Often, when I get to work, I have no clear plans for the day ahead. It can be difficult to organise jobs when the weather plays such a big part………….if its warm then the place to be is outside (unless its very windy) but if its wet then the tunnels beckon. Most of my tasks get interrupted at some stage making the job fragmented. It could be phone calls, (sometimes someone just wanting a chat) or maybe a friend dropping in (need to put the kettle on) or customers (some do need a lot of assistance).
Usually, when I get to work and go round opening everything up there are various jobs that demand my attention. Yesterday I realised that I hadn’t yet taken any rose cuttings, something I’d been meaning to do for the last few weeks. I only do a few of my favourites and these were the following…………Rosa Sally Holmes, r ‘Hansa’, r ‘Pearl Drift’, r ‘Seagull’, plus another rambler which I don’t know the name of. There are a few raised beds which are supposed to be for cut flowers but they are also useful for hardwood cuttings. I’ve successfully rooted Salix exigua here which is the most difficult willow to get to root. While I was in the mood I also took a few cuttings of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ .
The next job was to get the garlic planted. I’d previously cleared the veg beds of weeds so it was quite straightforward to get the little bulbs in the ground. They are rather small this year, I do hope they grow well.
Later in the day I dug up some plants from the garden to pot up which had been ordered by people earlier in the year. I couldn’t have done it before because the ground was far too dry. So that’s another job to be crossed of my mental list of things to do.
We even had some customers!
Its that time of year for making alterations in the garden. The weather is mild, there has been a bit of rain (although the ground is still very dry) and there are few customers to serve. All through the growing season I have been mentally making notes of plants that aren’t growing well, or those that I’ve got tired of, some need moving, some need adding. Some perennials have spread too much and need reducing and there is the small matter of digging up the self-sown seedlings which are in the wrong place. I remove barrows full of verbena each year.
The heavy clay soil needs plenty of compost adding to it which has improved it over the years but there are places where its almost impossible to get a spade in.
I made a start two days ago when my plan was simply to dig up any stray pulmonarias and move them to an area which needs more ground cover. I got distracted by the Achillea The Pearl which was steadily creeping into other plants. It took a while to dig out all the roots but now there is a reduced patch of the plant. While I was doing that I was conscious of the Armeria maritima ‘Alba’ nearby which, although is a good ground cover plant, was looking scruffy. Feeling in a ruthless frame of mind I dug the whole lot out, dug the hard clay as best I could and added compost. The next part was to dig up the untidy clumps of Sisyrinchium ‘Quaint and Queer’ split them up and replant them where the thrift had been. Eventually the pulmonarias did get transplanted.
There are usually sings of mice in the garden and polytunnels but this year they seem to be everywhere. Each time I go into the garden to cut things down and do some tidying up I find bits of nibbled stems and nests lurking in the middle of a clump of something. They have completely demolished most of the Elymus magellanicus (this has never happened before) and the have munched their way through many other plants such as verbena and other ornamental grasses. There are patches in the lawn where the grass has been nibbled and they have made runs in the cracks in the clay.
Its also a problem in the tunnels. The mice are snacking on various plants and occasionally burrow into a pot of nice soft compost and make a nest there. I have to be particularly careful with bulbs, the really like nothing better than to eat all the fritillaries, tulips and anemones. P has put traps down and some are being caught. George the cat appears to be very lazy but I saw him eating a mouse the other day an eventful moment and much praise was given.
I wonder if the abundant mouse population has anything to do with the fact that there seem to be very few kestrels around. In turn, I wonder if there are few kestrels because there are buzzards? Also I haven’t seen the barn owl for quite a while. Everyone bangs on about how wonderful wildlife is but, believe me, some wildlife is a b…..y menace.
It appears that there is a rumour that we are giving up the nursery. Its true that we are giving a lot of thought to what will happen in the future because we are both pensioners (how wonderful to have a regular income) and we need to be realistic. Anyone who has or has had cancer tends to evaluate what is important and what they want to do with the rest of their lives and now Philip is over the course of treatment ( there will be more at some stage) we need to make some plans.
Creating the garden has been a full-on project for me and I have no intention of walking away from it for quite some time. I want to see it develop and grow, I want to make changes to make it a better space. On the other hand I know its getting harder to do the physical work (and most of it is physical), I’m slower than I was 10 years ago and I have achy bits. We can’t afford to employ anyone. Its a dilemma. I can’t visualise what I would do all day if I gave up work. Some people have many plans of how to fill their days when they retire but I have none. P would be ok because he always has the boat to work on.
It may be that the decision is made for us if this year is anything to go by because our sales have been very poor. If we don’t get more customers there will be little point in carrying on, it is becoming an expensive hobby. I do have one plan up my sleeve which is still in the early stages so watch this space.
It felt cool and autumnal this morning, cool enough to have to wear an extra layer of clothes. It was ideal for doing some potting although I didn’t get much done. Split up some Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, this always sells well and someone bought the last 4 plants the other day. Its a bit difficult to second guess which plants customers will want to buy. I mainly grow ones which I like and which are good ‘doers’. The trouble is that there are lots of plants which just never sell and I should really stop growing them. People hardly ever buy Aster divaricatus or Anaphalis triplinervis, I wonder why. This year we have a good quantity of a golden rod with the name of ‘Fireworks’, another easy plant to grow which has looked wonderful for the last few weeks but only 2 or 3 have been bought. I will gain from having these unsold plants and will plant more in the garden, I like them even if no-one else does!
After lunch the sun came out and it was warm for a couple of hours so we both did some work in the garden.
We still have some bargain plants left which are just £2 each but you have now missed out on our 20% discount on everything else, that offer was just for September. Rain due in the next few days???
On Friday we held our first ever coffee morning to raise funds for the charity Macmillan. Its a national event and lots of people invite their friends and neighbours to take part. When Philip went round the area he soon realised that there were at least 3 other venues holding coffee mornings at the same time so we were a little nervous and wondered if anyone would come to ours.
Earlier in the week we were given donations totalling £15 from people who couldn’t attend due to other commitments, so that was a promising start. The we started to hear from people who were intending to come including some who needed gluten free cake. I felt duty bound to have a go at making lemon meringue cake, substituting the flour for ground almonds. This is a cake I’ve never made before and won’t do again in a hurry, such a fiddle but the feedback was positive. I made two other cakes plus cheese scones. We had 3 helpers on the day who also made and contributed cakes. We couldn’t have done it on our own so special thanks to Julie, Joy and Pat.
People started to arrive at 9.30 (an hour too early) and more and more cake eaters kept coming. We think there were at least 25 in total. The grand total of almost £200 was raised before 12.30 when we had finished. An exhilarating but very tiring morning…….we are thinking of doing it next year. It is such a good cause after all.
I hadn’t realised until recently that my aunt had trained at the Waterperry horticultural school for young ladies back in the early 1950’s. When it was suggested by her daughter (my cousin Jilly) that we should meet up there it seemed such a good idea.
Our first attempt to gather together was thwarted when Jilly was too unwell to go. But yesterday we all managed to get there, this included my parents and my brother and his partner. The weather was excellent and, after a quick bite to eat we went into the garden. One or two of our group thought the entrance fee was too pricey but the changed their minds when they saw the long herbaceous border. This was stunning, colourful and buzzing with bees. There was plenty more to see in the magnificent gardens and we all tried to take in as much as possible…….not enough time to really appreciate it all. The Shropshire contingent had to get back to pick up Izzy at 6pm so it was all a bit rushed. Auntie Jean had a bit of a problem remembering things, it was 60 years since she was studying there and things had changed a lot. She had bought her photo album which she showed to the head gardener, Pat Havers who was kind enough to come and meet up with us even though she was on holiday. A most enjoyable day was had by all. I very much enjoyed a long chat with Pat, (we are both members of a group called the Old Horts).
Before leaving I treated myself to 2 new asters. We have plans to go back next year.
The mini rush at the beginning of the month has now dwindled to tiny daily sales. There are still cheap plants to be had which could be a real benefit for anyone who has gaps in their garden or if anyone has a new garden. Among the plants which are just £2 are hardy geraniums, various shrubs, some dwarf agapanthus and a few grasses. There should be something for everyone.
The garden has now finished being open for the NGS for this year. In total we have raised almost £800 which is pretty good and I would like to thank all our visitors for their contributions. I had hoped it would be more but every bit helps. We hope to raise more money for Macmillan nurses on 26th of this month when we shall be taking part in their Biggest Ever Coffee Morning. We will be serving coffee and home made cakes from 10.30am-12.30pm. Do try and come and support this worthwhile charity.
Miscanthus ‘Silberfeder’ with verbena
We have had an extended period without any significant rain and the garden is beginning to suffer. There are deep cracks everywhere I look. I don’t water it partly because it would cost us a fortune because we are on a meter and there aren’t enough hours in the day so the plants have to struggle. They almost always survive so I’m not too bothered.
The RHS recently sent out a questionnaire regarding plants which tolerate being waterlogged and then being parched. My list was rather long because there are so many plants which seem to cope with these extremes at Bridge Nursery. Admittedly I did lose some roses, they do hate sitting in saturated ground for half of the winter but that was unusual.
Yesterday I went with my father to one of the ‘shed’ chain stores for him to buy one or two bits and bobs. I couldn’t resist looking at some of their plants and wasn’t very surprised to see that most of them were so dry that they could only be rehydrated by dunking them in a bucket of water. More stock to end up in the bin or maybe a few beginner gardeners might buy them only to find that they will die within days. How many people return dead plants to get their money back I wonder?