Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A kind word.....

...is like a Spring Day!

An old Russian proverb.

The Living Stones in the greenhouse are now at their best.  One can imagine carpets of these flowers in the deserts in Namibia.

The Living Stones

Also in the greenhouse the sundew is the best it has ever been.  Repotting it earlier in the year seems to have done the trick.  A close up photograph shows the masses of sticky globules which inquisitive flies and other insects stick to if they get too close.

The sundew plant
The Venus Fly-trap is also doing well having been re-potted.  The plant has grown many new leaves and the they are beginning to redden up.


However the most interesting news in the greenhouse is that we have produced rice again.  Our minature rice paddy has sprouted many stalks of rice bearing seeds.  Well worth a look.

Rice!

Downloading the weather station to obtain the September figures shows how good a late summer we are having.  With temperatures almost daily over 20C  and the pressure chart showing consistently high. (click the charts to enlarge)

Chart showing the high pressure in September

Glorious high temperatures in September!

Work in the Jurrassic garden continues.  The basic ammonite shape has now been reached.  The 'bendy' edging boards have reached their limit of endurance and the finishing the centre piece is up for discussion!  We have a few ideas.  The path to the eco-loo has also been levelled and staked. One of the next jobs is to start to source infill which will help us move on again.  The site will be covered with a porous membrane to stop weeds coming through but allow rainfall to seep through.






A new insect was discovered recently in the garden.  Keen eyes spotted a spider hunting wasp dragging a dead spider over the brickwork outside the HQ shed.  The insect was a spider hunting wasp.  A member of the Pompilidae group. This is a tricky group but hopefully the flight period and location might help narrow down the species

Spider-hunting wasp
The wasp kills the spider with a very venemous bite and then carries or drags it back to the intended nest site. The spider is buried and the egg laid on top of the spider.  A close look at the wasp reveals that it is heavily armoured. Some species will tackle quite large spiders!

Finally proof, it it is needed, that autumn is just around the corner.  The Field Maple leaves are starting to turn gold and the setting sun is getting low in the sky as the photograph of it setting behind the hazel bush shows

Field Maple leaf

The setting sun

Monday, 22 September 2014

Choose to be optimistic...

...it 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

Comma

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

A TESTING TIME.....

"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

CLEANING UP A LITTLE..........

"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.