  The first plants to go in were the Fatsias and the Corsican Hellabore.

Next weekend we will plant out the Banana plants and some of the smaller ferns.

Spring continues in the garden with many flowers now showing.  The Pulmonarias are useful at this time of the year for early bees.


The first Cellandine of the year

Anemone blanda - delightful flowers!

Buff-tailed Bumblebee basking in the sun


One of the clumps of Primroses
Finally viewing of the eclipse over Weymouth was hindered by cloud cover but now and again the sun did shine through. A couple of quick 'grab shots' were taken at one of these brief showings

Details of the proposed Easter holiday working party will be posted next time.  Come along and enjoy the birdsong, the butterflies and the bees!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

"Beware of the man who does not talk...

..and the dog that does not bark"

Cheyenne Indian Proverb

With fine weather forecast for the weekend it was decided to order the fine limestone aggregate to finish off the paths in the Jurassic Garden.  Portland Stone delivered the 3 cubic metres of stone at 10.00 and by 13.30 it had all been wheel-barrowed into the garden and made good with the wacker plate.

By early afternoon the task had been completed

Raking level and the vibrating plate making good the surface

The view from our eco-loo

The finished piece!
The masses of frogspawn

The frogspawn was laid exactly one week later than last year.  At one point during the day 37 frogs were counted together at the shallow end of the pond, but there were more swimming about so a realistic total of 50 is quite likely

The crocuses are attracting early bees and several species have been seen in the garden this week.  Some small andrena types and along with the more familiar Buff-tailed Bumblebee a queen Tree Bumblebee was spotted flying around the garden probably looking for  a nest site.

Tree Bumblebee
Some time was spent in the WW2 garden and by the end of the afternoon it had been tidied up ready for planting.

The smaller minature daffodils are now appearing across the garden.  They, too, were attracting insects

The final job of the weekend was to start work on the new composting area.  We are making three large compost 'bins' which should make things easier in the garden and allow us to turn the maturing compost regularly and get it back on the ground quicker.  The holes were dug and the posts cemented in.  Next week we can hopefully finish the task.

The new composting area

Finally, further proof that Spring is nearby the first Hoverfly of the year was spotted sunning itself on the garden sign.  A common species, Eristalis pertinax, is one of the first to emerge. The front and middle legs are yellow.

The first Hoverfly of the year
We are hoping to organise a working party over the Easter holidays.  Details will appear on the blog later.