school garden

school garden

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

"People who do not know how to laugh..

are always pompous and self-conceited"

William Makepeace Thackeray

Bad weather has curtailed garden activity lately but a quick look around revealed that the raised bed in the memory garden needed urgent attention.  The wooden posts which have been there since 2008 are starting to rot and there was a fear that the bed would collapse or at the very least dry out. This raised bed has some very interesting ferns growing in it and along with the rotting stumps there are lichens, moulds and fungi.  Although quite small this bed is of great interest and it is the only place in the garden where we record the Lesser Stag Beetle

The wooden retaining posts are slowly rotting
New posts sourced from Mole Valley Farmers

All cut into uniform length for replacing

Storing to keep dry and paint and preserve before re-positioning
The posts will be treated with ducksback and the ends dipped in black damp proofing paint to hopefully prolong their lifespan.

The damp weather has produced some wonderful slime moulds.  Seeming to generate from the last delivery of bark chippings they provided a colourful, if not brief and interesting display

The ox eye daisies which were grown from seed were finally transplanted into the pond area.  Twelve healthy plants were moved from the cold frame and positioned along the sunny side of the pond where we hope next year they will give a good display.  Our friendly Robin was quick on the scene and was hopping about between the trowel and the plants quickly picking out tasty morsels.

The ox-eye daisy plants

"Is that a small worm I see?"

"Come on, keep digging"
In the greenhouse the flowers of the living stones are slowly dying away but the two Crassula plants have developed small flower buds.  One of the cactus plants was also in flower.

The flowering Crassula
The moth trap has continued to be operated on warm nights.  We are particularly keen this time of the year to trap the Oak Rustic moth.  Several specimens were trapped last year.  This rare species has a very small distribution in Dorset and we are keen to prove breeding in the school grounds where it thrives on evergreen Holm Oak trees.

The Robinson Moth trap

Feathered Ranunculus- a master in camouflage

With a break in the weather when calm returned there was an opportunity to set a  small mist net  and these delightful avian visitors were trapped and ringed

Long-tailed Tit

Male Blue Tit
Colour still remains in the garden and there are many flowers still in full bloom.  Along with them the trees are also looking good as the lack of a hard frost has meant that the trees have still retained many of their leaves.

Cherry trees

Field Maple

The grass garden providing architectural interest and colour
The Field Maple trees will have to be cut back over the winter period as they are contributing to the  demise of one part of the willow classroom.  They have become so big now that they are not only taking moisture away from the ground which the willow needs but also shading out the plants.  The group have decided that the willow classroom is more important than the Field Maple but a small shrub or tree  will be planted in place of it.

Finally with the school carol service looming an initial test run was made positioning the lighting which is traditionally used. The service will this year be held in the Jurassic Garden where the choir can use the lookout platform and the service  will carry much better and heard by everyone

Thursday, 27 October 2016

"Leadership is an opportunity to serve-

it is not a trumpet call to self importance"

J  Waters

The prevailing easterly winds which  recently blasted the country brought with them a lot of small birds from Russia, in fact some from as far as Siberia.  The town was full of Yellow-browed Warblers.  They were seen all along the nearby Rodwell trail and two birds were even recorded in the school garden

A Yellow-browed Warbler

In recent days the Living Stones (Lithops) have burst into flower in the greenhouse.  These delightful flowers do not last long but are always eagerly awaited through the summer months.

Yellow lithops

White lithops
Also in the greenhouse the "fish-hook" cactus is looking good with the top spikes looking very splendid

"Fish-hook" cactus

With the approach of colder weather prevention is better than cure and our ornamental banana plant has been trimmed and stored indoors.  It will rest all winter in a bucket of compost and leaf mulch and be replanted next April.  The treatment looks drastic but it will recover- honestly!

Awaiting the cut!

looks a little drastic!

The fabulous leaves laid out on the grass

The finished product prior to be planted in compost and leaf mulch
Tell tale evidence of Greenfinch activity has been noted under the giant sunflower plants.  The seeds are now ripe and ready for eating and the birds are quick to cash in.

Hard evidence!

The heavily laden sunflower seed head

The tetrapanax is in flower.  These magnificent flower heads adorn the monster sized leaves.  Next year the plant should be even more impressive.


The bizarre blue flowers of the 'scardey cat plant' (Coleus canina)continue to bloom.  The plant releases a very strong smell when touched or disturbed and it is said that this smell deters cats.  The flowers are similar to salvias.

Even by mid morning, in places where the sun has not yet reached overnight rain drops still sit on leaves.  These drops are on the peanut butter plant.

The flower sprout plants are rapidly developing the delicious flower sprouts and hopefully they will be ready for Xmas.  Different from brussel sprouts these plants produce very small cabbages at the leaf axil.  They are delicious with butter.

Flower Sprout plants

Detail of the forming flower sprouts
Work has started on the pond and will continue next weekend.  A lot of vegetation has been cut back to get light onto it during the winter months and the next stage is to remove a lot of the water lilies which are now clogging up the pond and reducing open water which Pond Skaters and Water Boatmen love.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

"Work for a cause..

not for applause"


The Autumn equinox has passed and we slowly slide into winter now.  Fortunately the weather is still good and there is a lot of colour and interest in the garden.  Insects are still very common.  Over the past week we have recorded Large White, Small White, Painted Lady, Comma and Red Admiral butterflies and around the pond several Migrant Hawker and Common Sympetrum dragonflies. An interesting hoverfly was also recorded- possibly Xanthogramma pedissequum but this small group of hoverflies maybe split even further with discovery of another species within the group. Hummingbird Hawk moths have also been recorded recently

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Comma butterfly

Xanthogramma pedissequum
Wing detail of the hoverfly which helps identifiaction
The canna's and ornamental banana continue to grow and the height of the canna plants is well over six feet.  They are a stunning show as you walk up the path.  The grass garden also looks good when the plot is backlit by the sun

Grass Garden

Canna and Banana plant
In the greenhouse we have prepared for winter and the time when plants have to be put back in there for frost protection.  We have washed and cleaned the inside with Jeyes Fluid and will shortly start putting the tender plants back inside.  One of the succulent plants has recently flowered and the 'donkey tail' succulent
 is growing well once it was moved from snail access!

'Donkey-tail' succulent

Still lots of colour and interest

Aster which is providing late nectar for bees

Giant Russian sunflowers- the birds will love the seeds

Flying the flag!

Ox-eye daisy plants grown from seed and ready to plant out.

The garden group will continue to work most weekends over the winter period- weather permitting.  Anybody with an interesting in gardening or just enjoying pottering about is always welcome to join us. Please leave your name at the school office desk and we can get in touch with you.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

"The world is a book..

and those who do not travel read only a page"


Some fine warm nights have enabled us to run the moth trap.  Over the past week ten new species have been put on the ever growing list. Hawk moths have almost finished but migrant moths are always a possibility.  However we did catch one large moth, a Red Underwing.  On arrival at the trap it was resting on the outside and possible a few minutes later in arriving it would have gone.  We have recently been pestered with large numbers of wasps in and around the trap.  They cause no trouble in the early hours of the day and disperse quickly.

Dusky Thorn

The aptly named- Spectacle!

Vapourer- the female is wingless


Jersey Tiger

Red Underwing
The sunflowers continue to grow and one patch must have flowers well over 12 feet high.  Hopefully the weekend winds will not destroy them so they can be enjoyed next week by the pupils.

The magnificent sunflower bed dwarfing the runner beans

The flower sprouts are doing well and we are hoping for a good crop of this tasty vegetable

The Cannas are thriving and one plant is well over 6 feet tall

The decorative Banana plant grows a new leaf each week

Fennel- a magnet for bees and hoverflies

Papyrus plants enjoying the temporary move to the pond

James Grieve apple tree has plenty of fruit

Salvia involucrata 'Bethellii'

One Red Admiral butterfly took a liking to a T shirt and stayed there for a good five minutes before flying off

A visitor to the moth trap at first light is the Robin.  He is weighing up the chances of a possible easy meal and the trap has be moved about the garden each time to avoid the bird getting into bad habits!

The ever hungry Robin
The garden has been given five beautifully created leaves which the group have now positioned on the fence.  It is intended to label them for the children to become aware of leaf shapes and names of trees. 

The new school term starts next week and we welcome new pupils to the school and hope that they will soon find their way into the garden and enjoy the last of the summer colour and vegetables and sample some of the wildlife which is always present