Monday, 26 July 2010

Barclays Wealth gripe

Barclays Wealth had flowers in May for the Hay festival. Everyone else pays with no problem. They ordered so late (two days notice from confirmation to delivery) that I had to invoice them for immediate payment rather than requesting money up front which is usual practice for a new business customer. Hurrah, it has only taken 9 weeks and I get an email today saying they will pay my designated bank account....... sadly it doesn't seem to say when they will pay my designated bank account.....perhaps today?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

wedding photos at Barnsley House

Do check the photographer's blog of wedding ten days ago at Barnsley House. Amazing photos!

P.S. Volunteers instantly redeemed

Marvellous how things turn around so quickly. Having felt a bit fed up about volunteers, email arrives from American Fred in Prague who has already volunteered himself for next week, to ask if he could come earlier to help out since I seem to have been let down.... and Bronwen who I met at Hampton Court and who finishes many years of a serious desk job next month wants to be an apprentice or at least a volunteer.... and so on. Thanks to all. I'd better get baking again!

Friday, 23 July 2010

WWOOF? What's it all about

2 WWOOFers, a couple, arrived on Tuesday afternoon, too late to work but had said they'd stay two weeks so that was fine. He from Czech Republic, she from Poland. Fed them. Gave them the caravan (which most people love, family compete to sleep in it rather than the cottage), firewood, hot showers.... Wednesday they worked for the morning, he was an absolutely brilliant worker and got on well with everyone, she seemed to have very low energy and it was impossible to make her smile. 3 good meals. At supper he asks What's the minimum stay. Red alert. Now there's b all point having people here who don't want to be, even if it mucks up plans. She was apparently not happy.
On Thursday I go off to do the market, rather irritated because they have taken my radio from the Flower House so I can't listen to my usual early morning balm while sorting and packing for 3 hours. I leave a bit of a mess behind. Return. No clearing up has been done and no work. but that's sort of OK because I had given them the option to wait for me to return then we'd all work together for the afternoon. He helps me for the afternoon, she skulks in caravan. I give them good food to cook for themselves as it's obvious she won't appear. Morning comes. They do not appear. AT 10 I say I'll give them a lift into town but it's too soon for them apparently, he says he is still clearing up (and I have to say he did leave the caravan immaculate while she sat turning the milk sour. But it appears that also clear the fridge up rather well! They must have packed many many many sandwiches as all the provisions I got in for them plus all our workers lunch food (I leave the fridge in the Flower House full of sandwich stuff and breads, then there are biscuits and home made cakes in tins on top, and a bowl of fruit) has gone. Not a nibble of cheese, a crumb of bread, nor a banana or a biscuit left! One and a half mornings and one afternoon's work for six suppers, six breakfasts and four lunches plus warmth beds and hot water and a good kilo of cheese, two loaves of bread, half a pound of butter, a bottle of mayo, half a fruit cake, six eggs, a bottle of elderflower, half a chocolate cake and a tin of flapjacks does NOT feel like a terrifically good deal. Once again I am off WWOOFers which is a shame as I'm sure most are excellent. And I think he genuinely wanted to stay and help as he had the goodness to tell me it was a lovely place and the fact they were leaving was nothing to do with me and nothing to do with the situation. But it doesn't make it much better for me as I had put others off since I thought this couple sounded good, so now I am left without helpers at a crucial time when my main helpers are about to go on holiday for two weeks and I thought I'd got it covered. I think I need to bite the bullet and try and get an apprentice to train up, after all that is how Meg arrived with me and she is totally brilliant and a godsend.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

apart from flowers, some things stand


Plenty of water now. Today cornflowers flat, ammi flat, scabious flat, lilies flat, francoa flat, sanguisorba flat, dahlias flat, eryngiums flat, delphiniums flat, larkspur flat, gyp flat, shastas flat, veronicastrum flat, rudbeckias flat, asters flat... need I go on! Maybe some staking from time to time would be a good idea.

Monday, 19 July 2010

sensible advice from Anna Pavord

Anna P's article in The Independent this Saturday was just what we all want to say, and hear. No to complicated garden tools and devices, no to unnecessary watering devices, no to anything but a few practical long lasting tools, a dose of plant knowledge and a lot of common sense. Hear Hear. Can you imagine Valerie Finnis or Vita or Gertrude brandishing plastic or trying to change the so called interchangeable tool head on a hoe for a fork for a tiller for a rake....... Actually perhaps I can imagine Vita brandishing plastic, I think she would probably be rather good at throwing unnecessary kit around.

Gardening kit here consists of an ancient rotovator, then forks, spades, rakes, trowels and hand forks, hoes but they don't get used much as our soil and planting patterns aren't very hoe friendly, plus mowers and strimmer, scythe, hedge cutters and a chain saw. And a hose or two and watering cans. I hardly water here because it's not practical and things have to survive. Annual babies do get a bit of water at the start, or if I notice that they are about to croak, perennials get nothing extra, shrubs get one good watering at the start. It's not the way everyone would want to do it, but it's just how it is. I did worry for a few weeks when it was incredibly dry, and I think that it does mean that flowers don't last as long standing in the field as they might, but time will tell whether I'm barking up the wrong tree or surviving.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

quite a few flowers

If I needed to pick for ten weddings and fifty orders tomorrow morning I'd be Ok as the gardens are bursting with flowers at the moment, - but apologies, camera problems continue to mean you only get a few snaps.

Someone asked me what I had in flower, so here goes for a brief list as I haven't enough photos to show for it, (though I did manage to get something up onto the home page of the website after a bit of struggling) but I'm bound to forget some things - in the cottage garden there are lots of things like different coloured knautias, scabiouses, alliums, still plenty of astrantias, phlox, roses, nigellas, and lots and lots more, then we move out and we have enormous pale yellow scented lilies, far too large to send out but all the local orders will be getting those this week, along with campanulas, different alliums, sweet peas galore (two buckets a day) lots of shrubby offerings, monardas, asters, sweet williams, purple eryngiums, crocosmias, achilleas, lots of lovely foliage in silvers and greens, plus lots I can't visualise as I sit by the computer, then on into the field and the hedged bit is totally bursting - from the top until I give up listing - francoas, sanguisorbas, crocosmias, asters, sweet wills, heleniums, hostas, nepetas, catanaches, astrantias, achilleas, eryngiums, ammis, cornflowers, scabios, snaps, more sweet peas, penstemons, more scabious and different astrantias, veronicas, veronicastrums, red, yellow and gold heleniums, rudbeckias, blue asters, bupleurum, larkspurs, campanulas, everlastings, golden rod, nicotiana, nigella... and out into cosmos, more larkspur, monardas, nolinias, stocks, phlox and more phlox, hydrangeas and more shrubby things, mints, macleayas...... more and out into the distant field where there are verbenas, rudbeckias, achilleas, larkspurs, sunflowers, calendula, dills, gyp, dahlias (but too many got eaten and it was toonlate to replacae them so they are a bit of a disaster) daisies in many forms....... All in all there are a lot of flowers, and for every flower there is a weed or two so there are many many weeds too. But now I am wondering if there will still be anything for the open day next month. Always something to worry about it seems.

I have a couple of WWOOFers arriving tomorrow, I've been a bit hesitant about taking WWOOFers on as some need a lot of guiding which is a bit time consuming, but it's al a leaning curve and I realise I am not good at instruction. For example two girls I had earlier in the year were very pleasant, one was a part time gardener already, the other was a seed scientist who needed a break. She had been studying seed science so I reckoned she probably knew a thing or two, she seemed to. So I put them onto sowing vegetables as I was a bit behind with that. I had already cleared the ground, they only needed to sow. I asked if they were OK with that and yes they knew what to do so I left them to it. Miraculously, I did not even get a single lettuce germinating, not even rocket, let alone parsley, coriander, parsnip, brassicas, nor anything else. I don't know if they sowed everything six feet deep or if they just didn't like my food or something and didn't actually sow a thing. So there is a bit of a hungry gap. I should have realised, the seed scientist has been working on how to slow the germination of seeds. I think she has succeeded.

A postal flower bride sweetly sent in thanks and photos the day after her wedding yesterday. Yes, bouquets and buttonholes by post do work fine to all those who worry about receiving them the day before the wedding. Though the groom did have his buttonhole on inside out......

And two months ago it was Hay Festival. And one of the jobs I did was to provide the flowers for Barclays Wealth hospitality house. I sort of knew as I did it that they would be beggars to pay. Everyone else pays up fine but I just had a feeling. It has taken many emails, several repeated long forms, more than a couple of invoices and god knows what else to get a small amount of money paid. Net time I put two noughts on the end, perhaps they would then recognise it as a bill.

Friday, 16 July 2010

camera trouble and wedding bells

Trying to take some pictures of yesterday's wedding flowers and realised the occasional glitsch with my camera seems to have become chronic, so I hope the official photographers will send me something. The wedding was at Barnsley House where the late great (in her very specific time) Rosemary Verey originally lived and gardened. So I was interested to see what had become of the gardens. It was a wet and windy day so not the best for seeing a late July garden, but frankly the gardens really don't look much better than yours or mine, though her main lay out and structures survive, and of course most of the plants were originally planted by her. However, the hotel is fantastic, and I was extremely well looked after and ate quite the best most delicious chocolate shortbread biscuit I have ever had in my life with coffee when I arrived. It melted in my mouth but still managed to have some substance about it, gorgeous! So I would recommend a trip there if only for the coffee and biscuits.

The bride and groom were on a strict colour scheme, which I don't usually deal with to be honest, but as they are friends of my son I was happy to give it a go, and actually pink, white and silver are very easy colours to satisfy at this time of year. In the mix I used Francoa The Bride, white Cupid's Dart and Love in the Mist along with Covent Garden gyp, larkspurs, roses, white pinks, hydrangeas, astrantias, achillea The Pearl and lots more, and tucked a hidden sprig of myrtle in the bouquet from my mother's garden where she grows a huge myrtle tree that was originally struck from a cutting from a piece of myrtle in Queen Victoria's bouquet. I have tried and tried to get cuttings from the same tree to grow here, and my mother has tried and tried to get me sturdy cuttings, but so far we have both failed so she is on a postal delivery service to me for weddings! I forgot to tell either of the couple that there were some significantly bridal flowers in the mix. All buttonholes and corsages were different, but when I saw how tiny many of the female guests were I rather wondered if I should have gone for more minimal corsages as some were rather voluptuous!

Then I had to make up a bouquet for a bride for tomorrow, to post to her, and buttonholes. She really wanted hollyhocks as her groom comes from an island where hollyhocks are the national flower, but all my experiments to get them to stay for posting had failed, so in the end she had scabious and herb buttonholes and a vastly mixed bouquet. She sweetly got in touch first thing this am to say they were lovely, so job done!

I will try to get camera problems sorted, as there is so much lovely to photograph here at the moment, despite the wonderful torrential rain.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Back from Hampton Court

Well, we survived. There couldn't have been a pleasanter place at the Hampton Court Flower Show than the Gardens Illustrated Pavilion. It was spacious and as airy as it could possibly be but it is not particularly pleasant spending a week under canvas when the outside temperatures are over 30 degrees! However, wonderful colleagues in the tent with excellent kit, absolutely no tat (unlike elsewhere), great camaraderie and lots of laughter even when wilting desperately. I was terribly proud of my flowers for standing up for themselves in the heat, and kept apologising to them for taking them away from the field .... But they seemed happy enough and were much admired, so it was all rather pleasing. Thank you to everyone who helped me there and to all the visitors who made such incredibly positive comments and to the GI team and James and Therese who organised it. My neighbouring standholder Rosemary from The Plant School (Oh that I had the time to go on her courses, they look so utterly fascinating and brilliant) kept me smiling when I was wilting terribly and I think I probably have her to thank for keeping me at least relatively sane.

The best thing about a Show is that you do have some fascinating conversations and bump into old friends and new, including quite a few people who are doing similar things so it was great to chat with them about the trials and tribulations as well as the joys of growing flowers. As an inveterate earwigger I also loved the passing comments. Possibly my favourite was from two women standing at the end of my stand, next to my Victorian hip bath filled with flowers so it looked a bit like a piece of my garden. One said to the other "Just goes to show, if you use an interesting container you can get way with having nothing in the garden..." Then there were the two who came into the tent, said "Oh no, this one's just for country bumpkins" and turned tail and fled back to another part of the Show... and there was the lady walking past with a rather fab collection of water plants (Always interesting seeing what people are carrying), I said something about how she must have a wonderful pond, to which she retorted "Don't have a pond, have a lake". That told me!

Friday, 2 July 2010

We're off (almost)

Come and visit us if you can at Hampton Court, in the GI Pavilion 10/11. It almost feels today as though we may actually get there, just got the picking to do... and two different bride's bouquets and buttonholes to get ready today - one bride's lovely flower arranger came early this morning with bride and friends to pick and choose her own flowers which was actually rather a blessing as I was so busy with other things, but I'm not sure if it's something I would allow for anyone but friends!

My friend Sara who is a designer and brilliant at organising me has come to make sure I do get organised, which is brilliant as I do rather resemble a headless chicken, and a rather grubby one at that. We're taking two vans, one with stand stuff and one with flowers, but I'm still not sure how we're going to get everything in. I've just been making a picking list and it goes on and on and on as I don't want to forget any favourites, then I decide they're all favourites so want to take the whole field but happily I have people stopping me! I'm not selling many flowers on the stand, it's mainly just displays which I will sell off every couple of days and re-do, but I have managed to get a lovely pottery in Staffordshire to make me specially commissioned flower jugs which I hope people will love - as long as they love blue.... I do seem to have a tendency toward blue in everything I realise when I look at my list of flowers, though there are of course loads of others too.

People have been amazingly helpful, I wanted old wooden bushel boxes for the stall and had just about given up and gone for plan B when a contact phoned at the last minute and had found some for me - thanks a lot Joe...

And another brilliant thing amidst the chaos, I blew up my trusty old rotovator months agao, my fault, not enough oil, and had been quoted £350 plus to get it rebuilt as I much prefer it to anything modern. I was having a chat with the lovely man who delivers mushroom compost and asked if he might know anyone, and he said his son might be able to take a look so we put it on the back of his wagon and off he went with it. I said there was no rush, just let me know. The same evening I see his van trundling back along the lane, with my rotovator on the back. His son had mended it. It works as well as ever. And he charged me the princely sum of £50.00. What amazing service.

Anyway no time to write, but I realised I've been hopeless at keeping up to date lately and was sitting by the computer waiting for calls so...

Hope I'll get to meet some of you next week.