school garden

school garden

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


"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.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Enjoying the dragonflies..

"Do not speak unless it improves on silence"

This week's quote is taken from Tibetan teaching.  During the week when the working party was taking a pause it was so calm and peaceful you could hear the clicking from the wings of the dragonflies feeding over the garden.

Three species of dragonflies were noted in the garden one afternoon recently - perhaps the most interesting one was the Southern Hawker. An irregular visitor to the pond but it has been seen egg laying there in previous years.

Southern Hawker

The cabbage and curly kale plants have been devastated by the caterpillars of the large white butterfly.  The caterpillars are often cryptic to see but these two were caught unawares basking in the sun

In the bee nesting box many of the Red Mason Bees have hatched  but it appears that perhaps these boxes are not so good for the bees as spiders get inside them and spin cobwebs there and the newly hatched bees fly straight into the cobweb and fall prey to the spider.  A design fault maybe but the bees deserve better than this.  A modification will be considered.

The bee box in the pond area
Inside the box- several dead bees can be seen
Elsewhere in the garden Mrs Davidson's fig tree has produced a lot of fruit in the first year.

Ripe figs- ready for eating
In Mrs Legg's bed there is a profusion of colour and perhaps the most curious are the Mexican Hats which were sown last year

Mexican Hat flowers
In the Jurassic Garden work on the path continues.  The main run of the path leading into the ammonite shaped centre piece had been laid and secured. The recycled edging has proved to be a good choice and is very flexible.  The posts which came with them are also very strong.

The entrance which leads in to the garden

The stubby posts work well in the very hard ground here!

The path into the garden area

Lengths were joined using sawn-off bolts and hammered together
At one stage six lengths of edging were joined together to enable the garden group to get a good round curve instead of fixing one length to another. This required some considerable man-handling but luckily some visitors were only to pleased to help!

The garden has also been visited on several afternoons recently by our friends next door in Highclere House who have enjoyed wandering around the garden and taking in the peace and quiet here.

Finally the Sparrowhawk which regularly flies over the garden was caught taking a bath the other afternoon.  Some stealth was required but a couple of pictures were taken before it took off again

Monday, 4 August 2014

Moving on.....

"Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future"

John F. Kennedy

This weekend the garden group forged on with two projects running side by side.  The first project is the upgrade and replanting of part of the memory garden and the other project is the kick start  to the path in the Jurassic garden.

The path edging is made of recycled plastic and is very flexible and we hope that we can achieve the ammonite shape easily by bending the plastic in an ever decreasing circle.  Time will tell as we get nearer the centre! The retaining posts for the edging are also made of recycled plastic.

In the memory garden the old dogwood which had taken over in the sensory grass bed has been removed and just the last few roots remain to be dug out. Already the flood of light onto the existing ornamental grasses has improved them and they are now standing up 'proud' and waving in the breeze.  Once the roots are all out a new membrane will be laid and new plants landscaped into position.

With the overgrown dogwood removed and the 'Santolina' severely trimmed back the existing sensory garden can be reclaimed and replanted.

Above the pond this afternoon at one time no less than 17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies were zipping about hunting for midges and small prey.

Migrant Hawker dragonfly resting on a cane
Also a spectacular Jersey Tiger - a day flying moth was seen.  Too quick for our cameraman but this picture from the internet.  A coastal species increasing in range in recent years

Often the hind wing is orange not red- the Jersey Tiger
We may have discovered our first 'cuckoo' bumble bee in the garden over the weekend.  This might be Barbutt's Cuckoo Bee but we need to delve deeper into the text books to confirm

It is hoped that next weekend we can forge ahead with the Jurassic garden path and also put some new plants in the sensory garden.

We have downloaded the weather station for July and the temperatures in the school garden for the middle of the month are very interesting. It was a month to remember!

As can be seen the temperatures peaked at just over 30C on the 25th and 26th July.

Finally an interesting migratory hoverfly was also seen over the weekend.  The Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria was spotted several times.

This formidable looking insect mimics the Hornet and the larvae live in wasps nests where they are tolerated.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Collared Doves

A late update on the Collared Doves

The birds grew very quickly over the week

Yesterday they had fledged and left the nest.  We managed to ring the chicks before they left which may at a later date reveal some history in their whereabouts

The NGS weekend

"A man of courage is also full of faith"

A quote from Cicero-  a Roman philosopher, orator and statesman among other things and he is said to be possibly the greatest man who influenced the future of language on future generations. Following a power struggle he was assassinated in 43BC

Planning for the NGS weekend went well despite the weather forecast looking a little unsettled on the Saturday.  We were not deterred and  put faith firmly on the front line.  With everything ready for a 13.00 opening the heavens opened but just for ten minutes and then the dark clouds scurried away leaving blue sky and happy hearts.  On Sunday we enjoyed fine weather all day and a steady stream of visitors.

A few pictures of the garden and then some of the NGS weekend

The timing of the poppy flowers was spot on amongst the barley!

Globe Artichokes- always stunning in flower

Begonia 'inferno' - the hanging baskets have excelled this year

Agastache-  planted by the runner beans have encouraged plenty of bees

The Penstemons in Mrs Legg's flower bed look magnificent

Down came the rain!

The ten minute storm is almost over!

NGS visitors enjoying the afternoon sunshine

The contents of the greenhouse drew a lot of interest!

Taking it all in!

The 'Campanula's flowered on the Sunday

Bee laden with pollen on the Cornflowers

The nesting Collared Doves timed the hatch perfect for Sunday as well!

The weekend was very successful with just under 100 visitors and we made just over £300 for the charity work of the NGS.  The pressure is now off the garden group and with the school holidays in full swing there is time now to catch up on jobs and enjoy the garden as much as possible.  A BBQ was deemed very fitting after another successful summer term.

The local Herring Gull was very interested with the contents of the BBQ grill!

Over the holidays the group will now forge ahead with the Jurassic Garden and also revamp a part of the Memory Garden creating a more sensory feel to it.

Finally we thank the visitors to the NGS weekend and hope that enjoyed the experience.