The Garden Nursery

I love gardening, I love plants, put in me in a garden nursery and I’m as happy as a pig in muck.

We all have our dreams. Mine is winning the lottery and buying my very own nursery. Nothing big, just a little nook with my name above the door.

On weekends and my days off, I’m always up early to visit our fantastic local  nursery down the road. It’s like an addiction, I need my pollen fix. I need to see the colours, smell the fragrances, feel the textures, and see what’s new since the last time I was in.

Nurseries are a wonderful playground for both the young and old. They give you the chance to daydream, make wish lists and have fun as well as the opportunity to learn.

The big gun nurseries, which I regularly use, have a strong online presence which can make shopping quick and easy. The choice and quality is always good, and you’re buying from people who know their stuff. These companies can often be found on Instagram or Twitter, sharing helpful hints and enticing snaps to whet your appetite.

Nevertheless, there are unsung heroes in this blooming business who can easily be overlooked; the independent sellers. Individuals with the vision, courage and drive to do what I can only dream about. Eager for your business, these one-person nurseries aren’t always the easiest to find, hidden, as they often are, in the shadow of the bigger companies.

It’s not that we don’t trust them, we don’t know them. And as funny creatures, we consumers tend to opt for what we know even though it might not necessarily be the best. But I say, give these little guys and gals a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

Last year, I decided I wanted to introduce into my garden some Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’. I knew exactly where it would go and how it would look glorious bathing in the late summer evening sun. But like so many things, it got forgotten. Then about a month ago, I logged onto Ebay to look for some ‘White Swan’ plants. I often use Ebay, searching for one-offs and buying from individual garden sellers as I feel it’s important to support the smaller nurseries.

After a little research I came across Jo-Anna Cottage Plants. Keen to know more about this company I found their website. Based on the Norfolk coast and run by Anna, someone who clearly knows her cottage plants, they stated that they don’t ‘supply plug plants’ but ‘strong, healthy plants.’ Flowers2

Their website is straightforward, with a wonderful plant catalogue, blog, garden advice and question page. Anna may not have the glossy brochures or an order hotline of the big companies, but her knowledge, commitment and passion for her business scream from the website. Hers is a company with a personal touch.

My order arrived neatly packaged in a large, sturdy box. The plants were perfectly wrapped and held securely; you couldn’t fault the packaging. As for the plants themselves, they couldn’t have looked healthier. Enclosed were leaflets about the nursery, how to look after the plants and advice on the recent frost and the potential damage it could do to your new plants; a wealth of free knowledge at no extra cost. But the icing on the cake was a personal note from Anna who explained that due to a  family emergency, there had been a delay with her processing some of the orders and she wanted to apologise. I found this so touching, she didn’t need to apologise to me! This kind of commitment to the customer is a rarity. 1swan

Whether exporting roses abroad or sending a tray of basil seedlings to Mrs Bishop on the green, the nursery business is big business, but there’s enough room on the lawn for everyone to play. I urge you to branch out and try the smaller nurseries. Jo-Anna Cottage Plants have a wonderful cottage plant range, you really feel your business matters, and Anna is always on hand to help.

To all the garden nurseries, big and small, thank you for continuing to feed my addiction. I salute you! AdeSignature

The Sound of Spring

Across the land from parks to allotments, gardens to woodlands, there’s a sound gaining volume; a fanfare from the proud trumpets of  daffodils piercing through the soil, heralding spring. 2

I’m sure winter still has a sting in her tail, she’s not done with us yet. But you can’t help but notice the toneless landscapes are finally changing as pockets of Narcissus explode on the scene.

This welcome sight tells me we’re at the gates of a new gardening season with so much hope and excitement ahead of us. It’s a journey we all look forward to. Gardening blogs are crammed with tales of sowing, Instagram is brimming with colour and Twitter is almost at breaking point, enticing us to visit all things RHS-related.

So not to be left out in the cold, I spent my weekend flitting between garden and allotment, getting as much done as I could, while poor Agent Soph was left wondering what had happened to her missing husband.

First job, to pot up my pepper, chilli and aubergine seedlings. They have come on in leaps and bounds, and with their true leaves gaining size they were ready to trade up and move into something a little larger. 1 Collage

I also sowed some spring onions. I grew some last year and was delighted with the results. So this year, I’ve opted for White Lisbon and a red variety called Furio. They’re easy to grow, need little looking after and the taste is wonderful.

Not yet done with the compost, I decided to plant a bag of shallots. They were a freebie from a gardening website, so I was keen to get these growing. However, after last year’s ‘Onion-maggeddon’, where I lost my entire crop of onions to the dreaded onion fly, I planted these in tubs and have left them to grow in the polytunnel. I’m going to try to grow onions on the plot again this year, but this time I’m going to start them off in modules, get a good root system going and when they have some growth and the ground is warmer, I’ll plant them outside.. and firmly cross my fingers.2 Collage

Back from the allotment and straight into the garden, I pruned a couple of my clematis, gave them a feed and mulched them. Then the final job was to pot up my Nerine bulbs, (a lovely christmas gift from Soph’s parents.) I’ve never grown these before, and as an autumn flower they should really add some wonderful pink and white tones to the garden later this year.

But then it was onto the last and most important task of the day.. 1

… some cut flowers for my good lady wife, and home.


Stand By Your Beds!

Another sunny evening at the shire (allotment) and all is well. The squashes and courgettes continue to blossom; I’m sure when I stop weeding, I can actually hear them grow. The beetroots are squabbling for space in their bed. So much so, that this could be the weekend I negotiate with Soph for some time in kitchen so I can create my pickled beetroot. My sweet, purple spheres of tangy delight, has it been a year already? How my salads have missed your pickled presence! And the onions? The pride I have for these fellows, both red and white, brings tears to my eyes!yes 2Now one vegetable which has, so far, been the ‘dark knight’ of the Shire, is my swede. I’ve watered, weeded and.. that’s been pretty much it.  But to my delight, these fellas are coming on a treat and have grown to play nicely with the other brassicas. They have suffered a little leaf nibble from a slug or two but are so far surpassing all my expectations.yes

I’m sure if vegetables owned smart phones we would be bombarded with veggie selfies at this point in the year, teasing us with the subtle reveal of a blushing tomato, or the firm touch of a bulging zucchini.  And don’t even get me started on the tweets from the titillating turnips.  Which reminds me, have you seen that the Agents of Field are now on Twitter?

But with August starting to peer over the horizon, I will soon bid a fond farewell to July, knowing that the next few weeks are going to be a busy month for all us outdoor growers. Whether you’re blanching beans, picking parnips or cutting cucumbers, this is a time of action and excitement.  We’ve waited all year for this moment.  Like finely tuned military machines, we’re itching to get out in the field and start harvesting.

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So fellow allotmenteers: stand by your beds, and with trug in hand may you all receive your spoils of war.. Dismissed!