school garden

school garden

Thursday, 26 June 2014

At last......!

In what can only be described as a 'blogflash' the very  latest good news is that on tuesday Henry arrived at 8.00am with his digger and has now prepared the ground ready for the garden group to proceed with the Jurassic Garden project.

The ground was first raked and we now have a large pile of 'stuff' to get rid of but most of it is of an organic nature so we can compost a lot of it down.  The larger pieces will be taken to the green skip at the recycling centre as we cannot really handle them.

The machine did in five hours what the garden group would have taken weeks to do. There is a little bit of work to finish off and then we can mark out and start the ammonite shaped path.  We already have the path edging and posts- made from recycled plastic

The Jurassic Garden will not happen over night. There is still a lot of manual work to be done and of course we need funds to purchase the expensive large ferns,shrubs etc fitting for such a garden.

More reason to visit us then on July 5th when the garden is open.  Final details later

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The bigger picture...

Over the weekend the garden group discovered some very interesting insects. A couple of them were new to our ever growing list.  All were found close to the HQ building where the hive of activity this weekend was the very industrious sight of small black mining bees digging up sand from between the bricks.  These excavations were not made by ants but by small black bees.  These small bees were very busy digging into the sand between the bricks where the females would have laid an egg. The bee would then fly off for a few sorties gathering pollen which it stored in the hole underground for the larva to feed on once the egg had hatched.

Excavated sand between the bricks

 Bee excavating hole in the sand

Close up of one of the mining sp.bee

Hopefully we can identify this species from close up photographs. There are several small black mining bees. Andrena, Halictus and Lasioglossum are all small ground nesting bee families

At that point we can move onto the next insect.  A Nomad bee - a cleptoparasite- which preys on ground nesting bees.  This insect Nomada goodeniana waits close by and watches the female bee as she digs the burrow and lays her egg. Then while the bee is off foraging for pollen to store underground this nomad bee nips in quick and lays her egg.  A sort of cuckoo!  The nomad larva has a ready supply of pollen handy collected by somebody else!

Nomada goodeniana- a cleptoparasite bee

The next insect was most likely Ectemnius cavifrons. This is a wasp which preys on hoverflies.  There were plenty of hoverflies around the HQ shed.  It was first spotted flying around one of the apple trees then settled on the kiwi plant.  It was a much larger insect than the previous Nomad bee. It was eventually tracked down and caught while trying to enter a small hole in the wooden structure of the HQ shed. The pictures below are from the internet.  We hope to have our own pictures in the next few days and will publish them.

Ectemnius cavifrons- a hunting wasp

Ectemnius cavifrons- hunting wasp.

Just another example of the wonderful world in which we live in.  Attention to detail and acute observation with an awareness of our surroundings reveals a lot. There is much to learn. Even in the world of insects - and these are quite small insects- there is so much interest.


"Weeds are flowers too, when you get to know them"

a quote from Eyore, Winnie-the-Pooh.  A.A.Milne

The garden group celebrated the longest day on Saturday with a timely BBQ. Our weekend entomologist cooked for us and made a splendid job. With Rosemary clippings  thrown onto the hot coals the food tasted wonderful. It is hoped that this summer the weather will be kinder and allow more BBQs in this magnificent setting

On the following day though we turned to the jobs in hand.  A lot was done in what proved to be a very hot day.  The temperature in the greenhouse at midday with both doors open and the roof vents was +33C.  The tea plants and the rice plants are enjoying the heat and growing well.

The first job was to tidy the tool shed and by the time we had finished it looked ready for another six months

The tidy tool shed

Around the garden things are growing fast.  There are still a few class beds which have not been planted up though.  Hopefully they will be within the next week or so.

General view towards the Orchard

The hanging baskets have been positioned now- Begonia 'Inferno'

The Runner Beans are growing fast with plenty of flowers
A walk around at the end of the day revealed a splendid array of flowers which were looked at in detail

Californian Poppy

Californian Poppy in detail

Passion flower

The bed of Thyme

A showy clematis

A more delicate clematis- resembling the native ones found in Europe


The final job of the day was to tidy the summer house or garden HQ as we call it.  As the weather looked good for the next week we decided to put out some of the pupils craft objects from last year which we have kept under cover over winter.

In fine weather  the newly installed windmills were enjoying the gentle breeze.  As we left the Aeolian wind pipes started to play.  A productive weekend for the garden group

Windmill enjoying the light breeze
As a footnote and reminder the Garden Open Day will be July 5th. More details nearer the day. Offers of help are welcome and can be left in the school office.

Sunday, 15 June 2014


"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught"

Oscar Wilde

This weekend the garden group has been busy tidying up and slowly getting the garden ready for the Open Day (more later) and the National Garden Scheme Open days on July 19th and 20th.

The recent spell of warm weather has brought a lot of the plants on and they have made considerable growth.  The vegetables in particular have made a lot of progress.

The Mange tout are flowering well now and the first of the the crop has appeared
Mange Tout have to be picked hard once the pods start forming.  The harder you pick them the more you get.  The taste is fantastic when freshly picked - even when eaten raw! 

The Broad Beans have been attacked by Blackfly but a fine spray of soapy water should help

The James Grieve apple tree in the WW2 garden has plenty of fruit this year

The potato crop is just starting to flower.
The un-mown patches of long grass are paying off and insect life has increased considerably.  Not only it is environmentally more friendly, the sea of flowering grass heads looks amazing in the evening light.

The sea of flowering grasses in the pond area
Plenty of butterflies have been seen over the weekend and the third record of the Rose Chafer.  The bright emerald green beetle whirring around crash landing into the humus rich soil.

The Rose Chafer
The insect was watched as it dug into the ground and laid eggs in the compost

Common Blue (male)

Red Admiral

Speckled Wood
The school garden has a good population of Speckled Wood butterflies.  They favour the area around the willow classroom which offers the dappled shade which they like

Finally a mention that it is intended to open the School garden on July 5th from 14.00-16.30.  More details later but it is hoped that refreshments will be served and a range of games set up in and around the school grounds for all to enjoy.  Watch this space!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Finished at last!

Last weekend the garden group finally finished the new fence and gate into the school garden.

It was decided to make the gate a little more interesting and after a couple of suggestions the group finally got the jig saw out and cut the final pattern as seen in the pictures.  With the fence and gate now complete the group can return to gardening matters.  There is much to do!  Over the past two weeks much of the garden has produced a lot of growth and this needs tying up or cutting back.

Two wild plants have appeared by the pond - namely Comfrey and Hedge Woundwort.  Both plants are mentioned in old herbal books


Comfrey flowers

Comfrey is useful in the healing of minor wounds, both internal and external and it can be used for minor injuries of the skin, where it will work to increase cell production, causing wounds to heal over rapidly. It can be used internally for stomach and duodenal ulcers, where it will have the same effect. Comfrey is also helps sooth irritated tissues and reduces inflammation and assists with the healing of broken bones.  Indeed an old name for the plant is Knitbone.  It was known to the Romans for its healing powers

Hedge Woundwort

The whole plant is styptic in that its main use was to stem the flow of blood. The plant also yields a yellow dye. The stem produces a strong fibre which was used historically. Modern day science has proved that the plant has natural anti septic properties. 

Both plants are visited by bees. Certain flies are also attracted to them.. The shape of the flower means that only long tongued insects can get at the nectar

Remaining on the insect theme a new species was spotted in the garden in the week.  It was a hover fly which mimics a red tailed bumble bee. It is called Merodon equestris.

Merodon equestris
The picture is from the internet.  The insect flew before the camera could be produced. Also known as the Narcissus bulb fly it feeds on pollen from the flowers of lilies and narcissus which includes daffodils!

The larvae of these flies are known pests found on the bulbs of these flowers. This is unusual as most of the larvae of these species prey on aphids.  It is thought that the mimicry helps avoid predation from birds.

The mosaic patches of long grass left about the garden are already  paying dividends.  A lot of native plants are now coming through including buttercups and red clover. The clover is especially important for bees. Long grass is favoured by many moth species including the Crambidae. These are small long thin moths which are often disturbed when sweeping through grass. Hopefully it will not be too long before these appear in the garden.

A typical Crambidae moth

A lucky glance in the bee nest box revealed a Red Mason Bee actually building a nesting chamber. The bees have been very busy over the past week.

Red Mason Bee working on a new nesting chamber

New cells showing the egg and deposited pollen store.

Over the past year the population of these bees, and others, about the garden  has increased considerably. Indication perhaps that the school garden continues to enhance and encourage wildlife.

Finishing with a shot of the intense blue sky today.

The echiums are still blooming and covered in bees.  Five species were recorded on one spike. We are nurturing many  plants which we hope will flower next year.