January 1st 2018

Something not realised by many is that plants do not have the ability to foretell the future or to read a calendar. I’ve heard people say “judging by the number of berries on my holly, it’s going to be a really bad winter ahead” What rubbish!! The number of berries is directly connected to the season gone not the season to come.

Plants react to stimuli and the job of a good gardener is to create good stimuli and prevent bad stimuli. That way our plants and nature works with us not against us. As I walked through the gardens this morning, I saw the snowdrops and the daffs in bud, nothing wrong with that, but I also saw the flowers on our Penstemon ‘Dandy’, and Pensham Tigerbell Coral, and Sidalcea ‘Rose Queen’. Why? because right now there is enough warmth and light to stimulate them to flower.

In ‘The Bleak Mid-winter’ there isn’t much we can do but plenty of opportunities to help the garden look its best in a month or two’s time. This week, we are continuing to add a good deep layer of bark mulch to the beds. This will protect from frosts which will come over the next few weeks. It will improve drainage on our very heavy clay soil and improve the soil condition as it breaks down. It will smother and prevent germination of weed seed, reducing our workload later in the year. It looks good now.

The second week of May will present itself with what we call the ‘Willow Wind’. A blizzard of willow seed drifting on the wind like snow, settling in every pot of plants in our growing beds. Can you imagine removing 20 willow seedlings from every pot? So this week we will cut down about 20 willow trees surrounding the propagation area. None of the trees are more than 10 years old, but each one has the ability to produce many thousands of new trees each year.

Our sales tables still need to be cleared of plants being offered for sale last year. 65 tables to clear, clean, disinfect, repair and paint in time for our opening on the first of March. In the same way our growing-on bed need the same treatment. So this is going to be a heavy week. Tight schedule but weather permitting, not too difficult.

Our bird life continues to increase with never a day when we don’t have 17 species of birds on our birdtable. The Bramblings, Siskins and Reed Buntings are very much in evidence, but the most amusing of our birdlife is our Water Rail. Every morning at precisely 9:50, it walks up the ditch outside our potting shed, leaves the ditch to walk round under the bird feeders, then back to the ditch to carry on it’s patrol. Just 30 minutes later, it walks down the ditch and is gone. That is until 3:05pm when it does it all again. The Rail is outside, It’s time to put the kettle on!

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