Summer?

Is it really summer? Sitting here at 7am looking out at grey skies and damp ground doesn’t fill me with any kind of motivation to get to work and find things to do (there are always things to do but I need some incentive to get on with it). The weather, or maybe the results of the referendum, has caused a big downturn in sales over the last three weeks. Each time I do the watering I’m aware of all the great looking plants which are growing very well but not selling. I really don’t blame amateur gardeners for not wanting to do any work outside at the moment. In fact I have a theory that it’s only when the weather is warm enough in the evenings for people to sit outside and maybe have barbecues that they might feel inclined to make the garden look good.

Another downside to this cool, damp time is that there are very few butterflies so far this year. However there are plenty of ants both in the garden and in the tunnels and at home. They seem to be able to increase at an alarming rate. Very often they make their nests under a clump of Stipa tenuissima but can be found almost anywhere. I’ve started to use a different product which seems to be having some effect in reducing the problem. At work I’ve had to dismantle some 10 litre pots of plants (agapanthus, bamboo and a daisy) because ants had made a nest in them. I do hope I’m not inadvertently selling plants complete with resident ants!

On a positive note to end with though, I must mention how pleased I’ve been with the pinks I bought last year. I took lots of cuttings and have had lots to sell and I’ve also planted out quite a few. There are some old favourites like Mrs Sinkin and Gran’s Favourite but also one called Lily the Pink and Devon Wizard. They all have a delicious scent and it feels somehow self indulgent to pick some and bring home but I do anyway. Which is a timely reminder that the last bunch of flowers I brought home are looking a bit past their best so I shall pick some more today.

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More weeds

It may not feel like summer what with the endless rain this last couple of weeks and cool evenings but everything is growing at an alarming rate. The weeds in particular have been very difficult to control.  My two helpers have been unable to work for me this year, one is doing child minding for her two granddaughters and the other has some health problems. Last year I had someone for a few hours and she was extremely good but I just couldn’t afford her very expensive hourly rates. Consequently I have suffered some anxiety about the weediness of the garden. Then I had a brain wave (don’t get many of them these days) and rang a friend of a friend to see if she would be interested in doing a bit of work for me and she leapt at the chance. So, for the last two weeks, (in between the showers) she has worked with me for a total of ten hours and what a difference its made. We’ve removed barrow full after barrow full of weeds and I’m feeling a lot less worried. We pull and dig out rosebay willow herb which is just starting to flower, creeping buttercups, wild grasses and some vetch. All the time we are chatting and finding out things about each other. A real bonus is that she reads and has already brought me a book to borrow which I’m completely hooked by. Its by Rose Tremain and is called ‘Restoration’ and each time I have a coffee or when its lunchtime I read a bit more. Might finish it tomorrow!

Today there were some heavy showers but in spite of that there were quite a few customers so I didn’t get any gardening done, maybe tomorrow….

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Who would be a self employed nursery person?

Sometimes, on a sunny day, there might be a customer who says that they wish they had my job. It never happens when it’s cold and wet and windy, surprise, surprise! Depending on how I’m feeling I might say that maybe we could swap jobs so that I could have the benefit of paid holidays, have entitlement to sickness pay, work 5 days a week and perhaps not have to be dependant on the weather. Plus, above all, have a regular income. I also suspect that most people in paid employment are earning far more than me.

There are many advantages to being one’s own boss. But there are disadvantages too. It’s essential to be self motivated, no-one is going to tell you what to do or how or when to do it. The plus side of this is that there isn’t anyone breathing down my neck so if I want to have a break at say 12.15pm then I can do so. It must be incredibly hard to work for a person whose priorities are different from your own. There is the delight in working outside on mild (not hot) days rather than stuck in an office or shop. Obviously the downside to that are all the other days when its either too cold, too wet, too windy or too blisteringly hot to be able to work comfortably. The ‘wrong’ weather days far outnumber the good weather days.

A skill which is necessary is to be adaptable. I can rarely carry out a task without being interrupted by either a customer or the phone or a friend popping in for a coffee. Stopping and starting jobs can be quite maddening plus with a memory like mine I could easily forget what I had been doing before the distraction.

 

I am convinced that I am now, after many years of self employment, unemployable. I really couldn’t cope with an inefficient boss or unlikeable colleagues. Luckily I am totally at ease with spending hours and hours on in my own company (and the cat of course). When I’m potting I usually have the radio on tuned to programmes I want to hear not dreary canned music or something similar.

I guess the reality is that some of those people who say that they would love to run a nursery are being a bit dreamy and that the relentlessness of growing and tending plants plus an acre of garden would be beyond their abilities. But for those who have some understanding of how hard the work can be and if they also have a real feel for it then there isn’t a better way (in my opinion) of making a meagre living.

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Thoughts while watering

While I was watering the other day I came to the conclusion that it’s an activity which makes me anxious. There are many reasons for this but mainly it’s due to the number of different things which seem to need doing while I’m waving the lance around and dragging the hose to the right place.

Often there is a tussle in my mind about whether to do the watering now or, if it is calm, maybe the spraying is important. But if I spray first then the water will wash it off. There’s also the garden which is crying out to be weeded. The watering can take up to 2 hours. This depends on whether there are customers who might need some help or they might be standing exactly where the next lot of plants which need water are. So, if I can get on uninterrupted I notice plants which need repotting; plants which we need more of; plants which need labels; dead plants which need removing; climbers which need staking; labels which have come adrift and should be replaced; plants which are looking good and so need moving to a more prominent position and so it goes on and on. By the time I’ve finished I’ve forgotten most of those urgent thoughts and I might be standing wondering what the urgency was.

I forgot to say that there is often a dilemma about whether to water or not due to vague or misleading weather forecasting. Sometimes rain is promised which doesn’t arrive or not enough. Then, conversely, no rain is expected so the watering gets done only for the rain to come shortly after. We are on a meter so try hard not to waste water (and time) doing unnecessary watering.

Warm and sunny days are usually welcome but there’s always a downside…..

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mud

The soil is almost soupy. Its certainly sludgy, sticky, claggy and just about impossible to work. Oh deary deary me, who would opt to have clay soil especially after the amount of rain we’ve had this year? We measure our rainfall in a train spotting kind of way and this year we have recorded 7 and a half inches of rain. Last year it wasn’t until mid July that we’d had the same amount. Consequently there have been many days when weeding was simply out of the question because the garden was too water-logged. But every now and then I think I really must do some weeding because the weeds are growing at an alarming rate (as they always do at this time of year). I regret it almost immediately because its not easy to remove creeping buttercup or rosebay willow herb, never mind the clumps of wild grass which are threatening to take over everything. And while I’m having a good grumble, I often wonder why weeds choose to put themselves in the middle of other plants? The likelihood of getting  much done is remote because its just too frustrating and anyway, I’m removing a lot of the sticky wet stuff each time I get a weed out. I try to work on bits of the garden which are less wet which in turn means I do a bit here and then a bit there so it all looks the same after toiling away for a couple of hours.

The forget-me-nots have suffered a bit from some of the frosts we’ve had this last week or so. Some of them are not looking good so its time to remove them which is quite a time consuming job but if I start now then maybe there won’t be so many next year. fanciful thoughts really because there are always plenty however early I remove them.

I need to do some planting but it will have to wait until the ground it slightly drier. I also have a plan to remove some Miscanthus which have a lot of weeds in them and replace with some fresh plants. Yet the forecast says more rain tomorrow……

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Jobs-April 2016

I’ve clicked off all the spam so now I’m ready to write.

The bungalow across the road from where we live is soon to be a development site. There are clumps of snowdrops which would end up being destroyed so when I saw someone doing some spraying this morning I went over to ask if I could dig them up. He was very obliging and said I could help myself. Perhaps I shouldn’t have waited because someone else had already been and taken most of the bigger clumps. Anyway, I dug up most of what was left and took them to work where I will plant them in the woods in the next day or so.

The potato tubers were sprouting well so I planted them in large containers using compost from the compost heap. The variety is Charlotte, a tasty salad potato. they will be in the polytunnel so they should be ready nice and early. Next I sowed some mixed salad leaves and rocket in a pot. Later I planted out the young broad bean plants. I also did some potting using the new compost which was delivered a couple of days ago. I’d heard good reports of Melcourts Sylvamix which is peat-free. Not really sure why I bother though because none of our customers ever ask what type of compost we use.

I was much colder today with a north east wind and now, in the evening, it is raining. the ground was just beginning to dry out a bit but we’ll be back to square one again after just a teaspoonful. The chance of getting the place mowed seems remote but meanwhile the grass is getting longer and longer. If anyone does read this and is thinking of coming to visit the garden it would be wise to bring wellies.

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More Snowdrops

Its that time of year again when I realise just how lucky I am because my collection of different snowdrops has increased thanks to the generous galanthophile from Northampton. She turned up early the other morning clutching a carrier bag with 9 clumps of named varieties. (I won’t say what they are in case someone decides to help themselves).

It’s difficult to do any gardening at the moment because the ground is so very wet so I divided up some of the larger clumps and potted them up. The rest have gone back in the bag complete with their labels and I shall plant them some time in the coming week. I also wrote the names in pencil on the back of the labels as a belt and braces approach (this lady uses a waterproof marker but I don’t trust them, they tend to fade,whereas the pencil lasts for years). I am aware that I’ve been a bit shambolic in the past about keeping a good record of which snowdrops I have and where they are. But now, with the help of the photos which my special person brings, I can note where they are planted.

So I’m looking forward to seeing them flower next year.

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Mid March 2016

After the floods on 9th April we were seriously waterlogged. There was no chance of working in the garden because it was just too soggy. But since that day it has been dry and mostly cold and grey. The ground has dried out quite a lot and I have been able to cut down the last few grasses at last.

Yesterday I moved 3 Aruncus Knieffii which were rather hidden behind some quite large clumps of Sanguisorbia ‘Tanna‘. This took quite some time because in turn I had to move some primulas and some Viola cornuta ‘Alba’ elsewhere first. The aruncus have very attractive divided leaves and plumes of white flowers in late summer. In their place I planted some white asters. One job I’m not keen on doing is cutting back the leaves of epimediums. They are so colourful but hide the emerging flowers so I have cut the leaves off. I also barrowed some compost to scatter in different parts of the borders. Weeds  are beginning to grow well now including goose grass and hairy bitter cress.

A few customers came in on Saturday. We seem to sell a lot of alpines, I wonder if this is due to people having small gardens? Or maybe it’s because they mostly quite easy to look after. Speaking of alpines…..I have replanted 4 of the Belfast sinks. One of them had a considerable number of ants in the compost so I’m pleased to have done that. They all look much better with the new plants and fresh grit on the surface.

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George

Our ‘meeter and greeter’, George (the cat) has been on his winter holidays at home since just before Christmas. He is a different animal when he is here, doesn’t like to go out, needs a litter tray and is fussier about the food he eats. On the whole he has been no problem this time, he hasn’t bothered to wake me early in the morning and has been quite biddable. The trouble is that he has had something wrong with him each winter he has had indoors. Last year he had a bad cut on his tongue which meant he had an expensive operation then he had some sickness. The year before he got into fights with local cats and ended up with cuts and scratches and fleas! This time he had horrible smelly squitty poos. I took him to the vets this morning and he had a thorough check over. All is well and the poos are firming up. But its an anxiety ridden time trying to get him in the cat box so, since the vet said he was fine, I decided that his life of luxury should come to an abrupt end and I took him back to work today. He had a happy time sniffing everything and checking things out then settled by the fire I’d made, had a good wash and went to sleep. I’m sure he is more suited to being at the nursery and, hopefully, there will soon be customers for him to meet and greet.

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March 2nd 2016

Today was not a good day for potting up the liners we bought from Lineside Nursery on Monday. It was cold, it was very windy so much so that I was slightly concerned that the polythene cover on the tunnel might tear and there was sleety rain. So I did some then shut everything up and left early afternoon. After the rain yesterday and this morning we are completely saturated again.

Monday, though,was dry.The weather change was forecast so I did some more cutting down of grasses in the garden and barrowed some compost to spread around the borders. We left the nursery early afternoon to go to collect the rooted cuttings I’d ordered plus a few extra which caught my eye while we were walking from tunnel to tunnel. Martin grows good, well-rooted shrubs and we are a bit low on shrubs at the moment. I do quite a few cuttings myself but sometimes I need to buy some in because mine have failed or I haven’t done enough.It would be wonderful to know exactly how many and which shrubs our customers will want to buy this year but that is always a guessing game so I grow the things which I think I can sell. I just hope we can protect things from the increasing problem there is from rabbits and muntjac deer. I rang the man with the gun the other day but unfortunately he is unable to do the job of removing the destructive wildlife so I am busy spreading the word around in the hope that there is someone else who can do it. I wish I was strong minded enough to do it myself but I’m not. So if anyone reading this is local and knows someone who can help please get in touch otherwise we shall be selling nibbled plants this year.

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