Sunday, 19 December 2010

Happy Christmas and a flourishing New Year

The year draws to a close and it's time to imagine another colourful year rather than the, admittedly pretty, white out we seem to have had here for weeks and weeks. The good thing is that the weather prevents me (for now) seeing all the things that just did not get done.  Instead I look forward.....

Thanks for everyone's support this year, it's been very full on, lots of new challenges and experiences, lots more flowers, a bit more confidence that what we are doing really does work. Special thanks to super volunteers among others Fred from Prague and Emma from the Isle of Wight who were both exceptionally helpful, and of course to Meg, Goodie and Steve who does the dullest heaviest jobs with complete stoicism and a ready smile. We've had lots of successes but one or two blips and of course it's the blips that stick with me because I find it hard to bear when anything isn't as it should, I always used to think I was very laid back about everything but lately I've discovered that I fear I'm actually more than a tad neurotic....

Next year looks exciting already but I'm not sure exactly what the plan is. I'm trying to be a bit more efficient at delegating and I'm looking for someone to be a head gardener-type 3 days a week from March onwards to take over the main growing spaces and supervise other helpers while I concentrate on the business side and the outgoing flowers. I have been dreaming of more planting schemes but some may have to wait a little bit longer to realise a major one as disappointingly a winter writing project that I was rather relying on has just been pulled. Whoops! And I'm definitely up for volunteers from end March onwards, and possibly some college students on placements.

I didn't get all our bulbs planted as the ground just froze solid and then all the pipes burst and we haven't yet mended them all, just switched off, so I haven't even filled the tunnel after things inside sadly froze early on when it was mistakenly left open. But I am quite sure spring will bring plenty and all will be well.

My next job is to turn to seeds, storing and labelling all our own and fantasising about all the others I may or may not grow next year.  We start mail order again come Mothering Sunday, but have weddings lined up before then. I can hardly wait to see things growing again!

Happy Christmas to you all, and let's all hope for a productive and interesting 2011.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

christmas fairs

I believe I said I was quite looking forward to three days in comparative warmth at herefordshire's Hampton Court Christmas do. I couldn't have been more wrong! The castle is american owned pseudo medieval, fabulously kitsch, walls covered with fake and perhaps some real armoury and an awful lot of dead animals, and, my favourite, a full sized fibreglass charger with mounted knight in full armour half way up one wall.... My tables were just inside the open entrance door in the main large stone and dead animal filled hall. I bought with me some bundles of dried flowers including some sprayed foliage, very wild hedgerow hoops and some less wild very pretty wreaths with different vars of rowan and viburnum berries and unusual foliage, as well as bulbs. I had foolishly disrobed myself of thermals for the first day falsely believing it would be warmer than standing in the frozen flower house. I froze. All day the fair attracted only just over 200 punters and of those 200 about 3 actually got what I was doing and those 3 were utterly delightful. But otherwise Oh gosh it was merry. Fuelled by promises that the second day would be the busy one I returned suitably clothed in many thermals and back to the furlined boots. There were definitely more punters. Coachloads of lovely ladies from caerphilly who seemed intent on buying up the rather expensive umbrella stall and were very chatty and charming but definitely after something other than my style.  Then in the evening people were supposedly lured in with the promise of mince pies and christmas carols. There was a choir singing carols, but nowhere near my end of hell, there were mince pies but I am too mean to pay £3.50 for a tiny mug of mulled orange juice and wine and a small mince pie. There were a handful again of utterly delightful people who loved what we do. And a plant event organiser who came specially to seek me out so that was very good. I felt terribly sorry for the lovely young couple with their baby who had made absolutely glorious wreaths from vegetables and nuts and suchlike and were selling none. They had decided to avoid other events and concentrate only on this one and I suspect they really needed the income. There are some absolutely lovely christmas fairs, we just chose the wrong one. It might have helped if the venue had at least done some advertising, but it might have made little difference, win some, lose some!

The good news was that I had lots of pots (both tin buckets and rather more lovely pale biscuit coloured terracotta pots of beautiful paperwhites ready for christmas flowering which the husband rushed down to another fair for me on the saturday and sold beautifully. And those I have left over will make lovely gifts or make our own cottage smell lovely - it's probably the first time ever I have been really efficient with paperwhites and got them spot on for christmas, I had intended to be selling them in London at Broadway market but the weather intervened and meant I was completely iced up here for three saturdays in a row so just couldn't get out.

Fabulous dinner with friends on Saturday where I was given loads of brilliant ideas for the future of cut flowers from a truly brilliant gardener. But what was truly impressive about the dinner was how the roast pork was traditionally roasted on a 17th century roaster hanging onto the huge fire. Very festive, very delicious. All the dried flower hoops were sent off yesterday  - thanks to everyone who ordered one, it was a fantastic response - and I've had almost a day off now and am beginning to feel enthusiastic for next year already!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

fur boots and frozen fingers

Utterly beautiful hoar frosts and blue morning skies, and everything looks magical when I raise my head from christmas orders. Barrowloads of mistletoe, benches full of hollies, bay and conifer, piles of dogwood and willow.... and all in minus many degrees, no water in the flower studio for a couple of weeks, brief thaw meant that all pipes burst, no power yesterday, ice rink for a drive but 60 packages must go out, permanent delightful drip on the end of my nose, pots and pots of poor sad utterly frozen paperwhites even though I moved them out of the (frozen) tunnel into the house last week.... Oh Joy! But I'm looking forward to three days in the comparative warmth at Hampton Court Castle (Leominster) Christmas fair from Thursday to Saturday, I just haven't quite had time to make any of the decorations yet ... fingers crossed (when they unthaw!).