Saturday, 15 December 2012

Not yet ready for Christmas

Apologies for lack of anything resembling blogging. No internet since November 29th - the joys of BT, for two days I tried to sort it out, it took 36 phone calls, each time being passed to a different person, from continent to continent, 9 hours on the phone and still no result. But apparently I may have service at the end of next week. For now it's an occasional trip to town as mobile dongles don't work here either. Hey ho.

Meanwhile, I have moved. Plants are here, sitting soggily in boxes and bags in a field so wet it almost needs waders.

Kit is here, squashed into a shed awaiting sorting one day not too soon.
Boxes are here, squashed into what was once but never again will be a garage.
And most house contents are here. Some have stayed behind for visiting family at the other house and for the housesitter, and so it still looks like a house rather than something sadly vacant. I'm hoping the people who really want to buy it will sell theirs very soon. Or that one of the other couples who are interested will do likewise.

In spring I'm going to be using flowers from both places, I haven't had the opportunity to plant here so will be getting boxes of my gorgeous tulips sent down twice a week from Herefordshire. By summer everything here should be in fairly full swing. It's exciting but incredibly daunting.

When I find my camera I'll  take some pictures, but it is currently hiding somewhere in one of so many boxes that I can't quite bring myself to attack quite yet.....

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Keeping down appearances

Before the burial yesterday I had arranged to meet an elder relative for a light lunch at The Three Mariners at Oare, near Faversham. I had heard it was a very civilised pub with excellent food, so it seemed a pleasanter idea than some motorway caff.

It is a very civilised pub. With attitude.

I was driving my white van as the children have had my car for the past while as they had so much running about to do. I arrived five minutes early to wait for said relative and parked in the pub car park. Within a few minutes the chef, (or maybe the proprietor is the chef) was knocking on my window. "Are you eating here? You can't park here otherwise as it's reserved for customers." I assured him that I was in fact waiting for a companion and we were eating there, and he backpedalled furiously with some guff about how people use the car park and vanish for the day and then there's no room for their customers etc etc. This rang a little false as I could have parked anywhere on the front street in front of the pub where there seemed to be loads of space. And I couldn't imagine where anyone would disappear to for the day from Oare on a day like yesterday, cold, rainy, grey..... But I obviously looked an unsuitable case for feeding.

When my companion arrived we asked if we could eat and there seemed some doubt whether they could fit us in. I expressed surprise as it was a Monday lunchtime. They assured me that you really always had to book as they were always full. But they could just about manage to squeeze us in. (Miraculously a couple who came in considerably later without booking were "squeezed in" to another large empty table, but I admit they did look more appropriate clientele, a plump ageing rockstar look alike with straggly long grey hair and his equally chunky and chunkily bejewelled black clad lady who was wearing those extraordinary trousers that look like a giant pleated doggy bag with ankle cuffs, probably seriously expensive.) The waitress was one of those young blonds of a certain type in a little short skintight dress giving the impression she was definitely not doing it for the money because she absolutely wouldn't need a waitress' wage, but that she was actually a minor sleb or off duty supermodel just hanging out in a cool place and why on earth didn't we recognise her? I don't know if she had been practising the bad-smell-beneath-her-nose approach to certain customers or if it was natural. At least she had more of a smile for others. Particularly restaurant critic Jay Rayner and his companion who arrived while we were waiting for our food and were ushered to a table below.

As far as we were concerned food was fine, for a light pub lunch. My companion's whitebait was fine, nothing remarkable but fine and copious - but what's the point of serving about 20 whitebait with a pot of garlic mayo scarcely bigger than my thumbnail? My pigeon salad was fine but fairly dry like a dead pigeon as the place was obviously far too sophisticated to have more than the lightest scribble of the balsamic reduction jus whatever that theoretically dressed it. Having had to ask more than once for salt and pepper I didn't dare ask for salad dressing too. But I do wish now that I'd requested ketchup! It only took three requests to get a glass of tap water, the coffee was lukewarm and the hot milk cooler, and the price was quite a lot for what we got. I'm sure Mr Rayner will give it all a glowing review. I look forward to it.

If I had booked in my companion's name, including her title would things have been different?
If I had arrived in the little red alfa rather than the white van?
Worn the label of my favourite charity shop designer dress on the outside of the garment?

Appearances were not on any one's mind at the burial. The children had arranged a fitting and memorable send-off for their father. There is something terrifically moving about a green burial.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

yurt for sale

18ft, large and spacious, made this June from Welsh oak, tall, beautiful, all weather cover and windows. Fitted circular coir matting.  Windy Smithy Henry Stove extra.
Get in touch for more details.

Friday, 23 November 2012

the beginning and the end

The final  package to go out from these gardens this year is the most poignant. A wild woven wreath for the wicker coffin of my beloved children's father. He was once my best friend, my mate, my chum as well as my lover and my husband. A kind soul, a ready wit, a bright mind, a curious spirit. He was the father of our two utterly wonderful children. Our lives took quite different directions and last week his reached its end.

He will be buried on Monday in a green burial plot in Kent. Perhaps a seed head or two from his hoop will spill something that will germinate and grow to mark the spot.

In every end there is a beginning. And every beginning leads inevitably to an end.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Change the system?

I have just been told that the costs for the abortive sale of my property to a certain Dr Fiona Goodwin are £1200+ already. I do not think this should be allowed, if some ghastly less than honest person pushes you right through the selling process up to the wire, I believe they should be liable for the costs.

I should love to have a serious rant about it, but perhaps it would be unwise!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Getting ready

George has been busy in the garden in my absence. Now we just need a good frost, much soil improver and the rotovator. And I'm down there now starting to muck out other beds.... But the field is so wet we can't even bring the tractor across with boxes of plants yet.

Nail biting day as plants are on the motorway as I write, I sped down this morning wondering what was inside every single curtain sided trailer, I'd never thought of it before.

Oh, and here is the new addition to the family! Mouse's granddaughter Maddy.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Going, going, going.....

This is what was happening here first thing this morning. I was almost tearful at first, seeing all my babies leaving home!

So many thanks to Will and Tom Davis who came up from the farm to help when I know they are frantically busy, and to Sparky who came up with a second (necessary) trailer for bags.... Meanwhile, the haulier delivered the trailer unit to Will's farm, and plants will go down the motorway on Monday. All rather major!

And then Annette arrived with Imogen and the gorgeous 3 week old Florence, all of whom got stuck into digging up a trailer full of plants for their cutting gardens. It was lovely to see them, and to see more plants going off to a wonderful new home.

And then, to restore my faith in human nature further, a lovely creative couple came back for a second viewing here, who knows where it will all lead but it was lovely to meet them and talk to some likeminded people who just may end up here, or may not. But all positive anyway.

And to cap it all, Mandy arrived with Posh Dogs mobile dog clipping parlour (brilliant service!) so Mouse is now rather more presentable, although it is now impossible to argue that her rather overfull figure is due to her generous coat!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bulk plants still on offer

Anyone with plenty of space needing flower filling?
I still have stacks of Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Solidago rugosa, Crocosmia lucifer, Alchemilla mollis, Aster andenken Alma Potschke, Campanula Loddon Anna, Miscanthus sinensis and Calamagrostis Karl Foerster. And white michaelmas daisies perfect for filling space and for filling bouquets. Also buddleja mint, purple and green sages, rosemary and blue and white savory (or is it hyssop, I can't remember.....)

And for strong people with serious spades - we broke two last weekend including my favourite ever long handled bronze/copper sharp spade - there's a quantity of guelder rose and dogwoods.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Big Dig Thanks

Thanks thanks thanks to those who came this weekend and gave such amazing physical help, moral support, or just came to buy plants. Particular thanks to the two Carols who were here all day, Carol the Tuckshop Gardener from Birmingham took loads of amazing photographs ( a few below!) to record the occasion as well as helping move and shift plants, and Carol from Tewkesbury barrowed hundreds of plants and dug hundreds more. Also lovely to see Emma again who came and WWOOFed here for me two years ago, then worked here, and is now working very successfully in the area and since yesterday planning her cutting garden on a new patch with some treasures from here. And great to meet Clare from The Flower Field in Devon who came the very very long way round to avoid the Severn Bridge, but still managed to be sane and smiling - I hope the echinaceas flourish as well for you as they do here against all received wisdom!

We now have 10 very full potato boxes and 30 completely stuffed dumpy bags (thanks also due here to my neighbour Ruth for swapping plants for dumpy bags from her family's incredibly helpful FJ WIlliams builders merchants). Also a selection of trees that were only planted this year so will be quite happy to make a move. I rather wish I'd got hold of more potato boxes, I suspect they'll become compost bins and raised beds one day. Finally I had a use for the roll of hessian that has been sitting in the corner of the shed for years - perfect for wrapping the roots of roses and trees we lifted.

You could see snow all over Hay Bluff from the garden, but here the sun shone for most of both days which was an unexpected bonus. My great friend Annette worked like a Trojan all weekend, and also provided Dominic and I with delicious bacon and sausages, and Dominic was unbelievably helpful and brilliant as ever. He has worked here this summer, coming down for two or three days at a time to sort things out, he works unbelievably hard and fast and efficiently, and I'm hoping he may be interested in taking my tunnel to start a venture with his gorgeous partner Chloe as it is too large for my new site and I would so like it to go somewhere where it really will make a difference, I can still remember my extreme excitement when I first put it up and would love that to move on - and I have to get lower tunnels for the new field as I do not want to start off by upsetting the neighbours who live with their view across my field. And of course I have an ulterior motive, hopefully Dominic will continue to help from time to time!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Seller beware - of completely mad time wasters?

OK, having put me through the mill for weeks, the prospective buyer of this lovely home and land said last Friday she would exchange contracts this week as long as a drainage survey was OK. Drainage survey was done today. It was fine. She has now pulled out completely.

So, tell your friends as this place is very definitely on the market. And very definitely lovely. At least it is now available to the right person.

And if any one out there is ever selling a house beware of Dr Fiona Goodwin!

Plant boxes

All very exciting, some plant crates arrived today. Now scattered as we had to tip them off by hand and they're a bit hefty for me to shift on my own.

At the same time as guys arrived to survey my drains as the (apparently) last question from the prospective purchaser, and big Phil came to service the Rayburn. Yes I know I'm leaving but it seemed a good idea to leave things in good order as far as I can.....

An odd job, surveying drainage systems, I got the impression they weren't entirely impressed with my offerings! And not particularly impressed with wading about in the reed bed either!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

end of season

Last bunch went out....

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Compost office

Friends were very amused to call at the house to where I am moving to find me having a very animated conversation with the solicitor doing the conveyancing for me - from the compost bin.  There's no landline there yet, and this seemed the best place I could find mobile reception....

I can no longer pretend it's not happening

 A good day yesterday, getting stuck in to digging and shifting.  It does all seem a bit monumental. I\m hoping for a delivery of potato boxes today. I cannot imagine when anything will get into the ground the other end as I have hardly started clearing ground. Wonderful George has been maintaining the lawns and hedges beautifully the other end for decades one day a week. He doesn't usually laugh much. When I scratched my head and said I was freaking out about where on earth I was going to put plants he said "Well how many have you actually got?" "Three acres" I say, I have never seen him with tears almost streaming down his face in laughter before! I did reassure him they are not all coming with me.......

Annie started digging up the new roses, potting them up so they can stay in pots for however long it takes

Maz and Steve on the barrows and bags 
Clearing all plants from beds the other end

My secret weapon the other end, George who is better than any tractor, though a bit surprised to be digging up the lawns he has maintained one day a week for 30 years........

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Lack of imagination

A certain company not a million miles from me has just launched a new website, taking their cut flower business out of their main mail order business so it seems to be a completely separate company not associated with their main business. It is hard not to notice certain similarities to what I do!

First I had the Jigsaw contract supplying flowers to all their shops. It didn't work for me after a while as I grow my own flopwers rather than relying on buying in other people's, and as I want to send out a really good variety, and it was actually too tricky getting the volume just right at all times, plus I needed cashflow rather than waiting more than 90 days for payment. So I backed out. These people buy almost all of their flowers in and are a large mail order business. I saw their flowers in Jigsaw recently, 4 sedums and a few asters....
I started selling sprigged jugs for flowers. These people are suddenly selling EXACTLY the same jugs on their website. I packaged in moss..... I was the first to do mail order wedding flowers.....

Well good luck to them of course, but why not go for some originality rather than feeling the necessity to copy others, especially when you are actually quite a big business.

And, I don't know how they can send out flowers mail order that they have bought in from other growers or via the local wholesalers, as this means the flowers they are sending out are already at least two days old before they start bunching them, so at least three or four days old before they are sent out to customers. How does this work?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Plants on the move

A van load of peonies went off down the motorway yesterday, and all are now rehomed. My mother always said peonies wouldn't grow in her garden but I hope she's wrong........ Her wonderful George Dare, who has done her grass and hedges one day a week for over 20 years is helping me that end, digging me more beds in the garden, the rest will have to wait. I suddenly panicked about spaces and the amount of plants I have to move. He laughed when I told him I had three acres worth to fit into a few herbaceous beds...... I do have a plan! But it is too wet to cultivate the adjacent field now so plants are going to be crated up for the winter I think. It is all interesting.

Fingers crossed that my house buyer has fallen back in love with my cottage and land again. I would like to exchange in the next few days as I need a month between exchange and moving to sort out the plant digging.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

To wrest or wrench or heft

You could almost hear some of the largest perennials shouting as we wrested them out of the ground. Or should that be wrenched. Or hefted.  They might have been shouting for joy as their confined roots hit a wider world. Or maybe just complaining. Thanks so much Esther for coming over just to help, and for sticking with it even though I hadn't managed to contact you to say I was waiting a fortnight. You were brilliant and I really enjoyed your company. Good luck with your plans for moving too.

It was a beautiful day. It would in fact have been perfect to have stuck with my original plans for getting digging. but I was so thrown yesterday when my solicitor implied that the woman who had wanted to buy this house suddenly decided on the day we were meant to exchange contracts that she had possibly had second thoughts. That maybe this is not the place she wants to spend the rest of her life after all......But hopefully it will just be a massive last minute wobble, and anyway what happens is meant to be. And today everywhere was looking completely beautiful. Lots of flowers still standing, all bathed in a  golden glow. So much so that Tammy and James' young children, Lucy and Joe (buying perennials for Tammy's cut flower enterprise in Herefordshire), stripped off almost to nothing and were running about like two little pink cherubs. Cherubs with goosepimples.

Let's hope the weather will be kind in a fortnight so we can get a mass of plants moving.

Plants for sale, business is moving

It's official. I'm moving the business, or what I can. It has all been very up in the air as I had a buyer for the cottage and land and couldn't make any decisions until that was sorted. In fact nothing is definite there but I have decided to move as planned anyway as there is a limited window for moving plants and getting things reestablished, and I intend to carry on the business seamlessly in spring (watch this space!)

I'm leaving bare bones of plants behind in the field if the current potential purchaser still intends to buy, if she pulls out all field plants will be up for sale. Even if I leave a good selection there will be many many well grown stock plants for sale as I don't need to move all of them, including:

Penstemon Huskers Red
Rudbeckia Juligold
Rudbeckia goldsturm
Aster frikartii
Aster andenken Alma Potschke
vs white asters
Iris sibirica
Bistorta superbum
verbena bonariensis
white currants

and others!

I shall be holding a dig up/sale on 3rd/4th November. If you can help me dig things up in return for plants, that's great. If you just want to buy some plants, that's equally great.
But please mail to let me know you're coming.

And if any of you have a really good camera and would like to come an take some pictures that's also great as a daily broadsheet will be running a feature about the move and I said I'd supply them with some digging day pictures!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Last wedding of the season

This year I decided not to take wedding bookings after mid October, as I know from experience that it can get difficult to pick later, even though we have lots of flowers, as I don't grow late things in the tunnel, they are all outside, and there comes a time when we need to knuckle down to Autumn clearing and dividing and bulb planting and suchlike and get out of the studio into the mud. So yesterday was the last booking, the next wedding to decorate will be my son and Daisy's on December 1st.

Silke was looking for reds and pinks and slightly faded vintagey colours with roses in the mix if possible. It was really fun to do and I'm looking forward to some pictures as they looked just right against the rather opulent reds of the venue. For now, a taster of the preparation in a rather damp flower shed!

And tomorrow I was having a bit of help digging up some of the hardy perennials but as there is no confirmation yet about moving I'm having to put a hold on it. All very nerve wracking!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Time flies by

Goodness it doesn't feel almost a month ago that Amy and Mike got married at Mordiford. Amy wanted wild, unstructured flowers, just a smallish mixed bouquet, herbs in the buttonholes, nothing too yellow or orange and absolutely nothing resembling a thistle! I'm still using the same sort of late summer flowers for weddings this weekend, without phlox or veronica but with loads of asters and green ammi along with larkspur, astrantia, cosmos, nigella hispanica, dahlias, grasses...... and the first of the gorgeous autumnal leaves. Every season has it's own delights.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Rumours and realities

Help! There are rumours about that I am giving up growing flowers. Exaggerated I'm afraid. But I may be moving... which means digging up thousands of plants and relocating them to a different soil, different climate, different area..... and starting again with a new uncultivated field and garden.

It's at that desperately scarey stage when I don't know if it's all happening or not, as nothing is yet signed in any direction, which is why I haven't really mentioned it. I never meant to move, I have spent oodles of energy and money here including building my perfect packing shed this year and buying more land, and I had intended to stay for as long as I could imagine, but one never knows quite what is round the corner. Circumstances meant I had to throw everything up in the air and see what landed, and currently it looks as though a big move is on the cards. I had even thought of selling the business and someone was very keen but when it came down to it, I didn't want to. I love growing flowers. I love producing something beautiful from my own piece of ground. I love playing with it all.

Of course I don't love struggling with the elements, watching the weather and, this year, the slugs, but I guess that's just part of the job.

And I'm freaking out about how on earth to move the plants, especially when there is nothing waiting ready for them. But you never know what challenges are round the corner and it is almost the end of my flower season as the frosts are about to descend with relish, so there's a lot of digging and driving (3 hours each way)  to do. I aim to be up and running without too much of a glitsch for the new season next spring. Moving the house doesn't feel too challenging, that's just a matter of a lot of packing, moving the field is a whole other ask, but the prospective buyer is OK with me coming and going all winter when things are dormant. If anyone has any good ideas how I can turn another uncultivated area of weedy pasture into a perfect growing area in one fell swoop I long to hear from you! Some of the plants are destined for an existing garden, but I'm afraid the existing garden is about to be trashed with every plant dug up from every bed in order to make space for some of mine. It's tricky as the existing garden contains some lovely things, but none of them cuttable so I'm afraid they're destined for a big heap, I have to be ruthless but I'm not sure if I'm going to manage it.

And I'm prospectively moving from well composted and well worked soil to heavy bastard wet weedy clay...... but I'm sure all will be fine. My friends all smile and tell me it is all rather typical as I am happiest when i have another challenge, but this wasn't one I am expecting. But yes, I am rather excited by it all.

But it may not happen, and I may still be here next year. Who knows? All I know is that flowers will continue but if I move there may be some changes to the way I work at the earlier part of the year, but I am happy that all the commitments I have taken on for next year will definitely happen, and I hope all will flourish. As they say, watch this space......

I need to build a new shed (which won't be so posh as the one I have built here as cash will be strapped) and create acres of space. But i am confident it will all happen.

And if anyone would like to come and do some digging and clearing in return for some plants, you would be incredibly welcome, the first major dig-up is the weekend of 20th/21st, a fortnight away...... just get in touch.  Raise a glass to the next stage!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plants for sale

Where has September gone?  Busy busy, loads of annuals blooming away along with all the lovely autumn flowers, but now it's time to sort out the gardens so there are hundreds of plants for sale.

If you're interested, get in touch, and come and load up your vehicle with well grown plants for very reasonable prices. All very good for cutting of course

Solidago - sorry, can't remember the form but it is very upright, very strong, very multi branching, the best for cutting September - October
Rudbeckia goldsturm - black eyed susan August - October
Rudbeckia Juligold - about 3 m tall, incredibly strong even in wind, gorgeous sunflower yellow flowers with green centres  August - October
Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea p White Swan
Verbena bonariensis
Phlox paniculata - pale purple/dark purple eyes, 2m tall August-September
Lavenders - various
Achillea Moonshine and Achillea pastel colours June-August
Iris sibirica - various May
Aster andenken an Alma Potschke - deep pink September-October
Aster frikartii monch - blue July - October
Sanguisorba obtusa  July-August
Sanguisorba obtusa alba July - August

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Vote Emma and Tim!

Emma Searle and Tim Lewy were married at Llantwit Major in June, (with our flowers of course) and are finalists in a wedding of the year comp. Do click the button on the competition site on their behalf!

Abi and Tom's story on the Welsh wedding blog

I'm ashamed to say I didn't even know about this blog, that featured Abi and Tom's lovely relaxed wedding in Usk. Good to have a wholly Welsh affair!

Filipa and Dan

And here are pix from Filipa and Dan's big day from the big bouquet wedding blog - this was another mail order wedding, we supplied some loose flowers, ready made posies to pop into their table jars and jugs, and all bouquets and buttonholes. Mail order weddings really do work!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Clare and Rich

And these are from a gorgeous wedding in Wiltshire in June. Heavenly. Don't you love the impish flower girls! Clare and Rich sent me a disc today with loads of lovely photos taken by Chloe Browne at Caught the Light. And, a gorgeous tin of F and M biscuits. Thanks, very much appreciated!