Do you remember, 12 or 13 years ago, the government of the day decided to adopt an EU directive to ban every chemical that could be used in the garden? At the time it was explained that this was an EU ruling, but it was an optional opt-in which caused quite some difficulty for gardeners, not to mention confusion. Jays Fluid could be used to clean your motorbike or driveway, but not your greenhouse. Coffee grounds could no longer be used to deter slugs from special plants, and I can promise you, it worked. Even washing-up liquid could no longer be used to kill greenfly.
The justification for this change was that every chemical for use in the garden had to be tested for ‘efficacy in the garden’ Neither coffee grounds or washing-up liquid has ever been tested, so they remain on the do-not-use list. But why am I talking about that? Well, we started the nursery 12 years ago just after this legislation came in to force. In panic, timber yards that sold tanalised timber stopped using the preservative that had worked for decades, and introduced a new and untested preservative. What they did not realise was that this new preservative only works for about 10 years, then the timber rots.
Twelve years ago, we began fencing off 10 acres of countryside to protect us from grazing deer, and believe me, we have a lot of deer. We used timber for fence posts, to edge the 1000s of yards of paths, timber on the ends of our poly tunnels, timber for our sales tables – all in the expectation that this new treatment would protect the wood from ‘rot’ – well, the rot-by-date has arrived!!!!!
During construction, the fence posts were to support the wire that kept the deer out. Now, the wire supports the rotting posts. The plastic covering the poly tunnels now holds up the timber end frames.
In an almost exact mirror of all the structural work we have done at Picket Lane, we now have to go through our history and repeat it. All I hope is that the newest version of tanalised timber works better than the 12 year old version. We have 60 odd sales tables that need cleaning and disinfecting in time for our opening in March, but as I walked through the sales area this week, I noted that I have 7 or 8 tables that need complete rebuilding. This is a job I really didn’t want to do.
On a happier note, last Autumn, I lifted a number of clumps of named crocosmia varieties from the orange garden, split them, then potted up the corms into small pots for a project I want to work on this Spring. Following a visit last year to the Eden Project in Cornwall, a visit that left me disappointed as a gardener, but in wonder at the scale and scope of the construction, I was left with a truly inspired memory of their National Collection of Kniphofia species. But what inspired me most was their companion planting of the red-hot-pokers along side crocosmia. What a fabulous display.
I have about 25 species and varieties of Kniphofia planted in the orange garden, and over the last couple of years, been collecting less common Crocosmia varieties, but I needed to bulk them up to get the same effect as Eden. This Spring, provided it stops raining, my project should be in the ground. Then just hope that both the Crocosmia and Kniphofia flower at about the same time.
National Collection Kniphofia at the Eden Project. Cornwall
My seed-sowing is going well having sown all the seed that should have been sown in the Autumn after leaving them in the fridge for three weeks. With the cold forecast for next week, and probably a few more cold snaps before Spring, that should be enough to break their dormancy. Germination should start mid-March onwards. A simple guide is that if the seed is too small to count, then simple sow on to the surface of the seed compost then give the pot one light tap, watering from below. Seed that can be counted needs to be covered by little more than the depth of the seed itself. Again, watering from below. Larger seed, that is, large enough to be easily picked up between index and thumb should be sown individually either in seed modules or spaced out in the pot. My ‘Sow in Spring’ seeds will have to wait until Spring, and the signal for Spring is when the crocuses come into flower. We’ve got snowdrops, daffs and hellebores in flower, but still no sign of crocus. If you havn’t collected your own seed or are looking for a good catalogue, go to www.chilternseeds.co.uk You could be in for a great surprise. Our nursery sells perennials and flowering shrubs, but we use Chiltern Seeds for our annuals, short-lived perennial and new varieties for our gardens. We have never been disappointed.
Pippa keeps a couple of ponies on what will be our 5 acre flower meadow. By removing the horse poo each day, the ground is being denuded of nutrients. That coupled with the horses breaking up the soil, we hope the flower meadow will improve over time. In just a couple of years, we have seen so many new wild flowers like orchids appear. No, we will not be seeding it with non-native flowers, but hope to encourage British native species. Only trouble is, it has rained and rained and rained this winter. With a two inch top-soil, the ponies are doing more than just break up the surface. When will we get some dry, sunny days?
As many of you must know by now, I have a real passion for birds, and keep a record of anything less than common that pops in. But we did have a big surprise when a mute swan decided to pay us a visit. Not for a couple of minutes, but for the whole day. Taking up station at the entrances of three poly tunnels, it seemed happy to let us get to within just a couple of feet of it, but no less than that. Makes a change from the little song birds.
Our visitor for a day!
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