Monday, 25 February 2013

Name that plant

Now the weather is finally meaning the garden is becoming plantable, I'm spending a lot of time scratching my head and talking to frozen plants in their temporary boxes and bags. "Hello, who on earth are you?" is the common question. Of course they can't reply, and usually I can't answer either. By a process of deduction I've just about worked out which are phlox, and vaguely which phlox are which - largely only because some of the clumps of soil around the roots are different from other clumps, depending on where they were originally dug up from. Solidago now seem to be just about identifiable, and some of the asters, but goodness knows which are Alma Potschke and which are others. As to heleniums, they're there somewhere, and one dumpy bag labelled echinacea is definitely something else. Which are veronicastrum is a mystery so far, or rudbeckia.....As things are shooting I hope identification might become easier, white brunnera are finally saying hello, and some large yellow centaurea. I'm very thankful to plants that have hung on to their leaves such as francoa, tellima, some campanula. I'm a bit scared that all the agapanthus, of which there are many clumps, are unhappily frozen, time will tell. I hope they will thaw enough for me to be able to weed out the couch grass before replanting but that looks impossible at present.

Most clumps look as though they will survive the frosts even though they are not planted, largely because they were dug up in the wet from clay so have a large ball of mud around the roots. I've managed to wash some off and plant them, but many are still too solid to attack.

The autumn sown annual have not fared well, apart from nigella, so annuals will not be early but I hope tog et some cloches set up in the next week or so so I can sow in the ground as soon as possible. But I'm rushing about for the next fortnight, back to the Herefordshire gardens to see when bulbs will be ready, and to collect iris, more heleniums and some ground covering centaurea, lysimachia, more brunnera and lots of my lovely willows and dogwood cuttings.  I'm also cutting them for my son's wedding in Suffolk the weekend after next as I'm making large living chandeliers for which I'm hoping to use early catkin producers and good coloured stems as the base. It might work!

Today it was on the road again to Gloucestershire to see a lovely Barnsley House bride. Not that convenient from here but always delightful. Next week is a Herefordshire bride's meeting before sorting out the flowers for Suffolk. It seems the year is getting going with the usual rush. And somehow I have to fit in a trip to my dentist (hay on Wye or Devon) as I managed to split a front tooth vertically which is emphatically not a good look for my son's wedding. Otherwise it will be the Blutak and Tippex option........

Friday, 22 February 2013

Taking over

It's an extraordinary thing, taking over a garden that has been so loved for so long, and taking it to pieces. But that's the thing about gardens, they are not static, never can be, and the best gardens do I think show the personality of the gardener. My mother's garden was beautiful, and old school - shrubs and climbers a plenty (several of which I couldn't name and really wished I'd listened more) geraniums underfoot everywhere, lovely scented roses, iris, Japanese anemones taking over.... there's a gorgeous wild area with a forest sized oak and currently scads of crocus (when I refind or buy another camera I will start taking proper pictures!) and wild daffodils as well as snowdrops a plenty. Later there will be orchids there I hope, but as autumn leaf debris wasn't cleared for a second year this might be a bit variable. My mother loved plants, and when she found something she liked she found a place to cram it in, making beds bigger where necesessary.

Then I come along, and start digging. I took a deep breath and decided just to go for it in some beds, raising my eyes to heaven and apologising before stripping out some beds completely, and digging out as much as possible in others. I know I will have massacred some lovely things (everything is in a huge pile beside the field entrance) but I need space. I have also removed hundreds of raspberries, and a collapsing but rather wonderful old lonicera hedge that had fallen into a perfect example of ancient cloud pruning. Both these destructions are deemed very controversial by my children who have known this garden all their lives, but it will look so much better - one day! I am also making some beds smaller, which sounds counterintuitive, but at the front of the house my mother made herself more space by digging out great curves in the top small lawn, I'm returning to straighter lines as I like the idea of several parallel straight beds to get a feeling of depth as you look up the garden, and to return to some feeling of geometry as you look out from the house. Some areas I will leave completely, the wild garden of course won't be touched, and one, though randomly shaped, bed at the top will stay as is because it houses the largest Euycryphia Nymansay I've ever seen, several small leaved myrtles of stature, a Cornus controversa with two so far unnamed clematis romping through this and through the large physocarpus beside it.

The past couple of days have been dry, so I have finally turned over one new bed at the bottom of the garden. This was going to house late summer flowering heleniums, solidago, asters, but these don't need to get in the ground yet so they will be sent outside the garden gates and into the field when I have prepared some ground there. Instead I shall fill it with white phlox speckled with eryngiums, scabious, francoa and the tricky area too near the large copper beech will house crocosmia as I reckon they should grow pretty much anywhere.

Where once there was a slim lavender hedge, that never thrived, more recently there were bored shasta daisies, alchemilla and geraniums taking up the strip beside the lawn. Although one conifer does cast some shade, this will next be home to a hedge of agapanthus. I hope it will work. I have nowhere else to put them in the gardens and don't want to send them out!

I haven't yet worked out where to best rehome veronicastrum, veronica, hundreds of astrantia, libertias, pinks, so many things..... My favourite sanguisorbas, libertia, iris and such like will be somewhere near the house, but I don't yet know where. At least I have large shadier areas here for persicaria, heucherella, polygonatum, so much else. None, however, are ready for planting!

At the top of the former vegetable garden a bed used to contain a mix of daisies, lemon balm, horseradish, all sorts. I dug all this out (though of course some will return) and have planted peonies here. I've never seen a peony in anyone's garden in this area so this might be the riskiest of all. But at the moment their worst danger comes from the puppy as she sees this bed as her favourite playground whenever I'm in that part of the garden. I seem to be very poor at dog discipline, I guess I hope her grandmother will teach her and the rest she'll learn via some sort of osmosis. Maybe!  She has also wreaked some havoc on the small sunny bed by the sitting room french windows, delphiniums were sprouting merrily until she found them before I found her.

And as to the all necessary annuals. I'm trying to be sensible as there is enough to do without having to get large areas of virgin weedy field cultivated. So the first lot will go into cut down potato boxes in compost. When I get it ordered and the boxes cut down. And that should give me some time to sort out at least a few strips of field without total panic. Sweet peas this year will be in the yard in a temporary sleeper bed.

The roses that were destined to grow through Mypex in the field won't get beyond the garden gates this year, somehow I have to dig up some garden space for them because I do not want to send them out before at least some sensible soil preparation in the hinterlands.... In theory they will face the agapanthus hedge across the big lawn, though there could be a problem with tree roots. They are all still sitting in hessian slippers in boxes. They may be there a while longer.

Help, time to stop writing and get those dogs walked before exploring the newly dug beds in the kitchen garden with a rotovator.

Monday, 18 February 2013

And the good news is

That it hasn't rained for a whole day.

That I've done stage one of moving the entrance.

That it may be dry enough today to get bonfires done today to burn some of the trees I've taken down.

That I've planted one new bed.

That I finally have a phone and broadband. And yes, it did come down to a bloke with a shovel in the end. And another bloke feeding him cable.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Garden changes

Still no landline. Still no broadband. Still no assurances.

Never mind technology or the weather, there are hedges to move.

I felt a bit guilty hacking down a collapsed lonicera hedge that had formed its own extraordinary cloud shape, and was much loved by my family. But it was, I'm afraid, in the wrong place. The gardens here were lovely, but gardens always change under new ownership and here is no different. Its demise has revealed an extra 2m width of stone paving- although the hedge was over 2m wide it was growing from a little slit trench.

And tomorrow I try to move a beech hedge to open up a new entrance, replacing the hedge at right angles 50 feet further back... OK so the hedge is mature, getting on for 30 years old, but it has never thrived in the shade of a huge beech tree, it is shallow rooted, the ground is exceptionally wet, I see no reason why we can't get a digger to scoop it out section by section and replant it in a new trench? I probably won't know if it's taken for several years, it has to be worth a punt......

Meanwhile I have managed to replant most phlox, and eryngium, and some shady numbers, but not much else. It continues to be wet wet wet. So wet that I drove my car into a puddle on Sunday and it has not worked since. Wet West Dorset.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What cost your BT phone line?

No broadband since 29th November – 75 days and counting
No landline since 12th December – 62 days and counting

The BT Saga continues.
Last Thursday, following considerable intervention from the MP and MP’s office, including a letter to Ian Livingstone, CEO of BT, it seemed a solution might finally be within sight. This is after innumerable conversations over too many weeks with agents, customer services, engineers, admin bods, complaints officers at every level, even my very helpful MPs team and the BT Parliamentary team and all their conversations with surveyors, engineers, planners, lord only knows who or what….. The pleasant chap in Northern Ireland who is my high level complaints officer and who must surely be extremely fed up with trying to sort things out and my endless requests for information, assured me that, finally, finally, things were happening as everything had been escalated to the very top priority to get me a line and broadband (after BT’s initial assurance all would be sorted on 12th December.) THE COMPLAINTS OFFICER AND HIS STAFF, PLANNERS, ENGINEERS ETC NECESSARILY GET PAID.

New cables have to be laid, and apparently some box or channel somewhere needs to be desilted before that work can happen. The desilter had been booked, after earlier confusion that suggested this wasn’t going to be possible without possible road closure (and another delay of up to 12 weeks) and was due to appear on Friday to do the necessary work so cables could be laid on Monday and Tuesday.

Friends along the road called in and said they hoped the layby full of Open reach vans yesterday morning meant action. In fact, I discovered it just meant a ateam of BT Open Reach cable layers and engineers had appeared, and gone away again. To be recalled at a later date. AT WHAT COST?

An engineer appeared. And informed me that the work could not be done because the desilter had not done their job. He said he could do some preliminary work but no more. He was from the local engineer team, not the cabling team or the desilting team or the administrators or organisers who must also have been involved. ALL OF THEM MUST BE PAID

Apparently the desilting machine and team had appeared. HOW MUCH DID THIS COST? MACHINE, MANPOWER, TIME? And had gone away again because they would not do the work without at the very least traffic lights – which require council permission. Apparently this was because of a standard calculation involving the width of the road etd etc.  So, had the width of the road changed between the time it was all promised on Thursday and a day later?

No one had informed the cable team. They came out from Poole, an hour away. And went away again as they couldn’t do their job without the required desilting. HOW MUCH DID THIS COST?

Apparently another decision will be made on Thursday. MORE MEETINGS, MORE PEOPLE BEING PAID.

Perhaps work will continue then, perhaps it won’t.

IF BT had done what they said they would do in the first place, i.e. install a line when they said they would, the costs would presumably have been low. IF they had discovered there were difficulties with the line as capacity was an issue, at the appropriate time, costs presumably still would have been reasonably low as a fairly straightfortward process could have ben followed.

As it is, different engineers have been out, and been unable to do their jobs, from the chap who came to fit the socket, to the guys who have been looking at silted up boxes and sucking their lips, to the people in the offices who have been fielding calls, to the  desilting team, the road traffic team, the planning team, the complaints team and god knows who else.

There has also been the cost of getting the CEO’s office to respond.

And those are just BT costs. Which are passed on to customers.


There has also been the cost to the MPs office who have been hassled by me and who have been hassling BT.

And what cost to me? Well, I have probably made 100 calls to BT, on 0800 numbers or direct to the Northern Ireland complaints team, all via a mobile phone as I have no landline, so all at considerable cost.

Everyone else gets paid. I wpork for myself. I do not get paid unless I can work. Without a phone or internet it is well nigh impossible as I run an online business or write/research.

The cost to my business. Freelance writing is difficult without going on line. Research is impossible with neither internet nor telephone. 
Flowers - Usually I take many of the business’ wedding orders in December and January, I was unable to get back to people in reasonable time on line and have no phone signal. I have been unable to get on line to sort out my website, to send marketing mails, to tell anyone of new phone number and new arrangements, to organize publicity of any sort, or get printing underway, or order stocks and supplies, or or or.  I have missed Valentine’s Day, an excellent start to the year providing interesting English flowers rather than flown in roses.

Will I get compensation? Apparently Not. Because I chose not to have a more expensive business line but a residential line. I used to have two residential lines, one of which I used for business. I chose to go for the residential option because I have been told repeatedly there is absolutely no point in having a business line in rural areas as the service is just what it is and can’t be made any better and won’t ever get priority. And even though the complaints officer said that it would have made absolutely no difference to the ficcitulty of getting a l;ine here if I had been asking or a business line.

I have just moved. It is hard to sort out all the things one needs to sort out when moving without a telephone. Hard to arrange building and organize supplies without a phone or internet.  Etcetera.

I eventually decided I needed to sort out a satellite system to get internet, even though I still wouldn’t have a landline. BT assured me two weeks ago that I would have a line then so I cancelled it. BT failed again so I reordered the satellite system. Then BT reassured me last week that I really genuinely would have a line this week. So I cancelled it again. Do I have any sight of a line? No. I can’t reorder the satellite again, I just feel totally stupid and irritating. And the MP and the Complaints Officer said BT would be under no obligation to pay for the installation of the satellite system even though the only reason I was having to go down that route was because BT had persistently fouled up.

And yes, it is all incredibly time wasting, I must have wasted hours and hurs aborticely trying to get things sorted out.  And it becomes rather stressful. I shouldn’t even have to be aware of how a line needs to be laid to my property, BT should just have got on and sorted it.

BT Open Reach have a monopoly on installing telephone lines.

BT Open Reach are absolutely not reachable by customers.

BT make out that this isn’t really anything to do with BT although I thought the name was a bit of a give away.

Can anything be done to make BT accountable to their customers?

Can BT be made more efficient?

Is joined up thinking possible?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Time lag

Latest from BT is that they found some silt in a box somewhere so it could take up to 12weeks now as some other department have to get on to some other department who have to get on to some other department who have to eventually commission a man with a shovel. marvellous. 12 weeks would mean one dead business. So I am getting a satellite system installed at considerable cost next week. but no landline.

My language when even thinking about BT is not good.

Still very claggy underfoot, resorted today to hurling crocosmia straight into the clay and mulching well. It will either work or it won't.  And I found the phlox finally, can't think how I had managed to mislay them earlier.

Loads of crocus in the wild garden, loads of snowdrops and some small daffodils. It's very exciting looking at a new garden. Apparently my old one is also beginning to wake up, I'm up there the week after next, rather looking forward to it, and will be removing another van load of plants as I keep thinking of vital things I have left behind. Although I'll be getting things picked from there for a while I do rather want them in the Dorset garden now.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

From optimism....

Monday was a gorgeous day here. We chopped down a macrocarpa hedge to let the light in to a recently dug area, sky was blue, bonfire was enormous, there was promise of high winds to dry out the ground, even thoughts of planting....

Then I awoke to sleet this morning, and it didn't change.

Meanwhile, where were those 220 metres of cable I had been promised by BT? Not here, certainly.  Word from the team at the MPs office is that they are doing something about it tomorrow. I feel I've been here before.

The sad thing is that I probably wouldn't even be this near to the vague possibility of connection were it not for intervention by the MP's office, providing high level hassle. I can't believe I am the only customer Bt treat with such an extraordinarily cavalier attitude.  I got onto the ombudsman's office too, and got a reply telling me to log on to BT customer complaints...... odd to suggest a solution to not having the internet is to go to the internet I think. But I suppose I can just about get on to some sites, it takes about 20 minutes of trying for example to get onto my own, and I've worked out it takes about 11 minutes for any email to appear in my inbox (Sorry, but there has been a lot of hanging around waiting for things to come through, it is deeply sad that I have worked out the timings I know......)

It will be good just to get on with life and work without comunication issues. I'd rather be thinking hello flowers hello trees and all that.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Joys and annoyances

Last week I decided there was no longer any point in getting annoyed about the lack of phone and broadband (67 days now and counting) but I should instead treat it as an enforced holiday and relax about it. It definitely is very relaxing not having a telephone, or internet. It is quite odd. But I'm afraid it is also very frustrating. The pluses sometimes outweigh the minuses, and I think it would all be bearable if I didn't need to work! However.....

Apparently BT are laying me 220 metres of cable on Tuesday. That seems a bit extreme. And I won't hold my breath. I had just arranged to get a satellite service installed instead but am holding fire on that for a few more days now.

I wish I was better at labelling. I can't tell which of my muddy lumps of perennials in the bags and boxes are phlox, solidago or asters at the moment. And I can't for the life of me recognise the sanguisorbas that I am sure I brought, and seem to have lost a whole box of philadelphus somewhere betwixt and between. There's still nowhere to home them anyway, it's amazing how much space they take up once you start to work it all out! I'm currently trying to work out if I could dig up more lawn for roses as I've been told that there is much more of a deer problem than I thought in the adjacent field. I'm sure all will work out eventually, I'm so much more relaxed than usual having had enforced down time that I'm almost horizontal and can't quite worry about it YET. I should be worrying a lot. I'm sure the bank are worrying.....

I have had a fantastically joyful show of hyacinths inside this year, I started loads off early then held them back and have been putting them out gradually. The last bowlful will still be flowering next weekend I think, then that\'s it. They've been going from the second week of December so that's a pretty good run.

And the puppy brings joy and chaos in equal measure. Joyful chaos.