Blog Entries posted by Roger the Dodger
While I get to stay working on the estate, the other lads who work on our building sites were busy demolishing an old garage, ready for a rebuild. They bought back a truck load of the old roofing timbers....joists, roofing batten and old chipboard flooring. Rather than just chuck it in the skip, where it would take up valuable space (...and I mean valuable, the price of skips today!) and as it was freezing cold, we made it into a bit of a bonfire. Kept me warm for most of the morning....
This week, as the temperatures continue to drop, It's time to set up the 'hot house' within the main greenhouse to cater for those plants which need to be kept at minimum temps during the winter. I have some Hibiscus and Mirabilis that need to be kept at 10°C until next spring, so need to partition off part of the greenhouse to acheive this. Later, at the beginning of March next year, the temp will be raised to 20°C to germinate the seeds that will form the backbone of next years border displays. When I designed this greenhouse many years ago, I had a gap left in the benching to accomodate a partition wall made from 100mm thick 'Jablite' (polystyrene insulation material) that was cut to wedge tightly across the glasshouse and form a 'hot room'. The 'wall' is completed by a door and frame, the whole wedged firmly in place with no need for fixings.The suspended hot air blower raises the temp to whatever I set the thermostat to...at the moment 10°C. The sensor on the wall records the temp and humidity and sends it to a monitor on my desk in the office, so I can see what is going on without having to actually go to the greenhouse.
The greenhouse without the winter partition...note the gap in the bench for the 'wall' .
The first section is put in place...
Follwed by the second...
Finally, the door and its frame are wedged in, creating an airtight hotroom.
This hot air heater is very economical to run, and is controlled by a very sensitive and accurate thermostat. When the heat is turned off by the 'stat, the fan in the blower continues to run to keep the air circulating and prevent the air from stagnating. Blowers are better for heating a greenhouse as they don't produce water vapour like a paraffin heater which can lead to mould (botrytis) forming.
This sensor reads the temp and humidity, and relays it to a monitor on my office desk.
When the alterations were done to the 'big' house a couple of years ago, one of the features added was a large roof light to allow natural daylight into the stairwell and hall below. Unfortunately, the local crow population thought that this would make a great place to perform their morning ablutions.....and when a crow lets go, it makes a hell of a mess! Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'logging on'. The glass was soon covered in a layer of crow crap which didn't look very nice from below. So I've just been tasked with getting up on the roof to clean said glass and fit some anti bird spikes to prevent further 'downloads'. I'd love to be up there when one tries to land now, and gets a spike right up his 'rusty Sheriff's badge'......in the words of 'Jonesy' in Dad's Army.....'They don't like it up 'em, Sir!'
While I was up there took a few snaps of the grounds....
Roof light with anti bird spikes now fitted........you can see the access hatch on the far flat roof...no monkeying around on ladders here!
The stableyard, greenhouse and hedge I cut the other day...
Rear lawns, part of the walled garden and paddock...and my bonfire merrily smoking away in the top LH corner!
Front lawns and paddock....I love my job!
As we progress further into Autumn, I always love to see the changing colours on the trees. The bright greens of Spring and Summer give way to beautiful reds, oranges and yellows. This year is going to be an exceptional one for the Holly berries....the trees are absolutely covered with them. Many quote the old wive's saying....'Oooh, that means we'll have a hard winter!' Absolute poppycock!...how does the tree know this? What it actually means is that we had a mild Spring earlier in the year, with plenty of insects about to pollinate the Holly flowers, and no sharp frosts to burn the developing berries off, which is what happens in years when there are no berries the following winter. Several other trees are showing a similar trait, with the Yews and Hawthorns groaning under the weight of a bumper berry harvest.
Some of the beautiful trees on the estate in their Autumn colours.
Japanese 'cut leaf' maple (Acer palmatum 'Dissectum')
The Honey Locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos 'Sunburst') That's a Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the background.
Liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua)
The following are some of the exceptional berry crops this year....
Common Holly (Ilex aquifolium)..I've never seen so many berries, in such thick clusters as these..and all the holly trees on the estate are like this...
Yew (Taxus baccata) The Yew berry is known as an 'aril'...it's a fleshy, protective coat surrounding the single seed.
Hawthorn (Crataegus persimilis) This is a cultivated Hawthorn, and not the common one found in hedgerows (C. monogyna). The branches on this tree are actually drooping under the weight of all the berries.In about 3 weeks, I'm going to have to rake them all up, as they'll all drop to the ground!
As today was a lovely sunny autumn day, it's time to start collecting up the leaves while they are still dry, ready for the leafmould heap. There were quite a few down already...two trailer loads, but that is just a drop in the ocean to what will come later! These go into my leafmould coralle, and in about a years time, they will have broken down into a lovely soil conditioner, ready to be dug in or used as a mulch. Leaf mould in itself has no nutritional value for plants, as the tree withdraws all the goodness from the leaves before they fall...especially the green pigment 'Chlorophyll'. This is such an important compound to the tree (it's what converts sunlight to sugars) that it withdraws it and stores it for next year. That's why the leaves appear to change colour in the autumn. Some of the pics below are old ones from the 'Mowing the Grass' thread a couple of years ago, but worth repeating I think.
The first of many trailer loads!
These go into my leafmould coralle....new on the right, last years on the left. When all the leaves are gathered in, the heap on the right will be at the top of the Heras panels and reach halfway across. By next year it will have reduced to what you see on the left. The only leaves we don't put here are those from a London Plane tree that we have...they are like leather and take for ever to rot down, so they get burnt, and the resulting ash spread on the formal borders.
...and this is the result...lovely crumbly, sweet smelling soil conditioner.
Today I'm going to cut this Leylandii hedge as it's looking a bit shaggy and I want to get it done before the weather closes in. This will ensure that it looks neat and tidy all through the winter months.
I like cutting this hedge, as planting it 19 years ago was the very first job I did when I started here. I'll be using a Stihl long reach hedge trimmer, as I find you get a better perspective of what you are doing when you are stood back slightly, plus I don't need a ladder to reach the top. With a standard trimmer, I have to keep stepping back to look at what I've just done, which is a bit of a pain...especially on some the long hedges I have to contend with...consequently, I haven't used a short one for years now.
Anyway...this kept me busy for an hour or so this afternoon.
This is an old pic of the hedge trimmer...I won't be needing the pole pruner attachement today.
The hedge before trimming...
Those that follow the 'Mowing the Grass' thread will know that I have looked after an estate owned by a local property developer for the last 19 years. Whilst I am normally based there, I am sometimes called upon to look after the grounds of properties that we are building/built until they are sold. This one is in Surrey, and is a £2M property. I come here to cut the newly laid lawn on a fortnightly basis, and this was a great opportunity to put the Cobra through its paces....not for much longer, as it is now sold.
And after....the Cobra did a fantastic job...well pleased!
As it's so wet and dreary here today, I'm spending the morning in the greenhouse getting my collection of tender plants ready for the coming months. These plants are more commonly found in Spain and Portugal....or any of the Mediterranean countries. They are quite happy in the UK during late spring, summer and early autumn, but must come inside for the winter months into a minimum temp of 10°C. The plants here are the very large flowered Hibiscus, and the Shrub Verbena. The Hibiscus are all grown from cuttings,as they rarely produce viable seed, and were all purchased in the UK. They are meant to be enjoyed for a few weeks, then binned, but I have kept these going for more than 2 years now, and they are getting quite big. The Verbenas were bought as seed, and I have several stock bushes that I take cuttings from every year. They root very easily, and it doesn't take long to increase my stock.
All the plants are slowly having their water reduced and all dead leaves and flowers are removed to get them ready for their winter snooze.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-chinensis) in various colours. These are the flowers that Hawaiian girls wear in their hair.
Shrub Verbena (Lantana camara) cuttings about 6 weeks old.
...and the stock plants...
After many years of using our faithful Honda 536 mower, the poor old girl has finally come a cropper. Part of the cast aluminium deck where the rear roller attaches has sheared off, making it impossible to use. Over its 19 year tour of duty, it's had a couple of new gearboxes, a few springs and cables and numerous new blades. So we've had to buy a new one. Like the watch world, it seems that there are plenty of 'looky-likeys' in the mower world. The new mower is a 'Cobra', but looks almost identical to the Honda....in fact it uses exactly the same engine as the latest version of the Honda. The controls are identical, so are the wheels and rollers. The Cobra, however, has something that the Honda lacked...a large fan above the blade to create a massive updraught, and so blow the cuttings into the bag. This was always the Honda's downfall...it was hopeless at picking up...especially in the wet.
Time will tell as to whether I like it or not....it was a fair bit cheaper than a new Honda, (though I didn't have any choice, as I don't pay the bills here!) I just hope the build quality is as good.
The old girl won't be thrown away, though. We'll strip her down and get the deck welded and keep her as a reserve. A few pics of the new and old.
And the final two pics are side views of the new and old so compare the similarity.
Watch this space for more updates!