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November 2013 Hello and Welcome to the first St Georges Park newsletter.

My name is Marie and I am your park keeper, a keen member of the Friends of St George Group and also a local resident. I am producing this regular newsletter to keep you up to speed with the goings-on in the park from a wildlife and horticulture point of view. Hope you enjoy!

Autumn Leavesthey crunch, crackle and rustle under our feet, in browns, yellows, reds and oranges, as soon as I gather up one lot another magically appear. In gusty conditions its like trying to round up wayward sheep. And yet I have noticed that some trees are still clinging furiously onto their leaves and are barely beginning to change into their myriad of autumnal colours. Are they trying to cling to the memories of the warm sunny summer we have just had? At least autumn has arrived in a mellow mood delaying thoughts of the inevitable cold and dark winter months ahead of us. I have had some glorious moments in the park with that special kind of light you get with the shortening of the days causing the trees to shine with golden halos. Now is the time to benefit from autumns bounty of leaves to make leaf mould. This is a precious free resource to utilise. It can be used as a soil improver or spread as a mulch to suppress weeds on shrub, herbaceous and vegetable beds After allowing a year or two for them to rot down your leaf mulch is ready to use. Leaf mould is made separate to compost as it takes leaves longer to break down, although it is perfectly fine to add small quantities of leaves to your existing compost. Leave mould differs to compost in that it is a soil conditioner. So rather than adding nutrients it improves the structure of your soil and helps it to keep hold of moisture. Annual beddingThe mammoth task of changing the annual bedding by the front gates is complete. Thank you for all the lovely comments about the summer display. I have been told it has been the best display in years, so I hope I can continue to improve on this. I was sorry to take them out but these plants are annuals and are too delicate to survive the winter frosts. So in order to have colour in spring they need to make way for the next crowd, wallflowers and tulips. There is always a hurry to get the wallflowers in place as they arrive to the park bare rooted, meaning they are delivered without any soil around their roots. If their roots dry out they will die so there is always a race on to get them settled into their new home. They tend to look a bit bedraggled until they get established and will bloom in spring bringing much needed cheer and promise after the long winter.

Leaf Mould Recipe

Collect autumn leaves and wet them if they are dry to help speed up the rotting process. Pack them into a container like the one to the left or fill strong refuse sacks with them. Tie the top of the sacks but punch holes in them.

And Bulbs. This year I have added some more daffodils with the names Stint, Carbineer, Unsurpassable and St Patricks Day. I try to pick early flowering types to try and fit them in with the grass cutting regime. Daffs need at least 6 weeks to die back after flowering to enable the bulb to build up energy stores for the following year. I have also planted more of one of my favourite bulbs, Camassia semiplena. They are a summer flowering bulb. They grow about 90cm high which makes them very useful for growing in long grass and meadows and are suitable for areas of unmown grass around our trees and on the banks around the lake. See if you can spot these new comers in the next year? All spring bulbs should be planted by now, with tulips going in last in November. If bulbs are planted late they should stay tucked up in their private underground world to appear the following year. Also look out for the Tree of the Moment which is Oak

The fruits of the oak are acorns and are produced on the tree once it reaches 40 years old. In a good year the Majors Oak produces 150,000 acorns. Acorns are an important food source to many mammals. The trees host up to 280 species of insect which in themselves provide an important food source for our birds. We have four types of Oak in St Georges Park. The leaf shapes and descriptions below can help you identify each species.

1.Quercus Ilex (Holm oak/Holly oak). Leaves are leathery and evergreen and can vary greatly in size. They can be up to 8cm long and 5cm across.

2.Quercus robur (English Oak/Pedunculate Oak). Leaves are up to 10cm long and 6cm across.

There are hundreds of different species of oak, both deciduous and evergreen. The one we are most familiar with is the English Oak (Quercus rubor). It is the most common tree in the UK and also the national tree of England. These trees are magnificent and can live very long periods of time. One of these majestic old timers can be found in Sherwood Forest. It is called Majors Oak and is believed to be between 800-1000 years old. It is said that Robin Hood and his band of merrymen used this tree to shelter and sleep under. Aston Court is home to the Doomsday Oak which is thought to be around 700 years old and in its old age needs help staying upright with supporting timbers.

3.Quercus rubra (red oak). Leaves are up to 20cm long and 10cm across

4.Quercus cerris (turkey oak). . Leaves are from 7 to 14 cm long and up to 5cm wide.
(you need to imagine these in autumnal colours)