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Head Gardener’s Blog: Winter 2019-20

9th January 2020

Sophie Walwin was appointed as our new Head Gardener last term. In the first installment of a new seasonal blog, she describes the sights and smells of the grounds in winter, along with the work she and fellow gardener Dave Townsend are carrying out to prepare the gardens for the Spring.

Sophie Walwin is wearing an olive green scarf and a black gilet and stands in front of a tree with orange autumnal leaves in Somerville's quadrangle

Sophie Walwin, Somerville’s new Head Gardener

Winter is a great time to start in a new garden, as you can see the ‘bones’ of the landscape – the structure of the garden becomes clearer in winter.

Because of this, I am taking stock of the borders and thinking ahead to how I would like the gardens to look in years to come.

Since teaming up with Dave Townsend, the long-standing member of the gardens team, we’ve achieved quite a bit in terms of organising the borders by pruning and lifting plants, many of which have been transplanted to the beds in the growing area over-looked by the Margery Fry building.

Together we are re-imagining the borders and preparing for renovation works. In the months to come, we will remove the perennial weeds to get the soil ready to accommodate new plants that will thrive in less weed-inhabited ground.

In December we planted more tulips in borders and pots around the college to boost our floral display over the spring months. Adding more bulbs to the gardens is something that I am very keen to continue, to provide the college community with greater year-round interest.

There are a number of plants in flower during the winter months, often providing us with wonderful, sweet scents. As you walk along the path to the Chapel, the delicious perfume of the flowers of wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, fills the air from its home in the Fellows garden.

Snowdrops are emerging on the chapel lawn and you’ll notice the blue flowers of Algerian iris, Iris uniguicularis, blooming in the narrow border under the windows of the Maitland building.

And the dainty but vibrant pink flowers of Cyclamen coum are visible under the maple tree in front of the SCR.

When the gardens are dormant, or at least more subdued, it’s a good time to start looking at seed catalogues and choosing which plants to grow for the coming growing season and in years to come. This is an exciting task, full of promise of leaf, flower and fruit, looking forward eagerly to the colourful summer ahead.

the small yellow flowers of wintersweet are growing, with the fellows garden sundial on the lawn in the backdrop

Chimonanthus praecox, or wintersweet, can currently be found in the Fellows’ Garden

3 small snowdrops open on the chapel lawn

Snowdrops are beginning to emerge on the chapel lawn

The Algerian iris, Iris uniguicularis, which is currently growing in the Maitland border, has distinctive blue flowers

The vibrant pink flowers of Cyclamen coum, which are nestled at the base of a maple tree on the quadrangle

The vibrant pink flowers of Cyclamen coum

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