Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thanks - and welcome to my new home

Thanks to everyone for their good wishes, for sharing my garden with me over the past two years and for your many encouraging comments.

Here's a link to the new website - no plant database as yet, but we are getting there! Lodge Lane Nursery website.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Signing off...

My PC is being packed this morning. The weather station is coming down at the weekend. It's time for the 'Weekend Gardener' diary to close and make way for a new perspective on the horticultural world at

I'll come back to the house next week to tidy up the garden and take some final pictures. I'll write a proper 'thanks and adios' then.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Our house has vanished

OK, so we did book a full pack service , but were still completely unprepared for the 6 man team of locusts which swept through the door this lunchtime and packed almost the entire house in an afternoon. Especially since we aren't actually moving until Friday. 'Sorry if it's all a bit sudden' said the rep, sympathetically, as if he meant it. 'We had a few men spare so we thought we'd send them all along'. Fantastic. We were expecting a quiet start today - a couple of guys starting in one room - us just ahead of them, clearing out the last of the stuff we don't want, with time for the occasional trip to the tip. No chance. I stopped one chap neatly packing the pile of rusting cutlery I'd picked out for the tip. Another had carefully wrapped my prized jacaranda seedling pot - and put it at the bottom of a box. I fished them out just in time - they'd never have survived a three day store in their depot. I just managed to keep them out of our room long enough to pack my underwear.

Tonight we have a mini-wake in progress. Youngest Trillia's friends are round. Apparently we've 'destroyed their childhood memories' by moving out of their favourite (i.e. only) Saturday night refuge. So I did what any parent does with a bunch of sulky kids (still works with 17-19 year olds). I gave them some paper, pencils and a tupperware box and they've made a time capsule for the house. Along with subs for some liquid emolient from the off-licence (with apologies to any disapproving parents out there). That cheered them up a bit. For some reason they decided to write letters to the house wearing my pink GOTY t-shirts. Bizarre. They might miss the house, but we will miss their weekend vitality and nonsense much more.

The posh chaise longue is almost the only item of furniture left in the house - because it belongs to next door.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A new life beckons.

Today we exchanged contracts on Lodge Lane Nursery in Dutton, Cheshire, along with a cottage, a 1 acre garden open to the public and a small but pretty stretch of meadow and woodland alongside the Trent and Mersey canal. We will own it by Thursday night and Monday morning will herald the start of my new life as a nursery owner.

Six months ago, this would have been beyond contemplation. Less than a dream, not really even a ripple of an idea. But on Friday I will hang up my trowel as a 'weekend gardener' and try to make a career of it. The first day open to the public will be scary. It's probably close to how newly qualified teachers feel when they face their first classroom. Fun, but scary.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Name one good thing about sleet...

I can't stand sleet. Every other 'weather' has something going for it - even if it's only the entertainment value of gale force winds and torrential downpours. But sleet is pure misery. The semi-frozen sludge sticks to bare skin, seeps into gloves, up sleeves and down collars, making any outdoor task out of the question. I should be pleased, taking the opportunity to clear cupboards, pack up the shed and gleefully part company with 20 years of accumulated crap, but instead I'm staring out the window at the grey, squelchy slush and shivering at the thought of it.

Mooching about uselessly is not an option, however. With the last of the legal hurdles all but cleared up, we should be buying the nursery on Thursday, and moving on Friday. So there's much to be done.

Just one photo for you from the brief cold snap. And two little Jacaranda seedlings, looking very fragile and uncertain. No wonder really - they are in the wrong half of the planet at the wrong time of year.

One of a pair of copper butterflies. They always look wonderful in frost.

Jacaranda seedlings - the product of my first foray into international seed collection. Although I think picking them up on Sydney harbour front doesn't really count.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The exam is history and the nursery beckons

The exam was OK - I'm pretty sure I've passed it. Thankfully, I finally mastered the names of the biological controls for vine weevil yesterday and, lo and behold, it came up as a major question. Someone is smiling on me.

So now, time to focus on the nursery and our impending new life. In theory, we are completing on Friday and will then be the proud owners of a cottage, a 1.5 acre garden open to the public and a herbaceous perennial nursery. But as of this morning we lacked some important elements - such as a large tract of land which includes the nursery entrance and permission for the garden to be a garden. But there's nothing like a deadline to get things moving along and since our vendors have promised their vendors that Friday is the day, then it probably will be.

I should be revising, but...

I'm all revised out. As the famous cartoon goes, ' Miss, my brain is full!' So, with an overnight low of -3.6C and a rapidly thawing frost outside, I put down the text books in favour of the camera.

Papaver atlanticum's hairy leaves holding the frost beautifully

A white quince with its frost-proof flowers open in total disregard of the sub-zero temperature

DB has phoned from 5 miles away to say it's thick fog and snowing. Best get the winter gear stowed in the car.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Johnnie Amos's Green Welly Show

I had my first post-GOTY radio interview today on BBC Radio Northampton, with Johnnie Amos on his Green Welly Show. He was a competitor himself on the programme two years ago so it was great to chat with him and share experiences. It seemed to be over very quickly, but when I looked at the clock I'd been on air for about 15 minutes.

The programme is available on-line now, so if you'd like to listen to it, click here.

My interview is about an hour and a half into the programme so either listen to the whole programme (well worth it, it's very well put together and informative), or fast forward.

Johnnie - thanks very much for having me on the programme - it was great fun!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sunshine at last

Winter sun has been in short supply this year. Yesterday was an exception and I sneaked off for a few minutes with the camera, leaving Roy, my Mercedes saviour, to breathe life into the near dead car on his own. (Unbelievably, after two years in pieces and three days careful reassembly from my painstakingly labelled parts, she started almost first time)

Normal winter service has resumed today with a blanket of cold fog that should have lifted but didn't. At least it's made it easier to stay in and revise.

I am not a Galanthophile - I don't know one snowdrop from another - but I do know that these are very pretty

Hamamelis mollis in full flowering stride. I shall miss this tree when we leave.

This little Iris reticulata is a stunning purple.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Distractions galore

It seems ages since my last post here, but I do have a good excuse. I've been at the new nursery 2 or 3 days a week transforming weed-riddled, pot-bound plants like these:

to clean, repotted ones like these:

I've worked my way through about 1,500 pots so far. It's proved to be a superb way of finding out what stock I've got, what condition it's in and also what I need to propagate. It now looks like we'll be completing within a couple of weeks so then I'll really be able to get stuck in.

Added to that I have my RHS exam in 5 days and we are probably moving the week after. Plus I've found a superb mobile mechanic to get the Merc back together (see other blog for the sorry tale) and I'm in Birmingham at a seminar for RHS Tatton exhibitors tomorrow. So I'm a bit busy. But the garden at home still looks quite good with hellebores, snowdrops, jasmine, irises, pulmonarias, witch hazel, sarcococca and winter cherry providing plenty of cheer, despite my neglect.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wind, rain and more rain

Our garden was mercifully unscathed by Thursday's storm, but less than a mile away several huge beech trees came down, one right next to a bungalow which now looks like a doll's house compared with the vast tree-corpse which lies next to it. At the nursery we've lost a couple of small oaks near the stream and one eucalyptus in the garden. I'm not bothered - the garden actually looks better for it. Astonishingly the polytunnels were almost completely unscathed.

Between 1st November 2005 and 31st January 2006 we had 136mm of rain here. For the same period this year but only up to today, i.e. 9 days shorter, we have had 347mm of rain. Even with our light sandy soil it's been close to impossible to get outside much. Perhaps even more significantly it has been warmer this year than last year for 63 days out of the last 80.

I mentioned the nursery. Yes, it's getting closer - hopefully the purchase will go through in Feb. I'm there three days a week now, just tidying, organising and getting my head round it. I going to have to take some plug buying decisions soon as the nursery re-opens in 8 weeks. Just to add to the pressure I have my first RHS Advanced exam on the 6th Feb and since we have now sold our house we need to clear out 10 years of accumulated stuff. It's going to be a very, very busy few weeks. No pictures today - maybe tomorrow..

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