Wednesday, 25 November 2020

RHS Northwest in Bloom 2020

Our 2020 certificates.        


Due to the Covid Pandemic, our usual entry into the Northwest in Bloom scheme which is run by the Royal Horticultural Society, has been impossible.  However, many of our volunteers have continued to work in the Rose Garden, keeping it a beautiful sanctuary, where many people have gone to exercise and escape during this difficult time.

Our volunteers have planted 700 bulbs at the top of the garden , leading into the Quarry. The Friends group has received generous donations from visitors, one of which funded all those bulbs, which should be a wonderful sight next Spring to lift our spirits. 

In light of the currant situation, and in recognition of the contribution our Friends have made to the community, we have been awarded three certificates from the RHS Britain in Bloom.

The three certificates are as follows:-

For inspiring others

For recognition 

For sharing your kow how

With new hope in sight as new vaccines are close to being  brought out, we all look forward to being able to return to normality in 2021. 


Sunday, 6 September 2020

Plaque in Memory of Bill Blackledge MBE

The Oxton Society has won many gold awards from North West in Bloom since they have been  decorating the village with beautiful hanging baskets.

Award winning hanging baskets in Oxton village.

Over the last two years we have entered the Arno quarry and Rose Garden into the North West in Bloom scheme. In our first year we reached a level 4 which meant we were a thriving community working to provide a beautiful green space for everyone to enjoy. Last year 2019, our second year of entering the competition, we worked even harder and achieved a level 5 of outstanding, the highest level for our category.  I posted about it on this blog and showed the certificate we were awarded.

Earlier this year, Bill Blackledge MBE, chairman of the RHS North West in Bloom, sadly passed away.  John Booth, our committee member who built the bee hotels, together with so many other projects, decided that we should put up a plaque in memory of Bill somewhere in the Rose Garden.  Due to Covid-19 and lockdown we were restricted in what we could do.  However, last Saturday 5th September 2020 we gathered, not too closely of course, to unveil the plaque beneath one of our bee hotels.  

Members of the Oxton Society joined us for this ceremony, as he was also well known through the Oxton village North West in Bloom achievements. If you click on the link below, you can learn more about this remarkable man.

Gathering for the unveiling.

John Booth gives his short speech about Bill.

The plaque in Bill's memory.

About Bill Blackledge MBE

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Helping the bees.

Despite all the restrictions we have faced during the Corona virus pandemic, we have still quietly continued to make improvements to the Rose Garden.  The plight of the bee population has been well documented recently.  We can all play a small part in helping to improve the chances of bees in our gardens and local green spaces.

Sedum and yellow Inula bee favourites.
Pulmonaria, an early Spring flowering perennial.
The long border already provides pollen and nectar over as long a period as possible. Starting in late January with hellebores and snowdrops, then comfrey, pulmonaria, daffodils,crocus and forget-me-nots, followed by many more perennials. Sedums are partuclarly good for bees in September.  The border always has something in flower until as late as October. If you too plant in your garden with bees in mind, you will attract a myriad of flying insects to your plot.  A garden without butterflies and bees would be a sad place indeed. The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) has online lists of which plants are beneficial to bees, butterflies or both.  There is lots of information available online, or in books.  Kate Bradbury is a passionate advocate of wildlife and ways in which we can help.

Long border at the beginning of August.


The Friends group has already installed bird nesting boxes and a bat box around the edges of the Rose Garden.  Recently, we created a bug hotel inside one of the shrub borders to provide shelter for all kinds of "minibeasts".  The bug hotel has been very popular. So much so, that children and their parents have made well trodden paths to and from it.  We even used an old fallen branch as a rustic seat close by.

Our latest additions are two bee hotels for solitary bees to lay their eggs in, which hatch out the following Spring.  Apart from honey bees, which can sting you if disturbed and which live in large hives, all the other 230 or so wild bee species are called solitary bees. They do not build communal nests. None of them will sting you and most do not even have stings.  Our bee hotels are aimed at these solitary bees, paricularly Mason bees and Leafcutter bees.  The female places a store of pollen in a tube, lays an egg on it then blocks it up, before laying another egg and so on until the tube is full.  After the egg hatches, the bee larvae eats up the pollen store before it turns into a bee and burrows its way out around March time the following year.  Sometimes birds will try and peck into the tubes to eat the bee larvae over Winter.  The nesting tubes can be kept in a cool shed during the winter for protection from predators, then brought out again in March.
It is important to replace the nesting tubes every couple of years to prevent the build up of any pests and diseases.  Solitary bees are only around in our gardens for a few months during which they mate and lay their eggs before dying. 

Top end of the long border.

As you can see, our bee hotels have a roof to keep rain out. They are in a South facing sunny position and are up at a height where they can fly in and out easily.  All bee hotels should be at least a metre off the ground.  Hopefully we will see bees flying in and out this Summer, busily laying their eggs. We are a little late for Mason bees this year, but Leafcutter bees are still around.  They are particularly fond of Globe thistle(Echinops),which is just in flower now at the top end of the long border. We have even used a lovely blue globe thistle flower in our Friends group banner logo. They use curled up leaves, often nibbled from rose leaves, to block each egg cell. Hence the name leafcutter bee.  Maybe you can build a bee box for your garden too.

Middle of the long border.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Recent Developments 2020

Since Lockdown began on March 23rd 2020, the new "normal" way of life has changed somewhat.  Our volunteers were unable to gather together, join in our shed for hot drinks, plan events or even have our Committee meetings.  Now we have Zoom virtual Committee meetings.  Our planned events were all cacncelled as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.  No Spring Plant sale, no plant stall for the Secret Gardens of Oxton, no Litter picks.  

This morning, Saturday 4th July, was the first volunteer Saturday when we were allowed to meet up in the Rose Garden, albeit at 2 metre social distances. 

Indeed the Rose Garden and The Oxton Fields have been a lifeline for recreation during this lockdown. Many people in the community have used these valuable green spaces for their daily exercise outings, as every other place, apart from food shops, was closed.  Families have had picnics and enjoyed the good weather, when usual home visiting was prohibited. 
We were saddened to discover that this week our Bug Hotel in the Rose Garden had been vandalised. That, coupled with 4 roses being stolen, is extremely upsetting. Particularly as members of the community had given their time and money in contributing to and caring for this great asset The Rose Garden.
The Police and Parks and Gardens have been alerted to the theft of the roses. Could we ask the community to be alert and report any suspicious activity to the Police non-urgent call line 101.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Difficult times 2020

Since 23rd March we have been in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  This has meant that council gardeners cannot mow the lawns in any areas except cemeteries.  We have all been told to only venture outside for daily exercise or to get food or medicines.  The long border has been left to fend for itself, but we have noticed that some of last year's dead stems are actually acting as supports for this year's growth to push through.  Many locals are still using the Rose Garden for their daily walk, joggers doing laps of the rose beds, as well as many dog owners giving their canine companions some much needed fresh air.

Blue tits have been sighted using some of the nesting boxes which John Booth and John Hall had alreday set up last year.  Keeping to the 2 metres rule for social distancing,  our Secretary Peter and John Booth have continued to prune the roses, which they wanted to complete before the end of March.  We are striving to make improvements to the Rose Garden, not just for us humans, but for the wildlife too.  With this in mind, John Booth had built a bat box.  With the help of his son Phil and Peter, they installed the bat box high up in one of the mature trees.  Quite a task as it is a substantial structure and needed to be very securely attached.

We hope you are all staying safe and that it won't be too long until we can all resume some kind of normality in these difficult times.  We miss meeting you and chatting while our volunteers are gardening in the Rose Garden.  Please enjoy your exercise in and around the Rose Garden, quarry and Oxton Fields.  We are happy for dogs to be off lead in the quarry area and on the oxton Fields, but would appreciate it if you could keep their leads on whilst in the more formal Rose Garden.

Although we are not meant to stop and sit, perhaps you can keep a look out and see if you can spot any birds nesting in our boxes.   See you soon and look after each other.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Wirral History and Heritage Fair 2020

This year's fair took place at the Town hall in Hamilton square on Saturday 7th March.  While the rest of our team were busy working in the Rose Garden, preparing for our Spring plant sale , some of our Committee attended the Fair to represent us at the Town Hall.

Linda Atkinson, Membership Secretary and Annette Capper, Chairperson, helped by John Booth and John Hall, set up our stand in order to raise Public awareness of our Friends Group. Our stand has been much improved  recently to showcase the various activities we carry out to benefit the local area and community, such as tree planting, rose planting, litter picks, plant sales, Christmas grotto etc.

Some other activities planned this year include an Easter hunt and Tallest sunflower growing competition.  We planted 150 tree whips a few weeks ago and a few of our Friends have already been on a willow weaving course, courtesy of TwigTwisters, with a view to coppicing some locally grown willow to create plant supports for the long Border in the Rose Garden.  One possibility would also be to create a living willow serpentine tunnel on the Oxton fields for children to run through!

If you want to get involved, become a paid up member of the Friends of the Arno and Oxton Fields. There are lots of practical ways you can help out too. You can do as little or as much as you want.  We are a very sociable group and would love to meet new members.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Young Tree Planting February 2020.

The weather has been extremely wet and windy throughout most of February.  We have finally received our order of native tree whips from Wirral Borough Council.  A couple of our Committee members met with Neil Garnett from the Council to agree on how many the Friends Group would plant and whereabouts on the Oxton Fields would be suitable.  We set a date for Saturday 22nd February.

The 150 tree whips we agreed to plant were either Alder or Goats' willow, both native varieties which sustain wildlife.  Willows in particular are an excellent caterpillar food for  many types of moth.  Both tree types like wet ground to thrive so the boggiest areas of the fields were ideal spots.  Indeed we already had some willow and alder in the largest copse which regularly gets flooded.  These trees help to soak up a lot of excess rainwater, so of benefit to us as well as the insects.

Despite heavy rain the day before, we wrapped up warm and wellies on, we trudged out with our spades to start planting.  The Council had provided the tree whips, stakes and netting to give the trees the best possible chance of getting established.  The netting will also help to prevent the whip being mown over once the grass starts being cut regularly.  Neil had stated that they would leave these areas for the grass to grow longer which is also of benefit to wildlife, part of their aim to increase biodiversity.  To be fair, the ground is so wet in these aeas that mowing is virtually impossible anyway.
Councillor Allan Brame came to say hello.

About 12 of us worked for a good two hours planting, staking and netting the tree whips.  Luckily the rain stayed off and by 12 noon we had completed our task and all the tree whips were in the ground.  We headed back to the Rose Garden to warm up with hot drinks and biscuits.  A well deserved treat for all the very muddy work.  There are another 100 tree whips which the Council will plant on the other side of Duck Pond Lane. Native Hawthorn, Blackthorn and perhaps some Birch.

A few of our Friends group have since been on a willow weaving course, with a view to being able to coppice some willow in the years to come to make plant supports for the Long Border.  We may even build a living willow tunnel on the Oxton Fields  for local children to play in. Watch this space!