Willow circle and other things

It has been a busy time in the garden since the Funpalace:

We have been focusing on making a new living willow circle structure - now almost complete, apart from the living willow. We need to wait until about December to plant the willow, when it has lost its leaves and can be moved. We hope to have enough in a local allotment. So far, we have made three hazel-pole arches with hazel poles between.

Making the willow circle. The decorative hoops are from park dogwood and allotment willow. The straw bales inside it are very popular with children. One of them said yesterday that 'the tent was too hot', so maybe we need to add air conditioning.

Making the willow circle. The decorative hoops are from park dogwood and allotment willow. The straw bales inside it are very popular with children. One of them said yesterday that 'the tent was too hot', so maybe we need to add air conditioning.

We have been doing a lot of bulb planting recently, with bulbs rescued from council roundabouts - thanks to Grant and Tony for bringing them to us! Look out for hyacinths, daffodils, narcissus and tulips.

We have been doing a lot of bulb planting recently, with bulbs rescued from council roundabouts - thanks to Grant and Tony for bringing them to us! Look out for hyacinths, daffodils, narcissus and tulips.

We have also planned for some fruit trees, which we will order soon and plant from December.

We have planted up two new beds by the water tower - one for clematis and a shadier one.

And the leaves are falling fast, which meant lots of moving of two-year old leaf mould to make way for the new season's harvest.

One of our unplanned activities - rescuing thin hedgehogs. He is being cared for by Shepreth hedgehog hospital volunteers now. 28 October update: he is recovering in the hospital from just about every kind of parasitic infection going (about the hospital, including how to support them).

One of our unplanned activities - rescuing thin hedgehogs. He is being cared for by Shepreth hedgehog hospital volunteers now. 28 October update: he is recovering in the hospital from just about every kind of parasitic infection going (about the hospital, including how to support them).

It is also a time of year for 'taking down'... including climbing beans, courgettes and rhubarb. But this makes space for mulching and moving and re-thinking.

We found a burrow, which we think might be from a visiting rabbit. We really don't want rabbits in the garden or we won't have many flowers. We hope they can read. I confused a child with my spelling - he couldn't work out what a 'wabbit' was. His father said they had long ears, so now he thinks we have hares in the garden.

We found a burrow, which we think might be from a visiting rabbit. We really don't want rabbits in the garden or we won't have many flowers. We hope they can read. I confused a child with my spelling - he couldn't work out what a 'wabbit' was. His father said they had long ears, so now he thinks we have hares in the garden.

FUN in the garden

Just getting going... it was even busier later.

Just getting going... it was even busier later.

Wow, what a Sunday. We think we had about 500 people of all ages visiting us, having FUN.

We are still working our way through the various photos but here are a few to start us off.

Massive thanks to everyone who planned, donated, lent, led, helped, performed and rescued us. We couldn't have done this for our community without our amazing community. You rock. And we even painted rocks.

Genetics graffiti

Genetics graffiti

The chill out area - with flags, which is on its way to becoming a living willow hidey place. magic carpet making in the background. 

The chill out area - with flags, which is on its way to becoming a living willow hidey place. magic carpet making in the background. 

Yoga in the double spiral 

Yoga in the double spiral 

Siva and Keith at her Indian cookery demo - under the trees

Siva and Keith at her Indian cookery demo - under the trees

The big dig

View from the central path - we have designed it to be wheelchair accessible from three sides and also to have good views across the garden.

View from the central path - we have designed it to be wheelchair accessible from three sides and also to have good views across the garden.

Yesterday, we had a very successful return visit from the Community Payback team. One of the things they did was start to prepare for a living willow structure in the garden. Currently, it looks a bit like an archeological dig. The shallow trench is where they dug out barrows and barrows of clinker - so the willow will have a healthier root run. We will soon fill these in, add hazel arches, weed suppressant membrane and then wait for the willow season to start.

We are not sure what to call it - we like names - one of the Payback team thought it was a bower but then told us about what used to happen in bowers and we are not sure we want to encourage too much of that in the garden! We might need to warn the nearby Rosie Hospital of a peak in births in Springtime...

The team were really hard working and good company and we hope to have them back again soon. The day was arranged for us by Streets and Open Spaces and Ed the City Ranger joined us for some of the day too. At least one of the team also worked on our Wulfstan Way raingardens in May.

Dodging the rain

Despite the threat of rain, we have had some good gardening sessions this Sunday and Monday - even if we did have to run for cover at least once. It is quite exciting gardening with the rumble of thunder overhead - but we decided not to stay outside in lightning.

We started two new beds next to the water tower. One will have a climbing clematis, a favourite plant of at least one volunteer, and also very good for wildlife.

We started two new beds next to the water tower. One will have a climbing clematis, a favourite plant of at least one volunteer, and also very good for wildlife.

We planted some daffodil bulbs, which we had saved from Council roundabouts (thanks Grant and Tony). We have hyacinths and tulips to come...

We finished cutting back half the perennial meadow bed - as an experiment - and even saved some flowers for vases and to try some natural dyeing. We will let the other half flourish for a few weeks or so - they are so pretty. Cutting it back twice in the first year should improve the sward next year, apparently (but you have to be very hard hearted to do it).

We finished cutting back half the perennial meadow bed - as an experiment - and even saved some flowers for vases and to try some natural dyeing. We will let the other half flourish for a few weeks or so - they are so pretty. Cutting it back twice in the first year should improve the sward next year, apparently (but you have to be very hard hearted to do it).

And as new flowers come out, we captured a few plant combinations we like. Here we have Japanese anemones, with daylily leaves (both divided last year from a local garden) and brunnera (from a charity plant sale). The white flowers look good against the dark hedge behind.

And as new flowers come out, we captured a few plant combinations we like. Here we have Japanese anemones, with daylily leaves (both divided last year from a local garden) and brunnera (from a charity plant sale). The white flowers look good against the dark hedge behind.

We can't really have enough Verbena bonariensis (grown from seed) - and they look great with the flowering sedums (from garden cuttings) - the pollinators are really spoiled for choice!

We can't really have enough Verbena bonariensis (grown from seed) - and they look great with the flowering sedums (from garden cuttings) - the pollinators are really spoiled for choice!

We sowed some (late season) veg seeds, did some general tidying and planning for this Autumn and Winter and next year.

We finally harvested our 'massive crop' of (big) potatoes from the pallet planters - only from one plant. They are 'surprise potatoes' - we still don't really know what the seeds were - maybe Duke of York. Next year, we will try some first and second earlies - probably Arran Pilot and Charlotte.

We finally harvested our 'massive crop' of (big) potatoes from the pallet planters - only from one plant. They are 'surprise potatoes' - we still don't really know what the seeds were - maybe Duke of York. Next year, we will try some first and second earlies - probably Arran Pilot and Charlotte.

We have some exciting (we hope) plans for this 'wilderness area'. Watch this space...

We have some exciting (we hope) plans for this 'wilderness area'. Watch this space...

The pleasing combination of crocosmia, dianthus, gaura, geraniums, rudbeckias, sedums (although their name has changed recently) and verbena rigida is one reason why we are converting some of the annual beds to perennial plants. Although the seedbank of annuals is a bit overpowering at times - see the Californian poppy crop between plants - as fast as we weed them out they grow back.

The pleasing combination of crocosmia, dianthus, gaura, geraniums, rudbeckias, sedums (although their name has changed recently) and verbena rigida is one reason why we are converting some of the annual beds to perennial plants. Although the seedbank of annuals is a bit overpowering at times - see the Californian poppy crop between plants - as fast as we weed them out they grow back.

Working hard again

Planting up a new asparagus bed - we had dug out the clinker and raised the sides so we hope we have sufficient root run. The plants were raised from seed this year so we won't get a crop for a couple of years or so. We like the ferns though and it is an inexpensive way to go.

Planting up a new asparagus bed - we had dug out the clinker and raised the sides so we hope we have sufficient root run. The plants were raised from seed this year so we won't get a crop for a couple of years or so. We like the ferns though and it is an inexpensive way to go.

We seem to have spent a lot of time just eating cake in the garden recently. On Sunday, we got back to doing some gardening in the mild but not too hot weather. Lots of people knuckling down.

Even Bella the dog showed (a bit too much) interest in gardening the raised beds (here she is behaving herself). The soil level has dropped a lot in the beds over the summer (we used a permaculture technique of layers that rot down at different rates) so we will soon need to clear them all out and top them up over winter.

Even Bella the dog showed (a bit too much) interest in gardening the raised beds (here she is behaving herself). The soil level has dropped a lot in the beds over the summer (we used a permaculture technique of layers that rot down at different rates) so we will soon need to clear them all out and top them up over winter.

Phew what a scorcher

The almost finished water tower bug hotel - we have another drilled panel to put onto the front and need to design a roof...

The almost finished water tower bug hotel - we have another drilled panel to put onto the front and need to design a roof...

What a hot, sunny bank holiday. A perfect afternoon for finding a shady spot under some Swedish Whitebeam trees, with a gentle breeze, and catching up with Nightingale garden friends. So that is what we did - although Julian was heroic and worked on the water tower structure, putting us to shame.

Next Sunday, back to work... if it isn't too hot.

Update on 4 September: it wasn't too hot and Julian and Justin made good progress on the tower. We decided it needed a name - the ones suggested by children were extremely long - so we have decided to call it Falling Water. Partly because we watched a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright and partly because we have decided we will try to make it catch water for us as well as provide housing for bugs and a support for a new - to be planted - clematis. 

Some updates

Our signpost has been a LONG time in gestation. Thanks to Bob for the signwriting! And now our bumblebees (on the back of the sign) have no excuse to get lost on their way home...

Our signpost has been a LONG time in gestation. Thanks to Bob for the signwriting! And now our bumblebees (on the back of the sign) have no excuse to get lost on their way home...

We have been so busy recently, we haven't updated the website... and in some cases because it has taken us a while to finish things - or start them.

Some of the Patriotic annual Pictorial Meadow bed - with the new bug hotel (disguise for the water tower) in the background - still in progress.

Some of the Patriotic annual Pictorial Meadow bed - with the new bug hotel (disguise for the water tower) in the background - still in progress.

The Golden Summer perennial Pictorial Meadow bed is looking very lush and flowery now. We are supposed to crop it down to 10 cm again but it seems very cruel so we will wait until after our party on 27 August I think.

The Golden Summer perennial Pictorial Meadow bed is looking very lush and flowery now. We are supposed to crop it down to 10 cm again but it seems very cruel so we will wait until after our party on 27 August I think.

Our produce raised beds have been really good this year - their first year - until this weekend when blight attacked our tomato plants. We have harvested the green tomatoes and disposed of many of the plants but we thought we'd give these a few more days (without leaves) - in case the fruit will ripen on their plants. A sad day...

Our produce raised beds have been really good this year - their first year - until this weekend when blight attacked our tomato plants. We have harvested the green tomatoes and disposed of many of the plants but we thought we'd give these a few more days (without leaves) - in case the fruit will ripen on their plants. A sad day...

Blooms for bees - citizen science

The three colours of dahlia plus instructions...

The three colours of dahlia plus instructions...

Earlier this year, we registered with the Blooms for Bees citizen science project. This involved growing from seed three colours (white, red and purple) of Mignon Series dahlias. These are now growing well in small bed in front of the club hut (and we will put a poster up about them today).

They like the white flowers

They like the white flowers

These 'bedding dahlias' are 'single' (simple flowers), nectar-rich and known to be liked by bumblebees. The scientists now want to find out if these bees have a preference for flower colour. We are doing the survey by counting the number of bumblebees on each colour of flower for 5 minutes each.

And the red ones...

And the red ones...

If you'd like to do this too (you need to be a registered participant), send your counts to our garden volunteers at info@nightingalegarden.org.uk and we can enter them online for you.

You will need to tell us:

  1. On what date you did the count;
  2. The number of open flower heads included for each colour.
  3. The number of bumblebees on each colour in 5 mins each.
  4. If you can, identify the type of bumblebee (but this is quite tricky - they move fast!).
And the purple ones (which look pink to me)

And the purple ones (which look pink to me)

More info: www.bloomsforbees.co.uk

Or just enjoy watching bees on the flowers!

And across the path they like these cactus ones.

And across the path they like these cactus ones.

And two honey bees on this one

And two honey bees on this one

It is a bit addictive taking photos of bees on dahlias...

It is a bit addictive taking photos of bees on dahlias...

CCVS Rag Ballot - good news!

One of the new raingardens at Wulfstan Way - the plants like all the rain we have been having. Planted (and sowed) by 28th Cambridge cubs - with a bit of help from adults from Queen Edith's in Bloom and the RHS.

One of the new raingardens at Wulfstan Way - the plants like all the rain we have been having. Planted (and sowed) by 28th Cambridge cubs - with a bit of help from adults from Queen Edith's in Bloom and the RHS.

We have just heard our January application for funding to the CCVS Rag Ballot was successful. This means we will shortly have £200 to spend on gardening tools.

Our aspiration is to have a good range of strong tools that can be used in the community garden but also taken out to other greenspaces around the area. For example, we already take a range of tools and gloves of different sizes to the Wulfstan Way raingardens on Saturday mornings.

Shortly, we hope to start helping a group of parent volunteers and staff to make a new school garden at Queen Edith's primary school. From time to time, we also lend some of our tools to community groups, if we think they can be used safely.