FoSJP Gardening Team

Gardening in the Park

FoSJP Gardening Team logo
in partnership with
SCC logo

Updated: 23rd July 2013

The aim of the FoSJP Gardening Team is to help Southampton City Council to maintain and further develop the planting in St.James' Park, in particular with a view to using interesting and colourful plants that will attract wildlife and provide community involvement in the Park.

We meet in the Park on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month, from 1.00pm to 3.00pm (weather permitting), with additional opportunities to be arranged as the need arises for people to get involved. You don't need to be a gardening expert to join us: just to be enthusiastic, keen to learn, and able to commit to a few hours in the Park every now and then.

An introduction to the FoSJP Gardening Team
Please see our Calendar page for dates and times of forthcoming Gardening Team sessions.

Information on additional sessions might also be posted on the FoSJP Facebook page or on the noticeboards in and around St.James' Park.

To find out more about the Gardening Team, please email us on

What have we done so far?

Updated: 20th January 2018

This is a sample of the many sessions we've had working together in St.James' Park since January 2012.

Wednesday 10th January 2018

The sunniest and warmest day of the week saw seven of the Gardening Team, plus Simon from the City Parks team, finding plenty to do even on a midwinter day.

As you can see from the photos, we were weeding, clearing paths and drains, mulching flower beds, and starting to dig out the compost containers ready for fresh compost. The last task was made more difficult by tree roots which had spread up into the compost, established themselves and flourished. We hope this task can be completed at the next Gardening Team session.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 13th December 2017

Simon and Kelvin from the City Parks team were joined by a worthy team of four who came along during the small window of dry, chilly weather which lasted for just about the whole Gardening Team session.

Piles of bark mulch were spread around the beds, completing a great job which four army volunteers had begun on the previous Saturday. Otherwise, there were still plenty of leaves strewn everywhere, which were blown, raked, and gathered, clearing paths and the Young Play Area.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Saturday 9th December 2017 - A Helping Hand from the Army

17 Port & Maritime Regiment [external link]

The Gardening Team would like to give a big "Thank You" to four soldiers from the 17 Port & Maritime Regiment based in Marchwood.

Sergeant Billy McCallum and his team chose 12 different charities and good causes to support - St.James' Park was one of these, so they came along on a Saturday and moved tons of woodchip. It was amazing what four men could do in 3 hours!

Photos courtesy of Sergeant Billy McCullum

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

A team of 8, backed up by Simon from the City Parks team, were active in the park today. We planted a beautiful shrub called leycesteria formosa and some bulbs for next year - crocus and canna; gathered many bags of leaves for composting; cleared the root‑infested compost bins to make room for more leaves; tackled ivy which was strangling a large tree; and discussed tactics for our next session.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 8th November 2017

A robust team of nine was in the Park today: a gargantuan pile of leaves was moved to the leaf bins, fresh pansies were put in the Café planters and the summer planting removed, the ivy strangling one of the mature trees was cut back, and a crack team of volunteers, together with Simon from the City Parks team, exterminated an unwelcome plant that had established itself in the Café guttering - the Park is truly safe in their hands!

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 25th October 2017

What a beautiful day it was for the Gardening Team - calm and sunny! The grasses were glistening beautifully in the autumnal sunshine and the Park was full of children enjoying half‑term.

The team of 7 concentrated on weeding, tidying, and gathering up the many leaves which are dropping - one pile was greatly enjoyed by some children! We completed weeding one of beds facing the Central Pitch, which is now ready for a good mulch.

We needed to empty the leaf store from last year - a serious challenge to the back - and the old leaf mould was spread on the Café side of the Botanical Walk. There is more emptying of compost to be done, but again the encroaching roots from the nearby trees make this more difficult than it should be. We hope to provide a physical barrier at the base of the compost containers, as a root deterrent, before adding more leaves and compost.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond, Bruce Larner

Wednesday 11th October 2017

Overcast and showery skies did not deter our robust team members - a good number came to the Park for this week's session, along with Simon and his City Parks team. There were plenty of leaves to tidy, shrubs to trim, and weeds to dig up.

On a trial basis, we'll be opening up the Gardening Team to sessions on other Wednesdays from 1pm to 3pm, not just on the usual 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month. If you'd be interested in joining us on any Wednesday, please contact us for details on
Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 27th September 2017

This week we had a team of 8, along with Simon from the City Parks team who, as ever, pulled his weight along with everyone else. Continuing rainfall means that the Park is lush, so there was much growth to be tidied and weeded - the aroma of lemon balm trimmings filled the air. Leaves are starting to fall and a borrowed blower came in useful along the paths. Three donated cordylines were planted along the Botanical Walk.

On the Maintenance front, we found just the right bolt to mend the Park's boundary fence, where a bolt was missing, thus securing it from further damage.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner, Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 13th September 2017

This week saw six regular members of the Gardening Team in action at the first of the Autumn sessions - we enjoyed an afternoon dodging the showers yet still managed to prune, weed, and tidy, as well as sweeping up and clearing the first of the season's tree litter.

Simon from the City Parks team was welcomed back with a deluge of enquiries - it was good to see him after the summer break and also to see his pick‑up truck, which was put to good use removing the day's green waste and some scrap catering equipment from the ParkLife Café.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 23rd August 2017

On a balmy day - and a dry one at last! - a team of 7 set to, dealing with all the lush growth which the recent rains had produced. We made quite an impact on the areas tackled - weeding and dead-heading - and sweeping and strimming helped make the boundaries look neater.

As you can see, we enjoyed the usual friendly cuppa at the end of the session.

We'd hoped to ask Simon from the City Parks team about the dramatic change to the south‑west corner of the Park by Church Street, but that will have to wait for another occasion.

Photos above and below courtesy of Bruce Larner, Margaret Osmond
Weeding - Before and Afterwards
A welcome cuppa afterwards What's happening in the South-West corner...?

Wednesday 9th August 2017

Despite adverse weather conditions, two resolute individuals from the Gardening Team, together with the City Parks team, swept up and tidied as best they could in the circumstances

Wednesday 26th July 2017

An energetic Gardening Team of four (including one newcomer from the International Family Day event in July) met up with Simon and the City Parks team, and despite rain showers, stayed the course - weeding and tidying the central Botanical Walk and the Heritage Frieze flower bed.

Wednesday 12th July 2017

A Gardening Team of 7 made a considerable impact on the Park, as edges were tidied, weeds were pulled, euphorbia was trimmed back, and a couple of broken barrier panels were mended.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 14th June 2017

On a very hot day in the Park, a team of four were joined by Simon from the City Parks team and did some weeding, together with a start on digging out two of many large clumps of an invasive grass which has established itself on the Botanical Walk. The path around the Café and Young Play Area was swept following the recent high winds, and the drains in this area were opened and cleaned out, which yielded some very good compost. The Tulip Tree, which is looking very healthy, had a good watering.

Simon has brought down materials to repair the two damaged low‑level fences and to secure two loose metal posts in the fencing around the Young Play Area - we're hoping for a cooler day to tackle that work!

During end of work refreshments, Marina used us as guinea pigs for some ginger ice cream on sale in the café, which was much appreciated.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Larner

Wednesday 24th May 2017

A rewarding Gardening & Maintenance Teams session, with much to show thanks to a team of eight, joined at the end by a busy Simon from the Council's City Parks team.

By the end of the session the Team had made quite a difference!

Photos courtesy of David Clothier, Bruce Larner

Wednesday 10th May 2017

Lovely sunshine greeted a hearty team of nine, including two first‑timers who were warmly welcomed.

Key tasks were tidying, weeding, watering, and planting - new plants introduced included evening primrose (tall yellow-flowering plant), hellebore, and shrub rose. On the maintenance side, a table and a flipchart stand were mended.

Several people commented that they appreciated how lovely the Park is looking, so the Gardening Team can take encouragement.

After this session we found out that one of our new attendees was in fact a "secret shopper" sent from the ParkLives organisation which is sponsoring the Gardening Team this year. Fear not, Gardening Team fans - she awarded us 10/10 for the session, including her welcome on arrival and the friendly way in which she was treated!
Photos courtesy of David Clothier, Bruce Larner, Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 26th April 2017

We had a splendid team of 13 this week - many hands meant that much could be achieved, especially with such an energetic team of people, as the photos below show (look out for another welcome sighting of last time's rare spot - SimonBustonium as well as Nigel's bright new ParkLives jacket, which makes him easy to find).

We took on a wide variety of tasks - weeding, pruning, planting, and watering. We planted some attractive compact Guelder rose (viburnum opulus "Compactum") and hawthorn which were planted in the main borders, while spotted laurel (aucuba - for a boundary) and hebe were planted in the Heritage Bed. Also, the barbecue was spruced up following Easter Monday's barbecue in the Park.

The team avoids a brief shower... ...and works on planting...
...and pruning Guelder Rose & Hawthorn MO
Spotted Laurel MO The team enjoys a welcome cuppa after a hard afternoon's work
Photos courtesy of David Clothier and Margaret Osmond MO

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

The weather changed dramatically and with perfect timing to let this week's gardening session go ahead after a morning of heavy rain. Six regulars were joined by a new volunteer who is already looking forward to our next session on Wednesday 12th April.

The beds in the Botanical Walk were spruced up and cleared by some intense weeding and cutting back of shrubs.

Wednesday 8th March 2017

Sadly, no sign today of longed for Spring sunshine; however, a doughty band of six were in the Park. There was much weeding, the fencing was reinstated in the Wordsworth Road corner, the container was tidied, and the detritus left by Storm Doris was cleared. Our colleagues on the City Parks team kindly took the rubbish away.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

A Gardening Team of six, including a new member, worked on cutting back the dogwood, clearing cherry suckers, and adding pansies and violas to the planters, while the Park was full of families enjoying half term holiday.

On the maintenance side, a cupboard was repaired and another section of the handrail at the café was varnished.

Photos courtesy of David Clothier

Wednesday 8th February 2017

The Gardening Team was 6‑strong this week. A little dead‑heading was done to the flowers in the planters, which are providing a cheerful welcome to the Café area. Also euphorbia and cornus (dogwood) along the Botanical Walk were cut back, but this task was unfinished so there will be plenty to do next time! A mature cistus shrub, which should produce white flowers, was planted in the rose bed by the Central Pitch, and some pink Hellebores were added to the Heritage Frieze Bed.

On the maintenance side, some repairs were made to pipework and the water meters were read.

Hellebores in the Heritage Frieze Bed Cistus in the Rose Bed
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 25th January 2017

On a bright, chilly afternoon, a Gardening Team of 7 (later 8), together with Victor, Simon, and Kelvin from the City Parks team, quickly got underway: planting primulas to brighten the Café planters, tackling the spreading brambles below Winchester Road, and weeding and tidying the flowerbeds.

The metal protector for the replacement WI tulip tree had already been rocked, loosened, and misused, and threatened to damage the tree. Simon tried to reinforce the supports, but the soil was still too loose from the planting to prevent the metal being rocked, so, regretfully, the metal protector was removed.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond
Photos courtesy of David Clothier
Photos courtesy of David Clothier
Photos courtesy of David Clothier Photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 11th January 2017

A beautiful afternoon welcomed a hearty Gardening & Maintenance Team of 6 plus Simon, Geoff, and Kelvin from the City Parks team. Extra respect and thanks to those who also turned out on Tuesday afternoon and/or Wednesday morning to help with tree planting.

There was some tidying and watering to do with the new tree, which is a replacement for the Women's Institute Centenary Tree which was originally planted in October 2015 but unfortunately later vandalized.

We spent most of the rest of the session clearing up yet more leaves from paths and drains, competing with the wind which was whipping the dry ones along.

On the maintenance side, a fire extinguisher was fixed securely and more of the wooden rail around the café was varnished.

Planting the replacement Women's Institute Centenary Tree
The finished tree (photos taken 2 weeks later)
Photos courtesy of Mike Sanderman
Spreading mulch on the flower beds

Wednesday 14th December 2016

Balmy weather welcomed 6 Gardening Team volunteers, including two volunteer helpers from Oil Spill Response who joined us today. Many thanks to the company for releasing their employees in this way, and to the employees who worked really hard and had an amazing effect: carting and spreading a lorryload of mulch on the flower beds facing the Central Pitch.

The trees have finally dropped their leaves, so most of us set to clearing these - it was quite obvious where we had been. There was also a lot of cutting back and tidying of dead plant matter.

Here's a challenge: can you guess who the Secret Santa is?

Clearing the last of the autumn leaves
Cutting and Tidying A well‑earned cup of tea - can you spot the Secret Santa?
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 23rd November 2016

A team of five plus Simon and Kelvin from the City Parks team had a couple of hours' hard work on a lovely afternoon clearing leaves from around the Park. Impeded slightly by a lack of enough wheelbarrows, we nevertheless made a huge impact and left the Park looking much tidier.

The mystery of the missing tree trunk was revealed by Simon. It has apparently been causing access difficulties to SCC vehicles, resulting in damage to the adjacent Central Pitch, and so when the new Trees Team were looking for some practice, our tree trunk was one of 3 fallen trees in the area to provide an opportunity for them. The preferred option of relocating it to the Play Area was not possible because of its weight.

Wednesday 9th November 2016

A small, dedicated group of 5 volunteers were in the Park today. We attended to weeding the beds and, together with Simon and the City Parks team, got stuck into a big clear‑up of the fallen leaves - the leaf bin was filled to overflowing.

Prior to all this, some of us were interviewed for a short film by Rhaya from That's Solent TV.

UPDATE  Click here to see the film "A Group of Volunteers Join Forces to Maintain their Community's Green Space".

Photo courtesy of Nigel Fayle

Wednesday 26th October 2016

Eight of us made up the Gardening Team this week. We majored on tidying - weeding, cutting back, clearing leaves and composting what we could. To make space for this year's leaves, last year's leaf mould, "black gold", was dug out and spread along the Heritage Frieze bed.

The City Parks team were busy in the Park, taking away a lot of bulky waste, and we glad to chat with Simon at the end. He is going to see whether the Council has anything (e.g. bulbs) to spare for us to plant to bring Spring colour to St.James' Park next year.

Wednesday 12th October 2016

A Gardening Team of four today were joined by a Maintenance Team of two. We planted a white, hybrid Rhododendron - actually a retirement gift that has been donated to the Park - and cut back dead growth, including the Buddleia.

We also had a welcome visit by Simon from the City Parks department , who had squeezed some time in his busy schedule and had remembered about the waste that we needed removing, so he loaded up his truck and we piled on the day's cuttings.

Wednesday 28th September 2016

A team of 8 tackled the weeds and overgrowth in the Botanical Walk border, to tidy up for Winter. The weeds don't seem to have got the message that Winter is coming and have continued to flourish since last we were in the Park!

It was lovely to have Simon with us from the City Parks department once again - he is always a great encouragement to us.

Such a good number makes for a friendly and cordial atmosphere while we garden, and we enjoyed a welcome cuppa together before leaving. Come along and join us sometime if you like!

Wednesday 14th September 2016

A small Gardening Team spent a gloriously hot and sunny afternoon weeding and tidying flower beds in the Park, working in the shade wherever possible. It was good to see the Park's bright new Green Flag Award 2016/2017 flag hoisted on the flagpole.

Wednesday 24th August 2016

Photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond
Burning hot weather conditions (about 30°C) didn't prevent five Gardening Team members coming to the Park to see if they could still operate.

Shade was our main place of work, with weeding, tidying, sweeping, and watering our main activities.

The hose was brought out to water in a new ornamental tree (a Rhus Sumac, we believe) which was kindly donated for the Park (see photo, left).

Wednesday 10th August 2016

We had a great turnout of nine for the Gardening and Maintenance Teams this week, and we were able to make a noticeable impact on the Park (as well as having a friendly time). Some were tidying and weeding, and the trimmed yew hedge is now looking quite encouraging as it grows back and so many weeds have been cleared. Things looked so dry that some beds were given a welcome thorough waterinng to keep things alive.

Indoors, locks were put on a cupboard.

Editor's Note - A few days after this session, one of our team was watering the pots around the Café when a lady stopped to say how much she enjoys the flowers in the Park. She commented on the pots looking particularly good this summer. Our thanks go once again to the volunteers of the FoSJP Gardening Team.

Wednesday 27th July 2016

A Gardening Team of seven energetically tackled tidying and weeding tasks in the Park, especially clearing along the yew hedge and under trees between the Café and noticeboard. Bedding plants were added to the Café planters, promising a colourful display to continue for some time.

Wednesday 13th July 2016

The Gardening Team, 5‑strong, were in full action this week, achieving a noticeable amount of weeding and tidying up in the Park, while the Maintenance Team repaired an internal door and table in the ParkLife Café.

Wednesday 22nd June 2016

The Gardening Team met on a beautiful balmy afternoon, and were delighted to welcome a first time member. The team had donated many lovely bedding plants, such as begonia, lobelia, impatiens, and petunia: these have been planted in the planters and some of the borders to provide colour, enhancing the Park for everyone's enjoyment.

As usual there was plenty of weeding to do and things looked much tidier by the time we stopped for our welcome refreshments together. On the maintenance side, a free‑standing display board was repaired.

Wednesday 8th June 2016

The Gardening and Maintenance Teams met today and made the best of a very hot, sunny afternoon.

Donated Impatiens, Canna, and Marigold were planted in the borders, and other bedding plants were added to the green planters near the ParkLife Café. We treated the wood of the Café handrails, we weeded and tidied, and we watered the youngest plants - not forgetting to water ourselves at the end of the session!

Wednesday 25th May 2016

Four Gardening Team member and three Maintenance members had a great innings today. At one corner of the Park, a fence post was added in order to shore up some drooping fencing and camellia pruning was started. In the heritage frieze bed, plastic mesh was attached to wood to allow a clematis to climb. By the ParkLife Café, wood treatment has begun on the rail of the balustrade surrounding the deck, making a noticeable difference. Nearby, palm trees had old fronds removed, and a couple of verbena bonarensis and evening primrose plants were added to the flowerbeds.

Along the Botanical Walk, enough weeds were removed to make a large pile, and a lot of litter was gathered from around the Park.

Wednesday 11th May 2016

This week, six of the Gardening Team were active in the Park. The Church Street/Wordsworth Road corner of the Park was tidied and is looking much better. Paths were swept and borders weeded, improving the sense of tidiness. Drains near to the Young Play Area were cleared, producing useful compost.

A number of fresh plants were added - many thanks to Sue, from Janson Road, who kindly donated a young rhododendron (pictured below) which has been planted in the Heritage Bed, and a dozen lily bulbs which were put in the other borders in two groups. Other plants included aquilegia, winter jasmine, and hosta donated by Gardening Team members.

We have received many appreciative comments from people about the way the sloping banks have had such a wonderful display of bulbs (e.g. bluebells, daffodils - see the photo in the 13th April 2016 report below), a number of which were donated by Southampton City Council for the bulb planting day in the autumn. This is a lovely reward for the very hard work put in by those Gardening Team members involved in helping children and adults plant the bulbs on that Saturday.

Spring colour continues with shrubs such as the weigela (pictured below).

Rhododendron Scarlet Wonder Weigela
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 27th April 2016

This week four members of the Gardening Team were joined by one from the Maintenance Team and 3 volunteer helpers from Oil Spill Response, a company with a community support campaign.

We tackled the railings in Winchester Road - collecting long‑term rubbish, clearing ivy overgrowth, and shovelling up accumulated debris. Simon and his team from Southampton City Council had delivered two loads of bark mulch, which we wheelbarrowed to the lower beds and then spread amongst the planting.

Photos courtesy of Nigel Fayle

Wednesday 13th April 2016

A Gardening Team of six swept, tidied, and weeded in the Park - there was plenty to do on a beautiful day. The bulbs in the park were a picture - see below.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 23rd March 2016

On a pleasant sunny spring afternoon, seven of the Gardening Team set to removing more of the ivy which has established itself in the yew hedge which runs alongside the Tennis Courts. As the picture shows, we made great progress.

Meanwhile Simon and his team from Southampton City Council removed a large holly tree which had been overshadowing the camellias for many years. The camellias should now be able to flourish and may need pruning to revive and re‑shape them.

Wednesday 24th February 2016

The afternoon was fine and dry in the Park, but the roar of the wood chipper told you that the Gardening Team were in action! Five members, including a new volunteer, together with Simon and his team from Southampton City Council, set about the Yew hedge and gave it a severe trimming.

Don't be alarmed when you see it - although it looks a bit sad and tattered now, we are assured by Simon that Yew is very tough and it will soon green up and grow back - the purpose was to get the hedge back into a more easily maintainable shape.

Photos courtesy of Nigel Fayle

Thursday 28th January 2016

Due to some wearisome, wet, Wednesday weather, our regular Gardening Team session was cancelled, but with a brighter day forecast for the Thursday, three members turned up and weeded the two large beds facing the Central Pitch, and together with some vigorous broom work, the Park was left a tidier place.

Wednesday 13th January 2016

Three of us met on a pleasant winter's afternoon. We added compost to protect bulbs that were planted recently by local schoolchildren - recent rain had washed away soil which had been covering the bulbs and protecting them from frost. We then turned our hand to tidying the brambles on the Winchester Road bank and planted some Japanese anemones.

There was a large gap in the yew hedge near the Central Pitch and water point, which had been used as a thoroughfare for people and animals. This has now been blocked in preparation for replacement yew strikings which would be trampled if there weren't a physical barrier to protect them. A robust young shrub was transplanted into the gap to provide that temporary protection.

Finally there were plenty of weeds to be cleared, including a large dandelion in full flower!

One Maintenance Team volunteer was also present, doing valuable work such as installing locks and repairing a café table.

Wednesday 23rd December 2015

Our thanks to everyone for their help this year - all appreciated and the Park is looking better than ever!

Thanks once again to Simon and his team from Southampton City Council - the leaf blower certainly does a very quick and efficient job of the large areas - all remaining leaves are now on the compost heaps so we hope that the Park will stay tidy for a while now.

Help from the leaf blower much appreciated
Everyone happy with a job well done Botanical Walk tidied for Winter
Tidying up the footpaths Visiting grandson roped in to help
Photos courtesy of Mike Sanderman

Wednesday 9th December 2015

Gathering leaves was the order of the day for the Gardening Team and two staff from Southampton City Council (equipped with a leaf blower). The appearance of the Park was transformed, with all of the leaves from the Wordsworth Road entrance right round the Church Street end of the Park to the Tennis Courts, including the Young Play Area and Café forecourt, gathered and placed in the compost bins for next year - a very satisfying result. We hope that the Park will benefit from all the leaf mould which these leaves should make, as there were enough to fill up the compost bins to overflowing. There was also time for a little trimming and tidying of plants ready for Winter.

Simon Buston, Southampton City Council's West District Parks Coordinator, paid this tribute to the Gardening Team in December 2015:
"In these days of budget austerity, partnership working between "friends" and staff is more important than ever before, and I would like to personally thank the Gardening Team for their tremendous efforts this year, which without doubt have played an essential part in keeping St.James' Park at Green Flag standard."

Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Shirley Infant School logo
Wordsworth Primary School logo

For a special event today, a Gardening Team of four spent a day digging holes for bulb planting. In the morning we were joined by two groups of 9 children each from Shirley Infants School, and together with Hiba who helped us last week, we planted bulbs along the Wordsworth Road bank. In the afternoon we had 21 children visit from Wordsworth Primary School, and repeated the exercise along the St.James' Road bank.

Looking at their faces and listening to their comments, it seems that all the children enjoyed their day out helping to plant the bulbs, and we hope they'll all have learned something from the experience.

Thank you to both schools for their assistance, and to Southampton City Council for supplying the two large sacks of bulbs which we hope will enhance the Park in the Spring.

Photos courtesy of Aisha Chader

Wednesday 25th November 2015

On a damp, autumnal day, four of us managed to leave the comfort of the central heating and found ourselves raking, shovelling, and wheelbarrowing vast quantities of fallen leaves and depositing them in our super new fallen leaf storage facility, from which next year we expect an abundance of leaf mould compost to spread on the Park flower borders.

The gloom of the afternoon was brightened by a little ray of sunshine, Hiba, a 9‑year old pupil from the Home Tutoring group which meets in the ParkLife Community Room - she volunteered to help us and was a big and enthusiastic help, bringing with her a natural skill for leaf storage compaction (jumping up and down on them), and was a delight.

The Maintenance Team were in attendance too, sweeping up and tidying in the Young Play Area.

Photos courtesy of Nigel Fayle

Wednesday 11th November 2015

A determined Gardening Team of four planted many assorted donated bulbs in the Café plant troughs, completed building a new compost bin, and began construction of a wire mesh bin for collecting fallen leaves, in order to make our own leaf mulch to put on the borders next year.

Meanwhile Simon from the Southampton City Council Parks department was on hand with a colleague and they set about tidying up the yew hedges.

Wednesday 28th October 2015

A balmy October day saw four Gardening Team members - we were very pleased to welcome one new member - and one Maintenance Team member active in the Park.

We planted pansies by the Café, swept leaves around the Café area and bagged them for compost, pruned the buddleja, and divided the beautiful tall grasses, thus more than doubling the number of clumps in the Park.

Dividing and re‑planting grasses Planting pansies and sweeping leaves
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Tuesday 13th & Wednesday 14th October 2015

This week some of the Gardening Team met on Tuesday as well as Wednesday.

On Tuesday the Gardening Team helped prepare a hole for a Tree Planting ceremony on Wednesday, and also planted some attractive shrubs in the Heritage Frieze border.

Shrub for Heritage Frieze bed Preparing for WI Centenary tree
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

On Wednesday there were four members of the Gardening Team present - activities were focused on the Women's Institute Centenary Tree Planting ceremony. Simon, the Southampton City Council Parks Coordinator, had provided a lovely tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera, kindly donated by the council. Representatives from the local and Hampshire WI ceremonially planted the tree after a speech in which everybody involved was thanked.

Afterwards, we helped Simon complete the tree planting and watering, and planted more pansies in the planters by the Café, a hellebore in the Heritage Frieze bed, two small weigela in the bed facing the Central Pitch, and an ornamental fir tree to block an unwanted footpath that's been developing through the flowerbeds near the Café.

Tulip Tree planted to commemorate WI Centenary
Weigela planted by Central Pitch "Pansies into Planters"
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 23rd September 2015

Once again this week a Gardening Team of four was joined by two Maintenance Team volunteers.

The Gardening Team tackled the Children's Play Area, tidying the boundary edge and clearing drains, and removing sand from the water feature area, and added various plants to the borders including grasses, Christmas Box (Sarcococca confusa) and Weigela.

The Maintenance Team sanded down and began adding wood stain to handrails, fixed the hook for the fire extinguisher and re‑fixed the spotlight in the light well of the ParkLife Community Room, and mended an outdoor table.

Wednesday 9th September 2015

This week our team of five was joined by two volunteers in our new Maintenance Team.

The Gardening Team weeded, swept paths, cleared drains, pruned euphorbia and other plants, and inspected the wildlife end of the Park.

The Maintenance Team worked on a gazebo which needed attention, labelling the parts so that constructing it will be easier in the future.

Wednesday 26th August 2015

Undaunted by heavy downpours of rain, a team of five gathered after the rain along with Parks Coordinator Simon for a shorter session, in which we swept the paths, cut back some euphorbia, weeded and tidied, and were cheered on by warm sunshine by the end.

Wednesday 12th August 2015

An intrepid team of three met today. We had a productive session - weeding and tidying up the Heritage Border, the pathway leading to the Holly tree, and a section of the Botanical Walk border. We also collected several barrowloads of green waste for our compost heap and fallen leaves, quite a few of which have already fallen due no doubt to the largely dry summer we are having.

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

A team of five met this week. Wooden pallets were cleverly adapted to make a store for compost. Several milkweed plants, food for the monarch butterfly, were added to the Park. We also pruned (e.g. geranium, wygiela), weeded, and emergency watered plants which looked at risk - although a couple of days later, welcome rain was doing a wonderful job for all the plants there!

Watering newly‑planted milkweed Making a compost store
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 24th June 2015

Today a team of six set to work - clipping the hedge that lines Winchester Road down to the level of the railings, and introducing new plants from our own stock: sunflower, euphorbia, pulmonaria, shasta daisy, small variegated grass, verbascum, and geranium.

There is a noticeable improvement since the barriers were installed - plants are being given the chance to become established and to fill out the borders. Some of the roses which were kindly donated to the Park are giving beautiful colour to the borders.

Roses in Botanical Walk
Roses by the Central Pitch Ornamental Oxalis
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 10th June 2015

Today a team of five tackled the following tasks: weeding the Heritage Frieze bed and adding some young plants there, sweeping the borders, and removing the final framework supporting a palm tree in the Young Play Area.

The photo on the right shows a red poppy which has germinated in the Heritage Frieze bed - we hope from one of the seeds that we planted last year!

Wednesday 27th May 2015

Today's session was tinged with sadness as it was Stuart Davies's last day. As an employee of Southampton City Council, Stuart was instrumental in helping to establish our Gardening Team; he's been very helpful to us all over the years and has been a major contributor to the super Park that we now all enjoy. We'll miss his energy and advice, but we look forward to continuing our work with the Council.

To mark the occasion, we presented Stuart with an inscribed tankard and a copy of the St.James' Park History Book containing many messages from FoSJP and Gardening Team members, as tokens of our appreciation. We wish Stuart and his family well for their new Australian adventure!

Photos courtesy of Mike Sanderman

Wednesday 13th May 2015

A team of three were in the Park today. We planted several home‑supplied plants in the Heritage Frieze bed, and scattered Teasel on the Wildflower Bank. We moved the Café planters, spacing them out and placing two on the other side of the decking area. We tidied up around the compost area and swept up around the planters, and carried on sweeping along the Botanical Walk and other paths and around the Play Area.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 22nd April 2015

A team of six met on a glorious spring day in the Park. Five large planters were collected and filled with soil ready for spring flowers, paths and drains were cleared and swept, roses were fed, and dandelions in the flower beds were tackled.

The wild flower strip has not been rotavated and so a more limited variety of young flowers are visible this year. However, empty gaps in the flower borders have reduced thanks to the new barriers and also as plants which were divided over the winter period (e.g. red hot poker and geranium) are coming up.

Wednesday 8th April 2015

Being the Easter Holidays, there were many people and much activity in the Park today, which restricted our activities a little. A team of six planted some Sedum and pink Geraniums, and took the opportunity to walk around to see "how the garden grows". It was pleasing to see how the new fencing has protected the plants and allowed them to grow and get established.

Wednesday 25th March 2015

The main focus for today's team of four was extending the compost heap behind the bins and protecting the wooden structure behind which it rests, using wooden pallets and roofing felt.

We also pruned some grasses and buddleia, and sorted through a pile of loose sticks and branches and added them to one of the wood piles under the bramble domes which were made earlier in the year. Having already started to rot, the wood here will hopefully attract insects and provide food for birds and other wildlife.

Compost - clearing the way... ...making a frame from old pallets...
...a waterproofed frame in place! Adding more wood to the log pile
Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 11th March 2015

In pleasant early spring weather, a team of four focused on pruning the Red Stemmed Dogwood and the Buddleia in the Botanical walk. The Dogwood cuttings were eagerly collected by a couple of volunteers who happened to be in the Park and who teach woodcraft at the Copse in Green Lane, Millbrook - the cuttings are ideal for teaching wood weaving.

We also tidied up along the Botanical Walk, cleared the gutter of leaves by the Play Area, and planted more Honesty seeds in the wildflower bed near Winchester Road.

Wednesday 25th February 2015

A bumper team of nine met on a mild afternoon and accomplished a good number of tasks. A few plants were introduced to the Park and others were divided and planted in spaces. Fallen leaf piles were cleared to the compost area and the compost heap was tidied. One barrier was lowered and the wheelbarrow was mended.

We congratulated the team on the excellent work done completing the barriers around the flowerbeds.

We plan to bring more long planters into the Park so that the display next to the Café can be extended - these planters seem to have lasted a season well.

Wednesday 11th & Thursday 12th February 2015

We held a "fencing event" over two full days in order to complete the installation of protective fencing around the flowerbeds. Our call for local volunteers wasn't particularly successful, but despite modest numbers, we showed the value of teamwork and worked hard over the two days to complete the fencing.

This sterling work should reduce the number of plants being ruined by people trampling over them, and hopefully also reduce the amount of dog mess in the flowerbeds. This will benefit the Park and our gardening efforts long term - we're especially grateful to Mike Sanderman for his initiative and persistence with these improvements.

Photos courtesy of Mike Sanderman

Wednesday 28th January 2015

The Gardening Team was six strong today. We concentrated efforts on tidying the brambles in the wildflower bed at the Winchester Road end of the Park, by tying them together into domes above the ground - this seems to be a very successful tactic for avoiding the branch tips from rooting and so spreading brambles down the grass slope. At the same time we made log piles there using wood gleaned from tree cutting in the local churchyard, to provide a natural home for wildlife. We were able to use the bramble domes to protect the log piles and the bug hotel from vandalism or theft (see photos below).

Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 14th January 2015

An intrepid band of five enjoyed a sunny 2‑hour session today, including a new member all the way from Madrid, who's staying in the UK and had seen details of the FoSJP Gardening Team online - her contribution was much appreciated.

We used two loads of woodchip to complete the coverage of the beds in the Botanical Walk - warm work on a cold day! - and replanted some Canna Lilies that we'd planted at the end of the bed last year.

Sadly, our Bug Hotel was vandalised over Christmas - we plan to repair this soon. A large Cherry tree has recently been cut down from the grounds of St.James' Church, and we're hoping to recycle its wonderfully‑grained hardwood, either for marker points around the Park that are planned by the FoSJP History Research Group, or to build another bug‑friendly habitat for Shirley Infant School lessons.

Wednesday 10th December 2014

Once again there were 8 of us on a surprisingly mild afternoon, and a terrific amount was accomplished in the two‑hour session:

Altogether an encouraging session!

Wednesday 26th November 2014

A hearty team of eight attended today's session, and thankfully the rain held off. We inspected the smart new container which may have space for some of our garden tools, and we hoed, weeded, raked and tidied along the Botanical Walk. Some red hot pokers were divided and moved to fill large gaps in the bed next to the field.

Wednesday 12th November 2014

A team of five had a rather soggy day in the Park today. Despite a couple of showers we started hoeing the weeds and pruning in the Botanical Walk flowerbeds at the Café end, and tidied the corner of Church Street and Wordsworth Road, which, following the planting last Spring, has given a nice splash of colour through the summer.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014

Today we were blessed with pleasant weather and a hearty team of seven.

Hurricane Gonzalo's tailwinds had produced impressive piles of leaves - gathering some of these and unblocking some drainage channels yielded several bags of future compost, which we stored. A lorryload of mulch was applied to the remainder of the beds facing the Central Pitch, whilst the beds nearest to the Café and the Heritage Frieze Bed were tidied and weeded.

Along the central Botanical Walk, donated grasses were planted in a trodden bare patch behind a central bench, and at the Café end, donated love‑in‑the‑mist seeds were spread around for future colour.

Beyond the Central Pitch, yellow rattle seeds were planted in the wild bank. We dug up 10 patches of turf to enable the seeds to take and, we hope, spread across the area, deterring the grass from strangling the wild flowers.

Measurements were taken so that the barriers around the flower beds in the Park can be completed, thanks to a kind decision by the FoSJP Committee to provide funding. This will also depend upon the goodwill of the Gardening Team in cooperation with Stuart from Southampton City Council to do the heavy muscle work required for the installation!

Once again a very encouraging two hours, leaving a noticeable difference to the appearance of the Park!

Below are photos showing some of today's work. Also shown is evidence of twice‑weekly watering of the pots outside the Café by a local resident, for which we are very grateful - before she started, the plants had been looking dried out and were dying. If anyone else could occasionally take a turn, please let us know.

All photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 8th October 2014

Despite the terrible forecast and heavy downpour at 12.50pm, the skies cleared and members of the team gradually trickled along, to be rewarded with bright sunshine and a welcome cup of tea at the end of the session.

We had a team of 5 today, and there was more to do than we had time or personnel for - however, we all agreed it was a very productive session. We spread a lorryload of mulch over the soil from the Wordsworth Road end of the Park, facing the field. We planted bergenias, Japanese anemones and Michaelmas daisies, and four black bags full of good quality surplus plants, all kindly donated by Myrtle. We had to work quickly with the threat of showers and the number of plants, but we managed to get all the plants in the ground. They're all at the far corners of the Botanical Walk or facing the Central Pitch - although they've wilted a little, we hope that the rain will bed them in and that they'll spring back successfully next year.

All photos in this section courtesy of Margaret Osmond

It's encouraging to see more plants instead of bare patches - we also enjoyed seeing the grasses coming into their glory, especially those provided by Chris from Hilliers, on the corner leading to the rubberised surface with exercise machines in the Games Area:

Miscanthus nepalensis - with glossy gold flowers (best appreciated in situ!)

Wednesday 24th September 2014

A team of 8 were busy in the Park today, weeding (helped by rain this morning), pruning, and hoeing, and continuing the mechanical trimming of the long yew hedge.

Wednesday 10th September 2014

Eight members of the Gardening Team attended today, including two new members. We continued our efforts to reduce weeds by concerted hoeing, moving from the Central Pitch beds into the far end of the Botanical Walk. The yew hedge was mechanically trimmed and the trimmings were cleared, and we gave some attention to the Heritage Frieze bed: weeding, pruning, planting, mulching and watering some plants.

Wednesday 27th August 2014

A team of six were in attendance today, concentrating efforts on the two long beds bordering the Central Pitch, which have now been completely cleared of weeds following some vigorous hoeing of the ground which is now much softer ground after the recent rain. The blue geraniums which were donated have now been planted at the Wordsworth Road end, and together with splitting up and replanting of some of the existing geraniums, this has made these beds look much tidier. We also cleared a lot of dead leaves from the path surrounding the Young Play Area, and made a start on pruning the buddleia.

It is good to see the bug hotel generating so much interest, particularly with children in the Park - there's a well‑trodden path up the bank at present - hopefully it will attract some residents to shelter there over the Winter.

Wednesday 13th August 2014

We were lucky with the weather today, missing the occasional showers, as a team of six (plus a visiting grandson) carried on with hoeing the beds adjacent to the Central Pitch - these are now almost completed, and together with some sweeping and tidying along the Wordsworth Road side of the Park, have made a big improvement to the appearance of the Park.

We were also assisted by another volunteer and her two sons who came along to help with watering of the Café planters and weeding. It was hard work in the sunshine and all help is appreciated.

It was also good to see the newly awarded 2014/15 Green Flag flying in the Park - it's good to know that the judging team thought as much of St.James' Park as we all do.

Wednesday 23rd July 2014

We had a good team of 5 again this session. In very hot, dusty conditions we worked as a team to hoe the rose bed again (to keep new weeds at bay).

We then moved on to the neighbouring beds: hoeing and making quite an impact, assisted by one young volunteer who is very enthusiastic about the Gardening Team and keen to help.

We also chose a site for the bug hotel which one of our team has constructed; he returned to the Park to complete it the following day.

The St.James' Park "Hotel de Bug" is open for business!

Photos 1-2 courtesy of Margaret Osmond, Photo 3 by Nigel Fayle
A bug hotel is a manmade structure created from natural materials, designed to provide insects with nesting facilities, to provide biodiversity and to attract beneficial pollinators and natural pest controllers.
In October 2014, the Bug Hotel was entered into the Royal Horticultural Society's "Build a Bug Hotel" photo contest. Thank you to everyone who voted for Nigel's photo - when voting closed on 31st October, it was in a very strong position, but it wasn't quite popular enough to win!

Wednesday 9th July 2014

The energetic Gardening Team this week were 5‑strong - it was surprising how much impact this small team made over a two‑hour period. The Church Street corner plot was weeded, as were the rose bed and the Heritage Frieze bed, where pruning and path tidying were also done. We added a donation of lobelias to the café planter, and at least two heaped wheelbarrows of vegetable matter were added to the compost heap!

Wednesday 11th June 2014

Four of us met for today's session. We planted a number of spare bedding plants near the Café to give a bit of colour, and planted the remainder at the top of the Church Road bank and in the Heritage Bed. We collected two bay trees that were donated by one of our team, but they proved to be too big and heavy to go into the pots on the Café decking, so we planted them on the west side of the Botanical Walk instead, and filled two of the new pots for the Café decking with bedding plants.

We're encouraged to see that the plants in the large ex‑council planter are growing well. Although there's no sign of any poppies yet, a number of other wild flowers are now starting to bloom. The new barriers are having the desired effect and the plants around the corners of paths are improving - as are the weeds!

Wednesday 28th May 2014

A team 6 met for this week's session. We collected soil for the pots and added new seedlings donated by one of our team, and planted up an additional long planter from the Council's redundant stock. We tackled the holly bush, removing branches which were overhanging the camellias. We hoed weeds near the Café flowerbed, planted mixed annual seeds left over from last year, and pricked out some bienniels which were donated to the Park.

All the Café pot plants are currently doing well. The new long planter has survived its first week, and the roses which we found uprooted some weeks ago (and re‑planted) now have fresh leaves!

Donations of more young plants would be useful for the planters and we have three more which can be used once we have the plants for them.

Wednesday 14th May 2014

A team of seven met on a glorious afternoon for a very productive session. Two more corners were protected by the installation of wooden barriers; we planted several verbena bonariensis, valerian and lily of the valley where there are already barriers to protect them; and there was plenty of weeding to be done along the Botanical Walk and at the Church Street corner of the Park.

At our next session we plan to use our remaining stock of wood for one more corner barrier, and we're considering fundraising to purchase more wood to complete the task and protect all the borders in the long term, including path edges. We also hope to have soil available to be able to plant up planters for the Café area, and will be looking for donations of spare seedlings of suitable plants.

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

A team of six of us worked on weeding the Botanical Walk and preparing it for poppy seeds.

We scattered 40,000 field poppy seeds in the Botanical Walk (pictured right), in the Heritage Frieze bed, and in the wild flower beds - we hope that these will bring a splash of colour later this year, to support a national initiative marking the centenary of the start of World War I.

We also shifted some misplaced sand in the Young Play Area and gathered some excellent leaf compost from there, which has been stored for later use.

Extra Session!

A team of four of us had been ready to install more corner barriers in the morning of 23rd April, but the necessary materials weren't delivered in time, so we're now planning another special session on Wednesday 30th April at 9.00am - any help would be very much appreciated!

Wednesday 9th April 2014

This week a team of eight of us met, and using new tools including a newly‑assembled wheelbarrow (skilfully overcoming the setback of missing parts!) and materials we set to work to install new barriers to protect the plants in the flower beds, which have been suffering from corner‑cutting by both humans and dogs. This involved much hard labour - digging, sawing, and concreting - as you can see below!

We also introduced a few more plants to the borders and removed weeds. We plan to install more corner barriers at our next session.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Osmond

Wednesday 26th March 2014

A group of five attended today's session on a crisp, bright afternoon. Julie Catling had kindly donated a range of plants including hydrangea, wygiela, day lilies, Japanese anemone, and a rose, all of which we planted in the Botanical Walk, and we planted a rescued camellia in the flowerbed near the Central Pitch.

With help from Southampton City Council, we're planning to install wooden barriers to protect the corners and edges of the flower beds, so we heeled in some Mahonias so that they can be planted out after the barriers are in place.

Wednesday 12th March 2014

This week a group of seven of us were lucky enough to have a training session from Chris McDonald, horticulturalist at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (Hilliers Arboretum), who shared much practical advice and expert information about plants. He also brought along a large number of plants for us to put in:

  • Miscanthus Sinensis Gracillimus
  • Crinum Powelli
  • Aster Twilight CC
  • Phlox White Admiral CC
  • Oringyum Valgarum CC Oregono
  • Iris Jane Phillips
  • Helianthus Lemon Queen Densiflorus CC

We supplemented these with further plants from from Hilliers Cash and Carry:

  • Mahonia Aquifolium hedging
  • Miscanthus Sinensis Gracillimus
  • Salvia Nemorosa Caradonna

Chris helped us consider how to improve and develop the flowerbeds in the Park, and how to divide existing plants to fill bare patches. The Team spread out along the Botanical Walk, planting some of the plants which Hilliers had generously allowed Chris to bring from their surplus:

All photos in this section courtesy of Margaret Osmond

We were concerned to protect the corners of flowerbeds, some of which have been trampled bare. Chris suggested Mahonia and we planted 16 across four corners:

The SE corner of the Park (Church Street/Wordsworth Road) behind the Camellias was dug and planted up to add a splash of interest for passers‑by. A well‑trodden area, it was fenced off to give the plants a chance to establish (right).
All in all, it was an energetic and very encouraging day! Many thanks go to Mike Sanderman for organising it, including lunchtime refreshments, and to Chris McDonald for sharing his time and expertise.

This training session was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
HLF logo

Wednesday 26th February 2014

A team of six spent a very productive afternoon, largely tidying up the Park which looked a bit tatty with all of the fallen brushwood, which was removed and stacked ready to be taken away. The buddleia and lemon balm were pruned, two more roses were planted, and the rest of the roses planted in the autumn were mulched and fed. Two dead saplings in the yew hedge were removed and a number of cuttings were taken and planted in their place. The steps and area by the West Entrance were cleaned and swept, the Heritage Bed pathway was reinstated, and the area around the Café was given a good tidy up.

Wednesday 22nd January 2014

A team of eight was active today: working on general tidying of the main beds, installing a green chain to replace the rope barrier, and helping to repair green fencing next to the water fountain by re‑concreting the uprights.

Wednesday 8th January 2014

The rain held back enough for us to have a full session today with a team of six.

On the Winchester Road wild flower slope: brambles were tied, the hedge was mulched with some fallen twigs, the seeded pathway was blocked by shrubs at the steps end, and twigs were piled up in the hope that they will rot down and provide shelter for over‑wintering insects. The elder was moved to the St.James' Road bank, near the young oak tree, to give it a new start in a less dry and exposed situation: it was showing encouraging signs of life.

On the Botanical Walk, two blue hydrangeas were moved to make a symmetrical corner feature, near the flagpole.

In the Heritage Frieze bed, a Japanese hydrangea was moved to near the Café, to give it a more moist and shady situation with better opportunities for regular watering in dry spells; a Fatsia Japonica was moved from a sunny site to a shady site at the south end; and a spare honeysuckle shoot in that location was transferred to the north end of the bed to allow it to scramble up the fencing.

Wednesday 27th November 2013

Photo of roses from the Park

Roses from the Park

We had a great Gardening Team this week, seven strong.

Bergenias and verbena bonariensis were planted in the Botanical Walk.

Roses were the main theme of the afternoon. We had to work hard to dig, plant and water roses which had been kindly offered by a local family. Preparatory work by some of the team last week was a great help in managing to move so many of the plants. On the right is a photo of some flowers which were amongst the prunings: hopefully a foretaste of some of the colour to be seen next year.

Wednesday 13th November 2013

Once again we were blessed with a lovely afternoon for the six‑strong Gardening Team, and it's fair to say we made quite an impact for just a few people!

Wednesday 23rd October 2013

Surprisingly wonderful weather welcomed eight of us to the Gardening Team this week.

A large section of the yew hedge was clipped and tidied; lavender cut back along with general tidying; and leaves were removed from the pathway towards the Heritage Frieze. Four new winter jasmine were brought by Esther and planted in the Heritage Frieze bed and the central border (Botanical Walk) at the Café end.

Wednesday 9th October 2013

photo of the FoSJP Gardening Team

The FoSJP Gardening Team at Hilliers Arboretum
(photo courtesy of Margaret Osmond)

This week the Gardening Team downed tools and eight of us visited the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey, looking for general inspiration for planting in St.James' Park and in particular from the Gardens' Centenary Border for the Park's Botanical Walk.

The Gardens were still full of colour and there were many design and planting ideas to inspire us. We joined a free tour of the Centenary Border, led by horticulturalist Chris McDonald, who we discovered had worked under Southampton City Council's Stuart Davies earlier in his career. Chris gave a very informative and interesting talk about the Centenary Border and its plants, and was open to questions. Afterwards he met with Stuart and showed willingness to help us in our thinking about St.James' Park.

Chris talked about the Chelsea Chop - a technique for controlling the flowering of herbaceous plants such as helenium by trimming their tops by 2-3" or more at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show (May). He also mentoned the use of tall grasses, shrubs, and home-made obelisks for providing winter shape and wind shelter in the herbaceous border. 800 new types of plants were added to the Hilliers collection when this Centenary Border was recently replanted, bringing its total number of taxonomies to 13,000!

Before entering the Hillier Gardens we paid a brief visit to nearby Pocock's Roses: this was very helpful for clarifying our thoughts about reintroducing roses to St.James' Park.

Thanks to existing Hillier members donating their visitors' passes, we were all able to enter the arboretum free of charge. Many thanks to Michaela Lawler‑Levene and David Clothier who drove us there, and for the welcome refreshments from the café.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - The Pond
(photo by David Clothier)
Chris Macdonald, horticulturalist at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
(photo by Margaret Osmond)
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - Centenary Border - one of the longest such borders in the world
(photos by David Clothier)

Wednesday 25th September 2013

A Gardening Team of five was active in the Park today. We cleared wheelbarrows full of grit and soil which had accumulated under the long grille outside the Café area; otherwise we were weeding and trimming plants along the Botanical Walk.

Wednesday 11th September 2013

A Gardening Team of four was active today: raking, weeding and trimming plants, mainly in the Botanical Walk.

Wednesday 28th August 2013

We had a good team of six today; our main tasks were dead heading and watering - mostly the euphorbia, red hot pokers and buddleja adjoining the central Botanical Walk - and the three Café planters were tidied.

Wednesday 14th August 2013

We had a good team of six today; our main tasks were watering and tidying borders.

Wednesday 24th July 2013

We had a good session this week, largely taken up with a very helpful meeting with representatives from Southampton City Council who we warmly thank for giving their time and advice. Gardening activities on a hot day mainly focussed on watering, due to drought conditions, clearing and dead‑heading.

Wednesday 26th June 2013

Teacher Trudie Smith led another group of children from Wordsworth Primary School on a visit to St.James' Park to find out about nature. Working with the FoSJP Gardening Team, the children learnt about caring for plants, nature, and their local Park.

Wordsworth School visits St.James' Park with the FoSJP Gardening Team

Wednesday 12th June 2013

We had an energetic team of six today, including new member Mark. Despite the rain, which finally sent us heading for a cup of tea at about 2.50pm, there was a great deal of planting and weeding achieved - a very productive afternoon! Plants were added to the Heritage Frieze bed and to the central borders - mainly at the ParkLife Café end - including establishing a bed for herbs. Also, the smart new composter is filling up. Well done all!

Wednesday 22nd May 2013

A hearty team of 8 of us were joined today by 9 enthusiastic Wordsworth Primary School children who helped us to plant and water three extra planters near the ParkLife Café and sunflowers in the Heritage Frieze bed. We also cleared grass around the tennis courts, planted annuals beside the railings between the St.James' Road and Church Street entrances to the Park, and prepared space for a compost bin behind the bin store.

Wednesday 24th April 2013

Wordsworth Primary School logo

Today we hosted a group of Year 2 children (6‑7 year olds) from Wordsworth Primary School. We gave them an informal walk and talk around the Park, and they helped us to scatter wild flower seeds, to plant seeds, and to collect litter.

Trudie Smith, a Wordsworth Primary School teacher, said:

"I just wanted to say a BIG thank you for letting the children of Wordsworth School join you in the FoSJP Gardening Club last Wednesday. Your warm welcome and the lovely activities you had arranged, and so generously provided for them, meant that they learnt a lot about plants and gardening and they had a brilliant time too!"

photos courtesy of Trudie Smith

Wednesday 27th February 2013

Today we engaged in more tidying up work - clearing brambles along the Winchester Road bank and clearing weeds and grass from the planted beds along the Central Path.

The elder tree that we planted in Autumn is now covered in new shoots - it obviously likes its new home!

Wednesday 12th September 2012

The sunflowers, kindly donated by B&Q, that we planted earlier this year by the zipwire wall are coming along nicely!

photos by Esther Clift

Wednesday 28th March 2012

Making a start on planting the bed by the zipwire.

photos by Michaela Lawler‑Levene
picture of camellia

A Camellia (not one of ours!)

Wednesday 14th March 2012

Today we worked in the corner of the Park near the junction of Church St and Wordsworth Rd. We tidied, raked, and pruned the Camellias in the bed there, and pruned a holly tree.

Wildflower Planting - Wednesday 22nd February 2012

Having prepared the ground in late January, at the 22nd February session we continued the work to replace the "Local Floral Nature Reserve" along the bank below Winchester Road.

With help from Stuart Davies of Southampton City Council, we rotavated a strip of land ready for planting, mixed wildflower seed with sand, and scattered, raked, and "heeled" it in.

photos by Michaela Lawler‑Levene

Wednesday 8th February 2012

The Gardening Team met again on Wednesday 8th February, to dig up a young oak tree from the north bank below Winchester Road, where it had insufficient room to grow properly, and re‑plant it on the east bank below St.James' Road, under guidance from Stuart Davies of Southampton City Council.

photos by Michaela Lawler‑Levene and Stuart Davies

Friday 27th January 2012

Following the Big Dig earlier in the week, we had a second session on Friday 27th January, with 5 volunteers including new faces. We raked leaves from the north bank under Winchester Road, and dug up brambles in preparation for reinstating the "Local Floral Nature Reserve" there. The sun shone and we finished the work just as the rain started.

You can find out more about the original Local Floral Nature Reserve by visiting our Wildflower Guide page, which also has links to reports on our two planting events in May and October 2008.

The Big Dig - Wednesday 25th January 2012

We had a great turn out for the Big Dig on Wednesday 25th January, our first practical session, with 8 volunteers digging over the bed below the heritage frieze to the west of the Young Play Area, to improve the soil ready for planting it up. Many hands made light work, and we finished digging over and levelling this area in less than 2 hours.

photos by Michaela Lawler‑Levene

Our First Meeting in the Park - Thursday 12th January 2012

photo of volunteers

FoSJP Gardening Team's first meeting
(photo by Michaela Lawler‑Levene)

The Gardening Team met for the first time on Thursday 12th January, with seven enthusiastic volunteers coming along to meet with Stuart Davies, Southampton City Council's Area Coordinator for Open Spaces.

Southampton Central Parks Visit - Thursday 25th August 2011

photo of Andrews (East) Park, Southampton

Andrews (East) Park, Southampton

To help get us started, Southampton City Council kindly agreed to host a visit to its Central Parks on Thursday 25th August, so that a group of us could get inspiration and information on what plants we might like to add to our park.

The visit focused on tips on designing and maintaining herbaceous borders. Ian Miller from SCC's Parks Team showed us the best of the borders in Southampton's Andrews (East) Park, introducing us to new and unusual varieties, grown for varying reasons including their colour, structure, compatibility to other plants, and benefit to nature. Tips included thinking about the height of plants and their favoured positions and conditions, how to improve the soil condition and organic matter content, and planting for colours and seasons.

Each member of our group came away with the names of plants they'd personally like to see in St.James' Park; we're planning to liaise further with SCC's local Parks Team to work out a planting regime with design and maintenance objectives.

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