school garden

school garden

Monday, 24 June 2013

Recent wildlife activity

Sunning itself on one of the Jerusalem Artichoke leaves the other morning was this delightful micro moth.  It is called Pammene regiana. Quite fittingly the artichokes are growing under a sycamore tree.  The larvae from this moth live just under the bark of sycamore and clearly this one had pupated and hatched and appeared right where it should have - in close proximity to a sycamore tree

Pammene regiana

Galls have appeared on some of the willow leaves. Either a sawfly or a midge- it is thought that this gall is of the midge variety.  Possibly  it is Iteomyia major.  However not being experts we are open to constructive comment. If it is the midge then in each of the cupsules is a small midge larva which hatches out from the underside of the leaf.  Willow/Salix is prone to attack from many of these gall forming species

The leaf galls
The Collared Dove chicks are growing fast and should fledge at the end of this week.  The chicks were ringed with an individually numbered BTO bird ring which will give these birds a history if they are recovered elsewhere

The two Collared Dove chicks

We have put aside one of the bird nesting boxes in the hope that we can attract the Tree Bumblebee. This species is spreading rapidly across England and has been seen in Dorset in Bridport, Puddletown and Poole so there is no reason why it should occur in Weymouth.  Moss has been put into the nest box in the hope of attracting them.  This picture is from the internet. It is a very handsome bumblebee

We are trialing  a new type of Sweet Pea this year. It is called Tutankamen Blue.  The flowers are small and delicate are of the most amazing blue.  Hopefully they will last till the end of July for the NGS open days

Sweet Pea- Tutankamen Blue

Our first Painted Lady butterfly was seen at the end of last week. A sign of hopefully better and warmer weather to come.  

The Garden Open Day brought many visitors to our varied beds and habitats.  We had a lot of positive and good comments. The few pictures below were taken prior to 'opening time'.  The day raised just under £200 for the garden funds.

The school weather during May

The temperature is still slowly climbing. Rainfall was considerably more than the past two months with the gauge showing in units mm from 1460mm to 1625mm. Total of 155mm

Day Midday Temp C Highest Temp C Wind Speed m/s Wind Direction Air Pressure
1 15.1 18.1 3.1 N/NE 1021
2 16.7 19.1 2.7 N/NW 1021
3 14.2 15.1 3.7 NW/SW 1020
4 10.9 13.1 6.5 SW 1018
5 14.4 14.6 2.4 S/SE 1020
6 13.7 14.1 2.4 S/SE 1020
7 14.6 16.6 3.1 CYCLONIC 1015
8 12.3 12.3 4.1 S/SE 1005
9 12.9 13.3 6.5 S/SW 1006
10 12.4 13.5 5.4 S/SW 1012
11 12.9 15.2 5.1 S/SW 1010
12 11.9 11.9 5.1 S/SW 1015
13 12.8 13.9 5.8 NW/SW 1013
14 8.1 10.2 5.2 SW/SE 1001
15 13.4 14.1 4.4 CYCLONIC 995
16 12.4 14 2.4 SE/S 997
17 11.8 15.6 2.7 CYCLONIC 1004
18 15.6 18.1 2.4 CYCLONIC 1007
19 12.9 16.3 2.4 CYCLONIC 1011
20 14.1 19.3 3.4 NW 1011
21 16.1 16.9 3.4 NW 1015
22 14.7 18.2 3.1 NW 1019
23 11.2 12.7 5.1 CYCLONIC 1013
24 11.3 12.8 6.8 NW 1008
25 14.8 15.4 3.7 CYCLONIC 1020
26 14.6 15.6 4.1 CYCLONIC 1019
27 13.9 14.7 3.1 SW/SE 1007
28 9.8 10.6 2.4 CYCLONIC 998
29 14.5 15.3 2 CYCLONIC 1003
30 16.7 18.3 3.1 NE/N/NW 1008
31 19 22.8 2.7 CYCLONIC 1018 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Just one more spider.......

Another cracking spider turned up in the greenhouse over the weekend. This one does bite. It is a False Black Widow spider which has now spread across much of Britain

This spider is recognised by the pale crescent on the abdomen. This female was also guarding a nest of eggs.  It was left in peace.  It has a place in the big picture.

Turning the attention to bees and bumble bees we have now identified 11 species in the school  garden. This delightful small bee is an Early Bee.  It is a male and told by the yellow tuft of hair on the face.

Bees play an important part in out lifestyles and need a lot of help at the moment.  Judging from the numbers of bees using the garden we are certainly doing our part.  Bees are found in all areas of the garden, the pond area, the flower beds and the vegetable beds.  However the Buff-tailed bumblebees are not playing the game!  They are feeding from the Broad Bean flowers but not actually pollinating them.  The picture below shows a bee piercing the flower at the base to get the pollen rather than crawl in and do what it should be doing. Close observation shows that it has already visited the flower below.  You can see where the bee has 'stabbed' the flower.  This results in the flower dropping off and no bean!

Elsewhere the Collared Dove family are rearing two chicks.  Not the most attractive of chicks but they will grow quickly and should fledge soon.  If they do not then they will fall out of the nest as it is no bigger that the top of a teacup

In the greenhouse the beautiful orange cactus flowers have appeared. Alas they only last one day to see one you will have to be quick.  One of the Pitcher plants had caught a large fly.  The sound of the buzzing insect could be heard as it tried to escape the clutches off the plant.  It cannot get out as there is nowhere inside the plant to grip on to and climb out and escape. As the fly tires it slips down into the base of the plant.  These plants feed on insects and need them to survive as they grow in areas where there are few nutrients.  It would have been wrong to intervene.

Gardening-wise a lot of tidying up was done.  It is the Open Day this Saturday and we are hoping that the weather will be kind and bring lots of visitors.  There will be several games and competitions in garden for children- and adults alike!  We need to keep raising money for our Jurassic Garden.  We look forward to seeing you on Saturday

Finally another picture of the Echiums.  Wonderful towers of flowers.Covered in bees all day long it is a shame that once they have finished flowering they die.  Two years of effort but worth every minute of the wait

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Last weekend the garden group blitzed the greenhouse and  tidied things up.  Whilst removing odd and ends we discovered some fantastic spiders

Although not rare this beauty is called Tegenaria gigantea - a house spider. It is thought that females of this species can exist for several years and can survive several months without food or drink!

Digging deeper into the old piles of plastic flowerpots we found this spider. A species of Steatoda spider- quite possibly  Steatoda bipunctata .Care was taken as some of these species do inflict a painful, although not in England life threatening,  bite.  We had to be particularly careful with this one as close inspection shows that she is guarding her nest of eggs/baby spiders. The deadly Black Widow spider is of the genus.

The nest is the round ball of white silk which cocoons the eggs and baby spiders until they are old enough to hatch out. This species is also called the Rabbit Hutch spider.

In the pond overnight things had also been moving with 8 empty large dragonfly nymph cases counted on the emergent vegetation.  Probably Emperor or Southern Hawker dragonflies.  These empty cases can be keyed out and the species identified. Future work.

Three of the empty dragonfly nymph cases which hopefully can be identified

The Collared Dove is still sitting tight on her nest

The School Garden Open Day is looming- June 22nd - and it is was pleasing to see some recent activity on the class beds with planting and some more very decorative flower pots

Finally the Sweet Peas have started to flower. Our firm favourite is Cupani - which has the most amazing scent and is closely related to the wild sweet pea found growing in Southern Europe

Variety Cupani

A working party is envisaged next weekend June 15th and 16th - contact the school if you would like to help out in this fantastic environmental garden

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Summer weather goes on......

The echium plants  continue to amaze and have even more flowers now as they fill out. The plants are still growing and look fantastic.  Plant architecture at its' best.  They grow wild like this on the Canary Islands.A variety on Tenerife has bright red flowers

A new plant has been sourced for the greenhouse although it actually likes a slightly cooler environment.  This magnificent Monkey Cup pitcher plant can be viewed in the greenhouse for the present but it may have to be moved if things get too hot

Over the past week the warmer weather has spurred a lot of plants into action.

The runner beans finally get moving

Our resident scarecrow is doing  well and keeping the pigeons away from the lettuce plants. Smaller scarecrows have strangely appeared in the guttering alongside the greenhouse and are also keeping the pigeons away from the lettuce seedlings.

In the pond things continue to respond to the warmer weather.  On Saturday it seemed that Azure Damselfly nymphs were queuing up to get out of the pond and start life on the wing.

Empty Azure Damselfly nymph cases lined up on one leaf
The last picture was taken by our young weekend entomologist whose sharp eye misses nothing.

The Blue Tits survived the few wet days and hopefully the chicks will be ringed this week before they fledge.

In the Willow classroom a pair of Collared Doves have built a nest and the female is sitting on eggs. Despite having put their nest in a rather precarious and vulnerable spot the female is becoming very tolerant to disturbance.  We like tolerance. 

Tolerance is not peace,
But from tolerance,
In the near or distant future,
Peace may blossom.
If I cannot have compassion-power,
Let me have forgiveness-power.
If I cannot have forgiveness-power,
Let me have tolerance-power.
If I cannot have tolerance-power,
Let me at least delay
My judgement-power.
-Swami Chinmoy

The female Collared Dove sitting tight on the nest

After our last plea things have started moving in the class beds. This wonderful decorated flower pot has appeared.  Hopefully the start of things to come.  Well done Class  4P for leading the field!