Monday, 21 March 2011

tally ho

Mouse tally in the tunnel so far 11. Seedlings looking decidedly happier!

What wonderful weather this week. The weekend was spent in my favourite activity, the annual rotovate of the annual beds. My trusty rotovator is still off being mended, I'm not quite sure where it is, the chap who delivers my mushroom compost took it away for his son to renovate some weeks or possibly months ago and I did say no rush but now can't seem to raise him. Ah well, I'm sure all will be well. So I hired the monster hydraulic machine which is huge fun as it is such a big beast, the one you can hang off the handlebars with both feet off the ground, but I have to say that cornering is a bit troublesome, it takes a lot of reversing and straightening out, about a ten point turn just to get back into line. But very satisfactory!

Narcissi are opening everywhere, and the great excitement for me is the opening of the first of the bulk tulips. And the chance to use my favourite antique tulip jug for flowers in the house. Unfortunately the first ones are not my favourites, short rather strangely-coloured pinkish yellowish affairs but with the most amazing black centres when they open like huge stars in the sun. The next ones, lovely cream scented doubles, are all covered in fleece as I am hoping (possibly against hope) they will do their thing by next weekend for a huge wedding. But it is very much fingers and toes crossed. I planted beautiful double whites in the tunnel specially for the day, for the bouquets, but they are opening now and will be past their best by the required day if it stays so sunny. I realise it can be hard getting everything to do its thing at the right time at the beginning of the season. And I have actually begun to get a little stressed about it but what will be will be........ I'm not yet quite sure what Plans B, C and D are, but I'm sure they will reveal themselves!

Seeds sown too early are already leggy in the tunnel so I have had to fill every available space in the beds by planting them out as they are far too early to go outside. Damn. It is just too tempting to get things going too early.

Monday, 14 March 2011

severed shoots

As my extremely polite and well spoken maternal grandmother used to say when she was really annoyed by something she had done Oh damn and blast and blithering hell....  I went in to water the tunnel this morning to discover nearly every sweet pea seedling nibbled off at the base and the little shoots just lying on the pots. Not slugs, no trails. And all happened overnight. Is this mouse damage?  It is just so cheeky to nibble the stalks through and just leave the severed shoots All pots are off the ground level palettes and back onto benches now. I was not happy......

Even if it isn't mouse damage there will soon be less mice as I'm just off to get traps - there's a new one on the market that you don't have to bait, it just has some scent that's apparently completely irresistible. I was sceptical but put one in the kitchen where a cheeky little rodent had been nipping out and stealing the dogs' biscuits (they just watched) and caught it within half an hour. Then reset the trap and caught its accomplice.
I think I'm on a mission for a substantial tunnel tally now.

Oh and I just organised for the next acre to be ploughed and harrowed. I have been trying to resist. But seem to have failed. I think I have a plan......

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

divided opinion

I was misguided! The worst thing about perennials is also that you have to divide them.... half of yesterday was spent slicing through great clumps and feeling awfully guilty that I hadn't done it last year. And when I got to the kniphofias I just didn't have the strength. If anyone lives nearby I have some of these spectacular fat orange hot pokers for grabs but I'm afraid I never knew their name, they came from rather a grand garden that new owners had taken over from someone who worked as a conservation gardener for the National Trust where there were some rather good plants. When they wanted rid of some of these I volunteered to home them as I certainly had the space but I'm afraid I never got to love them and now they're out.

But it was a spectacular day. As a relief from slicing I became obsessed by willows.

Monday, 7 March 2011

divide and rule

This is why I love perennials - every few years they increase exponentially. I spent the afternoon moving eryngiums and Achillea ptarmica, finally I might even have enough for a while. In fact I probably now have far too much Achillea pastel colours, I moved small clumps last year rather too late and never gave them any water or attention and they sulked, but a year in their current site, and a good winter mulch of masses of muck and I'm overrun.... I tried to get rid of a load of Oriental poppies last summer, but it's never easy to get rid of them as every bit of root colonises if it likes its home. That would be fine but we popped echinacea plugs in the same piece of ground that I thought we had cleared reasonably, so I fear they may all have got swamped, there's no sign yet. I also seem to have an unreasonably large swarm of heleniums which obviously like their site, I now wish I'd labelled them all as I remember that I didn't like using some of them and now of course I haven't a clue which ones..... catanache also seems to be making a bid for bed domination in one area, now I know it's a beggar to pick, and slightly temperamental to pick, but I am rather fond of it. I am not fond of the bright yellow rudbeckia though, and am planning to take them all out. Some people love them, but I just didn't want to use them last year. The trouble is, if I do give them all away, I'll probably suddenly find I want them. But I'm keen to use their space as I decided not to plough up another patch (yet) but to use every space within the existing fenced area instead. I am about to make more beds in the orchard area as that would be so much more useful than mowing grass, then when I really can't squeeze more in I'll move out to the next acre or two. I have an idea it may be sooner rather than later!

Sadly my pale yellow lemon scented nepetas seem to have frozen to death. And I had to uproot corpses of every pittosporum even though they should have been the perfect stage for good pickings this year. I guess I'll just have to keep being inventive with the foliage side of things. (But I never liked pittosporum anyway, that's probably the real reason it died, not just the extreme cold!). Eucalyptus have also been sawn down or taken out, some probably will survive, they are not my favourites but they are such incredibly useful shrubs and their foliage can be very beautiful and such a lovely colour so I hope some will re-grow after their winter blasting. Large bay trees have also gone which is more of an issue.

Now I know that some things are not as hardy as others so I really can't complain if things turn up their toes, it's my fault for planting them really, but we have become rather conditioned to thinking that most things will survive. I am quietly pleased that many dahlia tubers seem to have come through the winter in the ground, we ladled about a foot of well rotted horse muck over them and I think it seems to have done the trick, I dug a couple up to check and they were fine - but of course they might have been the only two healthy ones!

But this year I will concentrate on finding more seriously hardy cutting options, I am yearning for some rather tender scented foliage plants but will resist, though I am considering a new foliage tunnel at some point.......

Spring Fairs

Publicity material just in for the Red Cross Fair on May 5th. If you've never been, it is probably the one fair you should try to get to, brimful of many of the best small independent nurseries from all over the Midlands and South West. It's at Hampton Court Castle again, but we are all assured there won't be a repeat of the occasion when so many people headed for the event that all roads round about were jammed solid and some people sat in traffic jams and eventually turned round and went home. This year different systems are in place and it is going to be superbly organised with proper traffic organisation so please do put it in your diaries if you can make it.

I'll be majoring on tulips that week. I'm hoping for a good selection still standing then, all should be fine as we do have at least 15,000 in the ground here. I do so love tulips!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Marching on

Photos from a Barnsley House wedding are out in a wedding mag and up on site. I hope the delightful bride and groom do not one day regret the very vintage style of  the photos.

I can't believe we're striding through March already. It seems too quick... After a few lovely days the frosts here have been really severe for the past few nights, the ground in the field still frozen well in to the day. I spent a glorious afternoon dividing perennials on Friday when it was such a perfect afternoon that I just couldn't bring myself to come in until I just couldn't move any more. I was rather creaky yesterday.

I am obsessing with working out quite how to make a very stable freestanding arch for a church entrance where there are no fixings, the entrance is narrow and the arch is high. It's also several hundred miles away so I can't just slip round there and check I'm getting it right. I don't suppose anyone has had an arch fall on their head yet but I really don't want to be the first!

Rabbit fencing is still not up despite endless promises from the guy who's doing it. Serves me right for being too lazy to sort out doing it myself I guess. Flopsy Mopsy and Cottontail are having too many parties with their friends and families and my splendid legal poachers from the valleys haven't been up lately.  Bunnies' favourite perennials are so far solidago and campanula, and they just love digging up shrubs. Tulips appear neither tasty not interesting to dig.

Friday, 4 March 2011

job filled

Well there are lots of amazing gardeners out there looking for work. Thanks to everyone who called and mailed. I hope I responded to everyone..... Some people who applied would find me far too chaotic, and others I really couldn't consider employing because they should be running fabulous design or development or restoration projects rather than considering working in the cut flower gardens.

Diane will be starting soon. I've a feeling we'll get on well and that she's just what the gardens need at this point. RHS qualified, many years of jobbing garden and nursery experience and fabulously long pink nails. We need a bit of gardening glamour!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

starting simple

Sometimes the simplest can be the loveliest, this morning I was particularly taken with the last of the snowdrops and a few hellebores for the kitchen table.

Apparently we're in Homes and Gardens magazine now, they are very early with their April issue, local shops are still stocking March so I haven't seen the copy as I haven't been sent one yet but I do remember a lovely French photographer coming last spring and taking lots of close ups. We're also in Wedding Flowers mag this month but I haven't seen that yet either....

I'm trying to get to grips with some of the weeds. Slowly. And lots of dividing and moving. The later flowering cream camassias seem to have been breeding wildly and I kept myself awake last night trying to decide where to transplant all the babies - ridiculous, probably not the number one priority!

We will be starting the mail out season with Mothering Sunday flowers. This year I'm planning on big bunches of tulips or narciss with a few ranunculus, greenery and willows, plus a posy of anemones. (note to get it posted on the website soon). I still can't tell exactly what will be out. But we also have a huge wedding the same weekend so there's a bit of organising to do and I'm going to ask customers to place orders before 29th March as I know there will be absolutely no office time after that.

One dog still under the weather and the other went under the knife yesterday to have a lump removed so the house is very oddly quiet.