To York and Back.

Admittedly, the Only Fools and Horses episode was called ‘To Hull and Back’, but I did have a Rodney with me … well, his name does begin with R.

My son is in his final year at sixth form, so he is beginning to look at his options, to see what college will put up with him for x amount of years.

York University advertised their open day on the 29th September, right no problem with that, nice little 360 mile round trip … no problem …

Not for the first time this year, the weather was not going to play ball. Parts of York was flooded, after prolonged rain in the Pennines and Dales that caused the River Ouse to rise to 5 metres above normal, the highest level since the floods of 2000.

We thought the open day would be cancelled, but we then saw on their website it was definitely be going ahead.

We got up early on the Saturday to head towards the floods (hang on haven’t I been here before, but then a little closer to home- Sorry- This Garden is Now Closed! ). We headed up the A1, the weather was perfect from the moment we left home and all the way to York.

We saw only one of the flooded areas on our way, but the University itself was unaffected. After we got all the important things out of the way (how many bars and food shops were there), we had a look round the campus.

Being a Head Gardener from another college, I always like to have a good nose round the gardens … and on this occasion, I’m glad I did!

As you can see, there is lots of water but no floods …

Student Union….

Have you guessed what it is yet….

Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’, one of my favourites.

I don’t think they can really complain about their view…

Now this gives me an idea…

Now I want one these where I work, but I certainly would not get it sign posted though.

What a wonderful university, friendly, relaxed, lovely surroundings and plenty of water but not flooded. We enjoyed the day and we also got got the important stuff done as well.

Wordless Wednesday: Ampelopsis brevipedunculata ‘Elegans’

The Rock Garden V

Well I was having withdrawal symptoms … it has been at least eight weeks since the last Rock Garden.

Plus, I was having a little encouragement at work to do yet another Rock Garden …. not that I need any encouragement…

and there is plenty of Sex Plants and Rock ‘n’ Roll in this one as well.

Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Jethro Tull’

It has fluted (stands on one leg), golden yellow flowers and it has a dwarf habit reaching to about 40cm’s in height. I know very little about this Coreopsis, as I only found out about it this week, but as it is named after Jethro Tull … we will be definitely getting one.

The Band….

Real oldies these ones are, formed in 1968 and still going to this very day. Their music is a mixture of, rock, folk, blues, electronic, jazz and heavy metal. They are one of the worlds best selling music artists, with over 60 million albums sold worldwide.

Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed)

A true giant this one, usually growing two-three metres in height but can reach up to five metres in high. The sap of the Giant Hogweed, causes burning and severe skin inflammations when exposed to ultraviolet light, (the scars can last for many years). Even a small amount of sap in the eyes can cause, temporary or even permanent blindness.

The Song…..

Genesis …. next!

Not a favourite of mine, I have only included the song because of the plant, personally, I would rather listen to (P)Rick Astley than this!!

Erythroxylum catuaba (The love Plant)

The Tupi Indians in Brazil first discovered the aphrodisiac properties of Erythroxylum catuaba (Catuaba). The Northern Amazon Indians use catuaba to treat sexual impotence and for boosting diminished desire, it has also been marketed as a ‘Super Sex Drink’. Is also often used as a general tonic and helps with nervousness and poor memory.

A small, vigorous-growing tree that can get to a height of four metres with yellow and orange flowers and it grows in the northern part of Brazil.

The Song/Album….

Lovehunter, is the second studio album released in 1979 by ‘Whitesnake’.  ‘Lovehunter’s’  controversial artwork was created by fantasy artist Chris Archilleos, it features a naked lady straddling a giant snake. Not their most successful album, but ‘Lovehunter, is one of my all time favourite Whitesnake songs … and not just because of the album cover. 

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ (T. Rex)

A wonderful architectural hardy exotic plant, that can grow over five metres in height and have an eventual spread of over three metres. We have one at work (soon to be two), it has over wintered in the garden for the last two years. With leaves reaching three feet in size, this is a must buy plant for most gardens, but may need some winter protection in some colder parts of the country.

Marc Bolan and T. Rex… 

On the 16th September of this year it was the 35th anniversary of Marc Bolan’s death, on the 30th September 2012 it would have been his 65th birthday. Killed in a car crash at the age of only 29, a tragic loss at such a young age, Marc Bolan’s music is still heard regularly on radio and television to this very day.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

Echinacea ‘White Swan’ is a compact perennial of upright growth, with solitary, white flower-heads with dull yellow centre. A great clump forming herbaceous perennial, with an eventual height of one metre.

Ride a white Swan.

One of my all time favourites, released in October 1970.

Vanda coerulea (Blue Vanda)

An epiphytic orchid (grows above the ground, using other plants or objects for support), this Vanda is responsible for the many blue and purples seen in many cultivated Vanda orchids.

The Song…

From White Stripes 2005 album ‘Get Behind me Satan‘, Blue Orchid was voted one of the scariest music videos of all time.

Cosmos ‘Pied Piper’

Beautiful red fluted shell like petals, this one metre tall annual is great for cut flowers, a wonderful addition for the summer border.

The Song…

The Pillows are a alternative rock band from Japan. The song Pied Piper was released in June 2008, from their album entitled ‘Pied Piper’

And one more just for luck…

Wordless Wednesday:Phytolacca americana




Bark at the moon.

I must stop using song names as the titles 😉 I did get the idea for the title, after reading an article about tree seeds, that were taken into orbit around the moon and back. These were known as the ‘Moon Trees‘, out of 500 seeds, between 420-450 of the seeds germinated, they included many trees varieties with interesting bark. The story is true … but it’s just an excuse to have a Ozzy song at the end.

What is the first thing that hits you when you walk into a garden? (with me it is usually a low branch or one of the other gardeners) Colour, sound, smells, movement? There is also a lot of beauty in a garden that is not always that obvious … not at first anyway.

Bark, this comes in all colours, patterns, textures and sometimes smell, along with the shape of the trunk/stem on trees and shrubs, it is also present all year round.

As a kid, I would have captured this by doing bark rubbings with some crayons and paper, but this time I used my camera phone instead.

Platanus x hispanica

The London Plane. It is a hybrid between Platanus Occidentalis and Platanus Orientalis. A large deciduous tree that can reach over 30m in height.

Ailanthus altissima

Tree of Heaven. Fast growing large deciduous tree, that has a terrible habit of suckering everywhere. It has wonderful markings on the bark.

Pinus nigra

Pinus nigra

Corsican Pine or European Black Pine. A large evergreen tree that can reach 40 metres in height. The bark is grey to yellow-brown and splits with age.

Fraxinus ornus

Manna Ash. Lovely smooth bark, this is a medium size deciduous tree that has creamy white scented flowers in May.

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Giant Redwood, Wellingtonia or Big Tree. This has a beautiful red/brown soft feeling bark to it. It is the worlds largest tree by volume and the longest living thing on earth that can live for over 3,000 years.

Acer griseum

Paperbark Maple. A small deciduous tree that has chestnut-brown papery bark, the leaves turn red and orange in the autumn.

Morus nigra

The Black Mulberry Tree. Deciduous trees that have a beautiful gnarled framework to them, but most important of all is the fruit … and this cannot be eaten without leaving evidence.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

West Himalayan Birch. Beautiful white/pink brown peeling bark, a large deciduous fast growing tree, with ovate leaves that turn yellow in the autumn.

Arbutus x andrachnoides

Hybrid strawberry tree. A large evergreen shrub that is crossed with Arbutus andrachne and Arbutus unedo. It has beautiful red-brown peeling bark, this looks more impressive with age; white/pink flowers from autumn.

Staphylea colchica

Bladdernut. A deciduous ornamental shrub or small tree, has beautiful white fragrant flowers in May/June.

Acer capillipes

Red Snakebark Maple. A small deciduous tree, leaves are green in spring and summer, turning red and yellow in the autumn.

Acer davidii

Pere David’s Maple. Another snakebark maple, it is native to China and was discovered by Father Armand David in 1878.

Quercus ilex

Quercus ilex

Holm Oak, Evergreen Oak or Holly Oak. Quercus ilex is a large evergreen  tree that has finely cracked bark.

Semiarundinaria fastuosa

Phyllostachys aureosulcata aureocaulis

Now I had to fit a couple of bamboos in somewhere, as they are often grown for their stems.

Betula pendula

The Silver Birch. One of the most commonly known trees that is grown for its bark, a wonderful medium sized deciduous tree, with ovate leaves that turn yellow in the autumn.

Laburnum × watereri ‘Vossii’

Voss’s Laburnum. Small deciduous tree that has yellow flowers in the spring, wonderful patterns on the bark.

Koelreuteria paniculata

The Pride of India. A small deciduous tree with pinnate leaves, pink in the spring turning yellow in the autumn.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

Rice Paper Plant. A wonderful hardy exotic plant, with an interesting stem and leaves that reach over a metre wide.

Oh, here’s that video……..

Wordless Wednesday: Castanea sativa (Sweet Chestnut)

Please Keep Off (and out) The Grass!

Now there is one part of the garden that has given me more sleepless nights than any other … the lawns!

We at Trinity, are very proud of our lawns, but the last few years with long periods of drought and then this year the highest levels of rain ever recorded;  this has meant that keeping to a good lawn management programme has been very challenging to say the least.

The weather, along with many other factors such as events; diseases; the two footed pest (and I will include us gardeners in that); the college calendar and the wildlife; both in the soil and above. All these factors have an effect on the lawns in one way or another. Now I am not going to go into detail on each and everyone of the above mentioned, as I feel you could write a blog on each, it is just to highlight the many issues that we have with our lawns.

There are arguments for and against lawns, some say they may look green (sometimes) but are they green for the environment? Others say you cannot have a garden without a lawn, both sides have a point.

The removal of the lawn areas or any major changes where I work is something I could not answer, but how we manage the lawns in the coming weeks, months and years is something I can … with a lot of help from within the gardens dept.

I care for our lawns but I also care for the environment, so I am always looking at ways of keeping our lawns looking good but also taking on board what our actions may have on the environment.

One thing we consider is the type of mower to use, a cylinder will always give you a finer cut and a better finish than a rotary, but a cylinder also gives a cleaner cut to the blade of grass; which means there is less transpiration than with a rotary. Other things to consider are: use and choice of fetilisers, aeration; we have increased the amount of times we aerate in the last few years; rolling, scarifying and brushing/raking of lawns; again the weather conditions have to be right to get the best results and also top dressing. Chemicals … I can already hear the groans. We have not blanket sprayed the lawns for weeds since I have become Head Gardener … we have only done spot spraying. I will admit some of this has been due to the weather conditions, but if you can create a good healthy lawn, this is the best form of weed control. A yearly scarify to clear out moss/thatch improves air movement around the blades of grass, which helps prevent any disease getting hold within the lawn.

The right type of grass seed. For the first time this year, we over seeded an area of one of our gardens with a grass, that needs over 30% less water than the other grass varieties in the lawn along with a organic fertiliser … so far success! I admit, since we did this it has banged it down with rain, but it has still looked good in parts of the summer where other lawns have tired slightly. This is something I will look into further for the future, I know we have had a wet year this year, but I am pretty sure we have not seen the last of long periods without rain … more extreme weather conditions are on the horizon.

Now, there is one little critter I will mention and this one has given me nightmares … the Chafer Grub!

We are very lucky/unlucky to have the Coockchafer, Welsh Chafer and the Rose Chafer grubs in our lawns. They quietly munch on the grass roots, then along come the crows who rip open the the turf to feed on the grubs. We will never get rid of them completely and in some ways do not want too, as a few of them in the lawns are not a problem; but the numbers we had in previous years had caused massive problems for us.


Welsh Chafer

Rose Chafer Beetle

This year has been so far a lot better. Some of the grubs we have looked at recently have been infected by Nematodes, we have not sprayed the lawns with Nematodes for over eighteen months, so is this natures way of controlling their numbers?

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