What a day!! With so much to do as we approach the gardening season, today seemed to be taken up with deliveries. First, we had 20 tons of stone delivered into the car park. That should be enough to top-dress all the paths in the gardens. With just a wheelbarrow, it should only take a couple of weeks of hard work to shift. Then, our weekly supply of compost was delivered – 4 tons into the car park. Should be enough for about 8 days provided the wheelbarrow is free. Then timber arrived to repair, replace and renovate the sales tables. Got 4 weeks to do that before March 1st. Then a lorry load of woodchip arrived, another lump of car park filled, but we need the wood chip to mulch the gardens before the weeds start in the Spring.

Between them, those deliveries took up 3 or 4 hours of the day, but the best delivery arrived when I got home. Seeds. As a member of the Hardy Plant Society, I am eligible to buy seeds through their Seed Distribution facility, 20 packet from their massive seed list, plus 60 more random packets which are pot-luck and always includes seeds from plants I’ve never heard of or plants I would never think of getting. Then in the same post, my order of seeds from Chilterne Seeds, one of the best seed suppliers in the country for great variety, quantity of seeds per packet and price. So in total, something like 100 packets of seeds, and that’s on top of the seeds I’ve collected from the gardens this Autumn.

Where do you start? Forgetting everything else that was delivered today, the seeds are really what excites me but there are a few rules worthy of note. Any of the societies, like Hardy Plant Society or the Scottish Alpine Society who run a seed distribution scheme for their members, have one simple failing. That is, you get no sowing instructions. Just packets with the name of the seeds.

First and foremost is a simple fact that a species is likely to come true from seed, but a variety probably will not come true, so I never choose varieties from seed lists. I have 80 packets of seeds, so lots of research needed. For me it is critical to correctly label all plants so any seed from a variety is labelled ‘Genus’ then ‘Species’ then ‘Ex’ then ‘Variety’. The ‘Ex’ signifies that the seed comes from a variety. If any plant label has a simple ‘X’ between two names, this signifies that it is a hybrid between two species or Genre, a very different thing.

Next thing to remember is that if the books say ‘sow in Autumn’, this tells me that the seed probably requires a period of cold to get it to germinate. It’s now February, and the way it’s going, we may well not get a long enough cold spell, so some seed will need to live in the fridge for a while.

Do the seeds require light to germinate? Heat? So many conditions that need to be thought about, so I’ll be spending a few evenings researching in order to get the best results. So, sort out those that should be Autumn sown. Get them going. Then there’s always the temptation to sow the rest too early. Spring really will not start ‘till mid-March, but there is so much else to do.

Sales flowers

In the nursery we have to pot up between two and three hundred plants every day to get the job done by Easter. So each day we pot up the varieties that are growing fastest. By the time we’ve worked through six poly tunnels, it’s time to go back to the first tunnel and start again. As the hardiest plants are put out onto the growing beds, the more tender plants can stay in the tunnels in the spaces we’ve made. By the time we’ve potted 1,000 varieties we will have used 50 tons of compost. The thought of working with seeds really is a holiday from the hard work.

Many of the growing beds still have last years’ stock on them, most of the sales tables need tidying up, the gardens need work to tidy them up for Spring, the buildings are showing signs of stress where the felt roofs are failing, but above all of that, unless we put plants in pots, we have nothing to sell, so potting has to take priority.

Sales tables

Everything in the gardens is starting to grow now with new shoots and buds popping up everywhere. So exciting to see the hundreds of snowdrop planted last year now in flower. The daffs showing colour in their buds, the clumps of perennials now showing growth, but there is a problem. Some of our spring colour is already in flower, and it’s only the start of February. I planted a pot of pink cow parsley last spring. It was planted in a space in the Pink Garden where it is easy to see because it’s such a nice colour. But why is it in flower now? As I said before, plants respond to past weather conditions, not the calendar, so to have it in flower now tells me that it has been too mild this winter. Sidalcea ‘Rose Queen’ is in flower as are a number of penstemon. Last year so much in the garden was out of step with the calendar, and it looks like this year will start in the same way.

I do lots of talks to gardening clubs over the year on a wide range of garden-related topic, and over the next two weeks l will be at:

1st Feb            North Curry GC – ‘Gardening on Clay’,

7th Feb            Bath Botanical Gardens – ‘The Bee-friendly Garden’,

8th Feb            West Hill – ‘Why did it Die’,

9th Feb            Kilmington – ‘The Nursery Year’,

12th Feb         Rode Gardening Club – ‘Propagation’,

13th Feb         Montacute GC – ‘Why did it Die’

All the gardening clubs invite visitors to join them for the evening, they all meet at 7:15 for 7:30pm start, and most of them meet at their village halls, so if you fancy an evening with other gardeners, come and join us. Drop me any questions you may have through the ‘Comments’ button.

I cannot close without saying some thing about our birds, but what we have noticed this week is that they have been saying it themselves. For the first time this year, the dawn has become so musical, and that music will be growing through the whole of this month and on ‘till April. Birds are pairing up and even now, becoming far more colourful. Spring is certainly on its way. In just 4 weeks, we will be in to March. What a great thought.

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