school garden

school garden

Thursday, 31 December 2015

"A bad word whispered....

...will echo a thousand miles"

Chinese proverb

After several weeks of grey skies and rain it was a delight to see the sunshine during this last week.  The first daffodil to flower in the garden this year was on January 12th.  It was a complete surprise then to see that the daffodils had flowered again and many were in full bloom on December 19th.  This is almost a month early from the usual date.  Also in flower were the Pulmonarias.  We can only hope that when the bees awaken in the Spring there will be some flowers for them to visit on their first forage trips.

December daffodils

Corsican Hellabore in flower

A lone Nasturtium flower!
The warmth had stirred a large Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen and the biggest surprise was a Painted lady butterfly which darted amongst the remaining flowers and settled in the sunshine on the picket fence by the pond for a quick 'grabshot' to record the event.

Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee enjoying the December sun

Painted lady butterfly doing the same!

Not much gardening can be done until the ground dries after the days of rain.  In the greenhouse the Sweet pea plants are doing well and have been stopped to promote plenty of side shoots

Sweet Pea plants
In the Jurassic Garden the plants and ferns are still growing and looking healthy.  The chain ferns are producing many new fronds and the banana plants still producing new leaves.  The planting is slowly maturing and by next summer it is hoped that the Jurassic garden will start to look good with plenty of impressive plants.  A Ginkgo bilboa tree has to be sourced early in the new year.  This is one of the oldest members of the tree family and a place has been kept clear for it. The pictures below are from the internet.  It is an amazing, if not slow growing, tree!

Ginkgo leaves in the Spring
The same leaves in the Autumn
Some shots of the Jurassic garden.  The green carpet around the ferns is called ' mind-your-own-business'. It is very invasive but will cover the ground quickly holding the earth together.  It must though be kept away from the crown of the ferns.

This blog usually closes with a view of the skies and tradition holds.  As the sun sank in the west the clouds were edged with silver.

Finally a very Happy New Year to our readers!

Monday, 14 December 2015

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled...

but a fire to be kindled"


Despite being December it is still very mild this year.  In the garden there are many signs that plants are still growing and thriving in the unseasonal temperatures.

The Tree ferns are still thriving

The growing point of the Gunnera plant- an unusual pink

A view of the Chain ferns, Pseudopanax and Tree Fern.

New shoots on the Helianthus- in December!
The leaves have gone but the Kiwi fruits hang on!

 Wildlife too, is still evident.  A casual wander around produced a Buff-tailed Bumble-bee, a Harvestman      ( not a true spider) and a 'Marmalade' Hoverfly.  The hoverfly was very late and basking on an Echium leaf.

Harvestman - not a true spider

'Marmalade' Hoverfly

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

 As the term ends this week for the Christmas break it was only fitting that the Jurassic garden should join in the fun.  Our two resident dinosaurs were quick off the mark. Those teeth do not look  quite so formidable under the cover of a seasonal red hat!

The garden group would like to wish staff, pupils and our friends next door at Gracewell House a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year and we hope to see you all in the garden next Spring armed with packets of seeds and plants!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

"Those who get lost on their way to school..

..will never find their way through life"

A German proverb

Work in the garden continues despite the shorter days.  The group has been making the most of the many leaves which have been shed from the sycamore trees around the garden.  They have been regularly swept up and bagged up and stored behind the eco-loo.  Over twelve months or so the leaves should turn into a useful compost.  We did similar last year and that compost has now been spread over many of the beds.

All swept up!

Bagged up

Stored out of the way
At the Memory Garden the paperbark birch trees are shedding their outer coat of bark. This is always a spectacular sight. The trees are growing well now since the large nearby Viburnum bush  was taken out.  The Viburnum was shielding a lot of light from the trees but now they are sorting themselves out.

The Celeriac plants are almost ready to harvest.  They were very slow growing and took a while to establish but now over the Christmas period we can enjoy this delicious vegetable roasted in the oven. The taste is quite exquisite!

The Celeriac plants
The major project after Christmas will be the pond.  A lot of vegetation needs to be removed and the the bank taken back.  Although the tall plants look impressive during the summer months they do keep light away from the pond.  Some rogue willow has also self seeded. This last year we were plagued with thick green algae which is not desireable.  By removing a lot of vegetation we will open up water which will help dragonflies and damselflies next year find suitable places to breed and also enable pond skaters and water boatman to swim freely.   The pond is also covered in duckweed which arrived mysteriously.  This also has a long term harmful effect as it carpets the water surface.  There is a lot to do but in the Spring the results should be beneficial!

The pond- now in need of a lot of attention!
 Flowers still hang on in the garden.  The purple Agastache is still flowering although there are very few insects still about to make use of it.  However a couple of late flying buff-tailed bumble bees are still on the wing.  A lone Penstemon is also still flowering.


It is also a time to start digging over the beds and let the weather break down any vegetable matter.  The worms also help with this process.  Most of the class beds have been dug over now and work started last weekend on the edible beds around the summer house.

Digging over the old Sweet Corn patch

Finally it is announced that the Christmas Carol service held annually  in the School Garden has been unfortunately cancelled this year.  We hope that it will return in 2016!

Monday, 2 November 2015

"It is better to be slapped with the truth...

than be kissed with a lie"

A Russian proverb

With the Jurassic viewing deck completed the group have returned to gardening.  It was decided to revamp a couple of the beds as they had not been looked at for many years.  The original 'bee bed' has been completely stripped and the plants divided and potted up to overwinter in a holding bed.  The old bed will be dug over several times.  The original plants will be placed elsewhere and it is envisaged that the bed will have a short lavender hedge around the edge and the inside filled with other similar insect loving plants.

The old 'bee bed' being cleared

Globe Artichokes divided and potted up

Around the garden a lot of flowers and colour is still in evidence.  Sunday was a balmy 19C in the garden.  Lots of insects were still on the wing including a Ruddy Darter dragonfly, several Buff-tailed Bumble-bees, a Tree Bumblebee and many hoverflies.  Red Admiral, Painted lady and Speckled Wood butterflies were also noted.

The moth trap was run a few nights last week.  Although getting near the end of the season it is always worth running on a calm night.  Our efforts paid off and we trapped a good moth- the Oak Rustic. A newcomer in Dorset since 2006 having moved from the Channel Islands.  it is thought to be now breeding in the Weymouth area and the foodplant of the larvae is Evergreen Oak-  we have plenty in the grounds! 

The moth trap

Oak Rustic

Angle Shades

Scarce Bordered Straw- an migrant species

In the bird garden a small net was put up and again efforts were rewarded.  A surperb male Firecrest was trapped and ringed- a real jewel of a bird.  Weighing in at just 5 grams these birds migrate large distances.

Male Firecrest

Detail of the head

The flower beds still show off colour

Cosmos flowers

Geranium 'Rozanne'

Lithops in the greenhouse

Periwinkle- a lovely pastel blue flower

The cacti have been replanted and look better for it!

New staging in the greenhouse has given us more room to bring on plants for next Spring

With mild weather forecast for a little longer the flowers and insects should still be present in the garden.  Finally a date for your diaries.  The School Carol service held yearly in the garden will be on Sunday December 6th.  Time and further details nearer the event.  It is hoped that our good friends from Highclere House will join us again for what is a lovely evening.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

"Do not bargain for fish..

.. which are still in the water"

An Indian proverb

Work has proceeded well with the Jurassic Garden lookout and the project is almost finished.  The steps were completed on the weekend.

The handrail fixings are very secure.  The bolt ends have been cut off and tidied up so that no sharp edges are presented.

Around the garden wildlife abounds.  On Sunday 5 species of butterflies were recorded- Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Red Admiral and Painted Lady.  On the flowers plenty of hover flies and bees still are visible and a very large White-tailed queen bumble bee was noted.

A keen observer noticed a very strange sight in the helpers flower bed.  Not the most attractive of caterpillar the Elephant Hawk moth avoids predation by looking very scarey!

Elephant Hawk moth caterpillar

In the bird garden a mist net was put up and thirty birds were trapped and ringed over the weekend.  Mostly Chiffchaffs on their way back to West Africa but a Coal Tit and a Goldfinch were pleasant surprises.

The colourful Goldfinch wing

A young Goldfinch- without the bright red head feathers

Coal Tit

Several new plants have been positioned in the Garden.  Two Honey Bushes- which have very attractive green/grey and shaped leaves are in the bed which buffers up to the Jurassic Garden

Honey Bush
The Gingers have flowered this summer and the spikes are now slowly dying but they were spectacular with a very sweet scent

Flowering Ginger plant

Flower detail
The Tetrapanax tree is now reaching for the sky!

Beautiful 'Gaura' flowers in the grass garden

Spectacular detail of one of the late flowering grasses
The aptly named  'Chain fern'
A very large Spider- awaiting identification

Impressive large fangs!

Again the evening sky saw the Garden Group staring West.  After a busy weekend in the garden Mother Nature provided a perfect backdrop as the day closed.

A fitting end to the day