The Nursery News
Keeping you up to date with the latest news of what is happening on the nursery, announcements, etc.
Christmas and New Year Holidays. This is our quietest time of year so we take a break from sending out plants. Our last day for dispatches will be Tuesday 12th December so ideally orders need to be received by the 10th at the latest. We will still be here looking after things, answering emails etc.
It's been some time since my last update - please don't think nothing has been happening! The weather over the last couple of months has been more like it should have been and October has actually been a pleasant month overall. I only mention this because the weather affects everything we do - our sales, how the plants grow, what we can do outside, etc. etc. So we have been busy and have got a lot done over the many good days.
I may have mentioned that we have had building work done on our house over the (so-called) summer and that has now finished (at last!) and we are actually well through redecorating. The shortened day length allows us more time for that. With all that has happened this year from a busy early spring, hospital visits, funerals, builders and everything else, we often haven't been able to devote the time to business and customers as we would have liked. Sometimes life just takes over. I do know that we occasionally disappoint potential customers, especially those seeking advice, but there is obviously a limit to what we can do.
It has been an especially hectic year so we are looking forward to a quieter time. Looking at the calendar, we will stop dispatching orders after Tuesday 12th December. We don't receive many orders after then anyway and we wouldn't risk plants being delayed in the Christmas parcel rush either.
We are currently rearranging the nursery as we move the plants to their winter quarters - some will remain outside but most will be moved under cover. We are finding we need to protect plants (i.e. just keep them dry) more than we used to, partly because winters aren't so reliably cold and may be damper, but also having dry plants really helps us to dispatch orders quickly in the early months of the new year. Nothing here is molly-coddled, believe me, we just keep the rain off.
Propagation of plants occupies our time too. We take a lot of cuttings over the autumn/winter for potting the following spring and it's good inside work for those not-so-pleasant days. There is always something to do!
22 August 2017
The August Bank Holiday falls on Monday 29th and as usual we won't get parcels uplifted. Normally after a bank holiday we try hard to send out all orders on the Tuesday but I have a hosptial appointment that day. Deliveries will be sent out on Wednesday 30th.
18 August 2017
Life has been more than hectic than ever since my last update. June was a busy month workwise, and July, but sales nosedived in July as they sometimes do. Horrible weather, the holiday season - so many things affect sales. The weather in particular has been very .... unlike summer! We have had rain almost every day for several weeks it seems and sunshine has been fleeting. Most plants are coping although we have kept more plants under cover for longer than we would normally have, just to ensure they have enough roots to cope with wet conditions.
Our Sempervivum suffered last year from excessive wetness so we were hestitant of placing them outside this year. They look superb with not a mushy leaf in sight. They will be moved outside at some point soon to toughen them up but we desperately need a spell of dry weather. Sempervivum are one of our most popular plants so we need them to be good. We're expanding our range of these fascinating plants too.
Work must continue in the hope of a busy spring again next year and so it has. We only have about four weeks remaining to complete all our potting for next year but we'll get there. Life has been hectic on the domestic front too as we have builders working on our house. If you have ever had builders in you will appreciate the disruption! We planned to get this work done - a small extension, new roof, new steps and paths and the house re-rendered - during 'the good weather'. Hah! The builders are struggling on with the weather just as we are.
Returning to plants, I feel we have a good range for next year and many plants are actually ready for selling now. We are adding plants to our list every week and we have a few new plants to entice you as well.
4 June 2017
Having just typed the date, I suddenly remembered that this was the day when I started work as an apprentice gardener, 38 years ago - yikes!
May was a very busy month for us, as always. We are at last catching up with work after the troubles we had in April. We're still a little behind with some things when we compare to previous years but not desperately so. We have lots of plants potted for later this summer and even for next spring. Some plants simply need a long, slow, growing season.
We have an excellent range of Sempervivum (houseleeks) just now, from a later batch we started last June/July. The recent drier than usual weather has made them look very appealing. I'm glad we increased our numbers as I'm certain we would have sold out if we had not. We have recently acquired many new (to us) varieties which we hope to offer in coming years if they perform as we hope. I have now realised just how difficult it is to source good, well-grown Sempervivum in good varieties - they must be one of the most abused plants!
We have had a slight pause in propagating plants from cuttings which is very unusual for us but other tasks have demanded our time. I'll start again soon. We have a good range of specially grown mother plants from which we can propagate so I hope to have lots of good quality young plants for potting until September. It's hard to believe that the nursery will again (fingers crossed!) be full to bursting by late September.
We have experienced some major gaps in the range of plants we offer. Dianthus have been scarce, as have Thymes and Phlox, having been eaten by our furry friends late last summer, but new plants are coming through now. At some point we really must appraise our entire range - sooner rather than later. We find some plants simply don't sell well with us so we need to concentrate on what sells and on those plants where we excel. We have a wide enough range of plants on the nursery to satisfy our needs as well as please our customers.
29 April 2017
Our delivery schedules are back to normal after our recent troubles and we are getting back to normal too. Remember, we have no parcel collection on Monday, 1st May, but we shall still be sending plants out on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday too.
I am still struggling to answer accumulated correspondence and it is becoming inevitable that some enquiries will go unanswered. I can only apologise - this certainly is not the level of service we wish to offer.
23 April 2017
I would prefer to relay good news, or positive news at least, but am unable to do so today. I suffered a sudden collapse over Easter and was rushed to hospital by ambulance where I spent a few days under investigation. This has been a very stressful time for us both - being told you have a rare syndrome that causes sudden collapse and death brings everything into perspective. All the tests were negative, thankfully, and it was put down to a simple faint, albeit in unusual circumstances. When I fainted again on a hospital bed following one of the tests, this actually confirmed my propensity to fainting. It's nothing to worry about now, I simply need to be a little careful.
Nicola was trying to hold the fort in my absence but there is a limit to what one person can do. And she wanted to visit me in hospital too, which wasn't our local hospital either so involved a fair journey. All this has left us with a huge backlog of orders, enquiries and numerous jobs that absolutely must be done or we lose months of work and valuable plants. Despite what many think or how we appear, we actually run Craigiehall Nursery entirely on our own, just the two of us and with no staff. Had this episode occurred at a 'better' time of year it wouldn't have been so serious. Given it's spring and we're flat-out anyway, we simply don't have any 'slack' to take up or spare hours to use.
We're doing our best to get all outstanding orders out this week (from Monday 24th April), dispatching Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Our stock control system that tallies the numbers of plants available to order is becoming desperately in need of updating and I know we are losing orders and disappointing customers. Once we clear all outstanding orders we shall have a clean sheet to start from, it's pointless attempting to do it before then.
As far as dealing with enquiries, I can only do so much and frankly, they aren't our priority. We get many enquiries every week, some very simple but others require a more involved response, especially when people ask for help in choosing plants and often for difficult or unusual situations. I don't like ignoring potential customers but the sad fact is that many of these enquiries never lead to any business for us - in effect, I'm giving costly advice for free and some people are very blatant about it - "Okay, I'll look for something similar in my local garden centre"! This has long been a bugbear for us but it goes with being in business, I guess.
Having just read through the above, it seems we're in a desperate state! Well, perhaps we are, but only for a few days. We fully expect to get back to normal service by the end of this coming week. We are well-used to being constantly under pressure, especially at this time of year, and we can never do all that we would like. That is the nature of the nursery trade.
I would appeal for patience and understanding but, despite the troubles customers can bring, the gardening public are largely pleasant and thoughtful people to deal with, so it's almost unnecessary. Thank you all, especially those patient customers who have waited longer than we would like for their plants and for all the good wishes. Thank you. And I'm fine!
9 April 2017
Deliveries around Easter and spring Bank Holidays. We normally only dispatch orders on Mondays and Tuesdays so Monday holidays obviously disrupt this routine. We cannot send plants out on Monday 17th April (Easter Monday), 1st May (May Day) or 29th May (Spring Bank Holiday) Instead, we shall be dispatching on Tuesday and Wednesday of those weeks. We are always busy around these times so please allow us some time to prepare your order for dispatch, especially if you would like plants for when you are off work.
Everything is especially busy on the nursery just now. In fact, we dispatched more plants last week than we have ever managed before. Orders have been more than plentiful - thank you all. Plants are growing quickly now too, so some need moving outside or splitting up/cuttings taken before they get too big and of course all the cuttings we have rooted over autumn/winter need potting. It's all part of the 'spring rush' we expect every year but even though we were well-prepared, everything still seems to need doing at once. Oh well, must get on!
11 March 2017
Well, the weather may not agree but spring has arrived! Orders are flooding in, thank you all.
Enquiries and requests for advice are plentiful too and we're dealing with those as best we can; it can incredibly time-consuming. We're always torn between plant work and answering queries and ultimately, plants need to come first. Without producing plants to a high standard we have no business, so we try to strike a happy balance between producing and satisfying customers' desires. One constant source of annoyance is other businesses who email lists of plants requesting us to price them - we have a website, everything is priced, we don't discount, we don't sell wholesale ..... I'll stop there; this is becoming a rant! I think in future any 'non-applicable' requests will need to be ignored, however rude we find that.
Anyway, back to plants! Most things are selling very well and we can already see large spaces opening up on the nursery. More and more we're finding the same plants being ordered by customers, which is great, then everyone seems to swap over to something else.
We don't grow large numbers of some varieties (or are unable to) so some plants are already low in stock. One benefit of our website (and we think it a huge one) is that customers are unable to order what we don't have in stock. So we don't waste time and disappoint customers by contacting them to say ' you wanted 12 but we only have six' or 'those won't be ready until June' Everyone can see what we have available, no hidden surprises.
Sempervivums have been especially popular yet again - in fact, we have been selling them steadily all winter. They seem to be getting harder to find as a few small, specialist nurseries have given up/retired. Or perhaps people just like the way we offer them - established plants, grown slow and hard as they always used to be, not soft and fleshy in the cheapest of peat-based composts. We have increased our production of Sempervivum and grown batches for sale later in spring so we hope can continue to offer a good range over the coming weeks.
We have had a good amount of interest in plants for stone troughs. It seems there are still genuine stone troughs waiting to be unearthed or put their 'proper' use as a home for alpines. Some people are making their own and it's not too difficult. We have put in a couple of links to other resources - some dedicated enthusiasts have even produced videos showing their techniques. You may see them on our trough pages.
Work on the nursery really ramps up this month as growth starts. Thank heavens (literally!) for increasing day length! We haven't yet started potting fresh plants - it's a still a bit on the cool side here and plants will come away better potted into warm compost. I continue to propagate plants almost every day. Space for cuttings is fairly limited until we start potting but we always seem to find room. One of Nicola's greatest abilities, creating space!
5 January 2017
A Happy New Year to all our customers, old and new.
This is an exciting time of year on the nursery as we look forward to new growth, flower buds are starting to appear and orders are already coming in. 2016 was a good year for us and we hope that continues for 2017. We have a good number of plants coming on for sale and in a wide range too. We also have a large number of plants propagated over the autumn/winter for potting in the spring so everything looks promising.
We have enjoyed some time off over the Christmas holidays but we're now back to work. The major task for this month is preparing the nursery for a busy spring, cleaning, reorganising and generally just making sure everything is in place. The nature of this business and the 'spring rush' means we must be ready.
I am currently renewing much of our irrigation system. We use spring water which we collect in a large, 2,000 gallon tank. Unfortunately, this tank has sprung a small leak in its butyl rubber liner. So, the roof covering has been removed, the water baled out, the inside cleaned and dried and I've found the hole! It's tiny, barely a couple of millimeters across, but leaked a lot of water. I have a patch so we should be sorted.
The pump that takes water from this tank has been renovated too, along with some pipework. I'm hoping it won't need attention again for some time but I always keep a range of replacement parts, just in case. We simply can't be without water when growing plants!
Happy gardening to all in 2017.
01 December 2016
Our last day for dispatching orders before Christmas will be Tuesday 13th December. Ideally, we would need your orders at least a day or two earlier. We shall recommence dispatches on January 10th 2017, weather permitting, as always. We will still be here and would be happy to receive orders over the holidays and answer queries - but we won't dispatch until early January. All the parcel delivery people will be busy as you can imagine and it simply isn't worth the risk of plants possibly being delayed. We're naturally quiet around this time anyway so it makes sense for us have a break as well.
02 November 2016
Autumn is definitely here now but we have been blessed by the pleasant side of autumn so far - crisp mornings, quiet, sunny days and the most glorious autumn colours I can remember. October has been a wonderful month. We have been kept busy, as usual, and the fine weather has really helped. We managed to re-cover our largest polytunnel and have started moving plants in for their winter shelter. We haven't had use of this tunnel for a couple of years and I'd forgotten what a nice place it is for growing plants - bright and airy.
Our 'big tunnel' is filling up quickly as we move plants from outside, tidying up any that need it. This is a slow job but a necessary one. All our other covered spaces are already filled with plants and we overwinter the hardiest of plants outside too. It's nice to have a tidy nursery, at least in places! Unfortunately, the less tidy parts must remain that way as more important work need doing first.
We are still busy with orders (for the time of year) but have returned to our winter dispatch routine of dispatching all orders on Tuesdays, as I explained last month. We have another six weeks or so before we stop dispatching over the Christmas/New Year period.
07 October 2016
It's hard to believe the first week of October has passed already. August and September were very busy months for us, mainly preparing plants for next year but the good weather in many parts of the country has kept us busy with orders too. Our own August weather was unremarkable, barely summer, but September has generally been a fine month.
This first week of October has been excellent - in fact, I had to water plants outside yesterday, a very rare thing for October! We have had a few mild frosts some mornings and it is getting gradually colder but good for the time of year. Cool, dry, bright and breezy is just perfect for the plants at this time of year. Amazing!
The nursery is as full of plants as we could hope and I'm happy with the selection we have. As ever, we monitor what we produce and what sells and hope to add something extra or different to keep our range fresh. We have a huge range of plants available at very fair prices, including many excellent plants which are becoming harder to find. We can take time to produce plants in small numbers that larger growers couldn't contemplate.
We do have one minor disaster to report - we have been attacked by rabbits! More accurately, probably only one rabbit and only in the nursery for one night. But the damage is there. It nibbled many of our fresh young Thyme plants (one of their favourite foods!) and when I say nibbled, it eats them entirely down to the top of the compost. The plants will recover, eventually, but we won't have those varieties to sell well into next spring. We soon found the entry point, a piece of corroded netting which had been lifted by a foraging badger. Wildlife; isn't it wonderful! And typically, this spot was right next to a length of new fence we replaced earlier this year. Oh well, more jobs for winter.
Later this month we shall revert to winter dispatches when we can get all orders sent out on a Tuesday. This will let us have Sundays off - other than bank holidays, we haven't had a Sunday off since March. We still have a lot of necessary work to do on the nursery but it is a quieter time of year. This is also my favourite time of year - very soon my days will be spent propagating plants for next year and beyond. That is the essence of what we do and possibly a large part of who I am. Hmmm, too early for contemplation just yet!
03 August 2016
We continue to add new plants to our list and we have an excellent range of fresh plants ready now. We now have an extended range of Houseleeks (Sempervivum) ready now. These have proved very popular and we have increased our numbers for next year. We grow our Houseleeks to a high standard, showing the plants off to their best advantage. We are very well stocked with Rock Roses (Helianthemum) too and offer one of the widest ranges available online.
Growing plants in stone troughs is becoming very popular again. This style of gardening matches perfectly with modern trends of smaller gardens and people with less time to garden, allowing those who still appreciate beautiful plants to grow a wide range of plants in a small space with minimum maintenance. We offer a huge range of plants truly suitable trough growing - the small, neat plants which look and perform best in these smaller spaces.
The weather of recent weeks hasn't been too unkind but we have lacked sunshine. I didn't need to water any outside plants in all of July! I would have preferred the sun but the time saved means we are well up to date with production of plants for next year. What a bonus!
03 July 2016
July already - it has been a quick year! Spring was exceptionally busy for us but things have quietened down now. We are well prepared for next year - in fact, we never stop, growing is a constantly rolling program. We have lots of plants potted for next year, growing away over the summer months, but we haven't finished for this year, far from it. We have lots of plants in flower just now and many have still to reach their best. We have an excellent range of Sedum, always popular summer plants, the autumn Gentians will be budding up shortly and so too the Cyananthus, Persicaria, Silene and Astilbe to name but a few. The Campanulas are summer essentials and many will continue flowering into late summer.
Sempervivum have sold especially well for us year as our current list shows - Sold Out. We have lots of fresh plants potted and they are almost ready for selling, probably only a week or two away. I know we have several customers waiting for these alone. Helianthemum are popular with us too but we have managed to keep a range available, albeit reduced in variety. We have fresh plants ready now and an ever-improving range of varieties coming through.
We shall continue to dispatch plants every week right through to late autumn.
19 May 2016
What an amazingly busy spring! Orders have continued to come in thick and fast but we have managed to keep to our usual prompt dispatch schedules. We believe all of our plants are good (we wouldn't offer them otherwise) but we really have sent out some amazingly good plants. I don't why I'm surprised by this - it's what we aim for - but everything has come together this spring. For once! We did 'lose' some plants last week due to an unexpectedly severe late frost, now removed from sale of course. Some of these plants had been outside all winter. They'll recover, but it is annoying and frustrating. Nature always wins.
Some plants are now in very short supply. Sempervivums have sold especially well but the quality was outstanding resulting in many repeat orders. Fresh plants have been potted some weeks already but they still won't ready for selling until about the end of June. Thymes and Sedums have proved very popular too but thankfully new plants are starting to come through now and we hope to have good stocks for sale fairly soon. Helianthemums have been as popular as ever but we still have reasonable stocks of many (though not all) varieties. We massively increased our numbers of last year. Again, fresh plants are already potted to follow on into summer.
We have been very busy potting fresh plants all spring, between preparing and dispatching orders. We still have lots to do but we're almost on target and our list of available plants will reflect that in coming weeks. We have lots of plants potted for next year too - all our Sempervivum (mentioned above) are potted for next spring, and many of the slower-growing little trough plants we like are potted too. Much of what we grow needs time to develop properly in the pot.
We have one more Bank Holiday to come (always a rush!) but I'm sure we'll cope. Just one final mention to everyone who has sent us such wonderful feedback and compliments about our plants and service. Thank you all, we do appreciate it. Unfortunately, we simply haven't had time to upload those comments to the website, especially those sent directly by email. Long hours and hard work are made so much easier when we learn how much people appreciate our efforts, so thanks again.
1 April 2016
Once again, March has proved to be an extremely busy month, possibly our busiest month since we started our online venture nearly 4 years ago. The extensive changes carried out to our website over the past winter have proved very beneficial - not only for us, but for customers too who are finding it even easier to use. Our improved delivery options are helping customers (and us) achieve what we all want and have helped streamline deliveries.
A great range of plants keeps us busy too! However, gaps are starting to appear, some of them large gaps, but we still have good stocks of most plants. Some things sell out inexplicably quickly and it's entirely unpredictable - we might keep a plant for months with no orders then suddenly we get 2 or 3 good orders and they're almost all away. We try our best to offer good stocks and a wide range, but after all, we don't grow them to keep them! We intend starting to pot fresh plants any day soon so we should maintain a healthy offering throughout summer and into autumn.
1 March 2016
Welcome to March - normally our busiest month for sales. We are well prepared for processing orders quickly (weather permitting) and we have very good stocks of most plants on our list. We also have a huge stock of plants for potting once the weather properly warms up. Our list is fully up to date and we always aim to keep it so - you should always receive exactly the quantity of plants you order and we never send substitutes.
Our new delivery arrangements are proving very popular (see below) and make it easier than ever for you to get your plants.
7 February 2016
Five weeks into the new year already - where does time go?!
The least said about the weather the better, but I can say we have survived (thus far) relatively unscathed, as have most of our plants. In fact, for most things, conditions have been relatively benign so we have an excellent stock of good quality plants. And signs of spring are appearing every day!
We have recently added some new plants to our list - some Androsace, a desirable variegated form of Alyssum spinosum and more Saxifraga, among others. We still have a few more to add too, as soon as they are ready. You can see our most recent additions here.
New, more secure checkout. We have made some technical changes to our website checkout page - it is now fully SSL encrypted, look for the green padlock symbol in your browser bar and the 'https:' ('s' for secure) prefix to the website address before you enter any details. This is the best securirty open to us - no bad thing when scare stories of fraud appear almost weekly. All your personal details are encrypted as you enter them, as are payment details with Nochex. We have never experienced any security issues with our website but the addition of SSL encryption keeps us ahead on the security front.
Changes to our deliveries. We always aim to offer the best service we can and we believe that using Parcelforce as our delivery agent achieves that. We don't believe it is fair for you to place an order then know nothing of how, when and where your plants will be delivered. We understand that it is incredibly annoying and frustrating waiting for packages that don't arrive as and when they should - it happens to us too!
Here are some ways in which we can all work together to get the best and most convenient delivery service for you:
- Give us your mobile phone number. Parcelforce can then send a text message (SMS) on the morning of delivery day so you can make arrangements for receiving your parcel. Your number will only be used for this purpose.
- Ask us to deliver to your local Post Office. A useful option if you are out most days or you don't want a parcel just being left at your door. You do need to be able to collect the parcel yourself during Post Office hours of course and you will probably need a form of identification with you, but this option might suit your circumstances. Please be aware that larger orders may be quite heavy for carrying.
- Tell us your 'Safe Place'. Parcelforce can leave a parcel without signature in your designated 'Safe Place'. Many of our customers are happy for parcels to be left in a front porch, in the greenhouse or with a neighbour, etc.,etc. However, It is only fair we point out that Parcelforce will reject claims for non-delivery (and rightly so) but every parcel is still tracked right to its destination - even the delivery vans are GPS tracked and recorded.
- Ask for delivery elsewhere We can arrange to deliver to, for example, your place of work, to a friend, neighbour or relative or anywhere else you choose. There is an option in checkout to select delivery address.
Selecting one of these alternatives should help us all to get what we want - accurate, first-time deliveries with no inconvenience. Simply enter the relevant details (mobile number, deliver to P.O. or Safe Place) in the 'Special Instructions' box as you enter your details on the secure checkout page or change the delivery address to your chosen alternative.
7 January 2016
A Happy New Year to everyone! (slightly belated).
Dispatch of orders received over the Christmas holidays will be dispatched Tuesday 12th January when we recommence our weekly dispatches - weather permitting, as always.
Our Christmas 'holidays' have been a difficult time for us - my older sister sadly died just before Christmas. She was only 54 years of age and had been suffering from cancer. Her funeral service is tomorrow, 8th January. We have a small backlog of enquiries and many orders still to process but we hope to catch up soon.
We do hope you have been relatively unaffected by the horrendous weather and floods of recent weeks and our sincere commiseration if you have. We don't experience any flooding here (we're too high up!) and we have managed to keep ourselves and our plants sheltered from the rain. These conditions are generally benign for most plants (with shelter) but the incessantly damp atmosphere does attract leaf moulds to certain plants. We don't use chemical sprays to prevent these attacks - we're betting on the weather turning colder to knock them out and we attempt rigorous hygiene by removing dead leaves etc. I don't anticipate many plant losses but it's early days as far as winter is concerned. We always have plenty of plants to offer!
1 December 2015
Last order dates, Christmas/New Year
The last day for receipt of orders before Christmas will be Saturday 12th December. We intend that our last dispatch date before Christmas will be Tuesday 15th December. We are naturally very quiet (with orders) at this time of year and we would prefer that plants don't get mixed up and delayed among the Christmas mail. We shall restart in early January, weather permitting, as ever.
We do enjoy some time off over the holidays but we will still be here to answer any queries. We also have more work planned on our website and we have a good selection of new plants to add for the coming season - some Androsace, Gentians, Helianthemums and Saxifraga, amongst others. We hope we have something to tempt you!
1 November 2015
Autumn is most definitely with us - the leaves have changed and are falling quickly, the nights are getting colder and fog is common too. It's a lovely time of year and probably my favourite. Most assume that spring would be the highlight of our year and it is in many ways, with fresh new growth aplenty and all the coming attractions that will bring. Spring is also our busiest time, and we're thankful for that, but everything is a rush. Life is more relaxed in autumn, we have money in the bank to see us over winter and we can spend some time doing what we want to rather than what we have to.
However, work doesn't stop for long - we have a good crop of cuttings rooting away, especially of Helianthemums; we have all our popular varieties of those plus some new (to us) ones for next summer. We have even discovered a new variegated 'sport' (natural mutation) which we are quite excited about. We have discovered several of these sports over the years but they rarely prove worthwhile. It's early days but this one looks more promising - bright, golden variegated, grey leaves with soft yellow flowers.
We have lots more propagation to do - many plants are best propagated at this time of year and for some it is the only time. By Christmas I would expect to have all our available space filled. Everything roots slowly in autumn but come spring we should have masses of plants for potting up and selling next summer, and even through to spring 2017. It's a long process for some plants!
20 October 2015
Another month passed so quickly. And possibly the best weather all year; a very pleasant change. Some plants have continued growing, making firm new growth in the sunny days with cool nights. We have had more frosts but nothing too severe. Our stock of plants - most of which are grown for next spring although they are plenty big enough for planting right now - are looking superb. We are very pleased with them.
Winter deliveries. Orders continue to trickle in but we are naturally quieter at this time of year. We shall continue to dispatch orders throughout the winter months, weather permitting. We take a break from dispatching of around 3 weeks over Christmas/New Year - it's not a good time to be sending parcels of perishable plants!
As we are less busy, we shall only be dispatching once a week from November, only on Tuesdays. We can usually manage to prepare and dispatch everything on one day but please allow us a few days from placing your orders. Plants must be dry for packing and that often takes two or three days at this time of year. We like to dispatch orders as quickly as we can - we don't mind rushing occasionally but nature often defeats us.
20 September 2015
Website changes. If you are a regular visitor you should notice some changes to our website. We are in the process of upgrading and modernising. It is over three years since we launched and much has happened to websites in that time, not least the proliferation of mobile devices - iPads, tablets and increasingly larger mobile phones. Our original website was falling behind so it was time for a refresh and it is now fully responsive, so you may easily browse on mobile devices without constantly resizing etc.
We have also subtly altered our colour palette and tried to slim down/neaten things up so that they display better on all devices - laptops, desktops and all mobile devices. Well, that's the theory! There are so many devices now and so many alternatives of browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.,etc.) and so many different versions of those that something somewhere may not display or work quite as intended. We shall keep tweaking .... Searching for bugs used to mean greenfly!
One of the other big changes is we now have multiple product images. Previously, we could only show one large image of each plant, we can now show three. We hope this allows customers an even better vision of what they may intend buying - we can show a plant in a pot as it might typically be dispatched or alternative views of spring and autumn foliage, for example. Customers should be able to see exactly what they intend buying but sadly, that often isn't the case. We aim to present as much information as we can on our website so that we are totally open and transparent, customers can know exactly what to expect from us and see the plants they might like to buy. No 'Waiting for Product Image' on our site or having to place an order to discover the carriage charges!
This is a huge undertaking - we have well over 500 varieties of plants so I will need hundreds more images! However, given that most other nursery websites are still frequently showing 'Awaiting Image' notices throughout their sites, I don't think we are doing too badly. Perhaps it's because a website is seen as a just another sales avenue for them that they don't feel the same need for excellence as we do. We only sell through this website, so we strive to make it enjoyable and informative for our customers.
Right, a few more hours of tweaking - then I must tend to my plants!
12 September 2015
Well, this summer has eventually given us some sunshine - just enough to help 'finish' our plants. Everything looks really good now and the sun has helped to mature any sappy growth made during the showers. Our stocks are high at this time of year too, probably as high as they will get. We do have a few things we are waiting on and others have Sold Out (for now) but overall we are very happy with what we have. We never like to brag about 'quality' and how great our plants are - but most things are looking splendid!
This is my favourite time of year - potting (mostly) completed, enjoying that especially precious early autumn sunshine whilst tending a full nursery of happy plants. We are still dispatching orders every week but the pressure is definitely off.
Most of our stock is actually grown for the busy spring sales period but we shall continue selling until before our Christmas break. Not everyone realises that we grow plants primarily in the spring and summer, we will only get a little growth from now on. We have almost finished potting - yay!
For those in the south reading this, you may be thinking, 'but it's still only September!'. Yes, but we have had our first frost here already, albeit 'only' a grass frost. There is still some heat in the sun but things cool quickly when it doesn't shine. Experience has taught us that, for this area, we only have a short growing season and it's pointless (i.e. costly!) to try to extend it. We get cold winters here too, so plants need to be fairly mature and well-established to come through and still be attractive for us selling in the new year. As I was saying last month, this is another part of the 'hidden value' of our plants - grown slowly in cool temperatures and hard enough to survive a Scottish winter!
8 August 2015
It has been over a month since my last update. July was a strange month - very cool at times with little sunshine but we have been as busy as ever with orders. Thank you all. We are well through our work of growing plants for next year and have increased our stock of most things. We shall have an extensive range of plants available - most are ready now, in fact - but we still have a few treats we are keeping for next spring.
In spite of the weather, or perhaps because of it, our plants are looking good. Even the Sempervivum that enjoy the sun are looking excellent and we have a wide range ready now. The autumn flowering Gentians are budding up nicely although we only grow a few varieties for you to try. There are specialist suppliers of Gentians for the really keen but our plants are cheaper though just as good. We always try to offer maximum value with our plants.
Speaking of Gentians, we are now almost totally peat-free in our compost use, Gentians still being our last major challenge. Given that we don't grow huge numbers of Gentians we probably use less peat than most home gardeners. We are well aware that our plants aren't the cheapest available (though they are far from the most expensive) but there is a great deal of 'hidden value' in our plants - being peat-free is one aspect of that. I can't say we are saving the planet by not using peat but it feels the right thing to do.
5 July 2015
Our stock levels are increasing rapidly - nothing like some warm, thundery weather to speed growth along. We now have a better selection of Sempervivum plants available and they are looking really good. Next year's plants are looking good too. We have been very short of Saxifraga but plants are coming through now. We now have Saxifraga 'Freckles', a super encrusted cultivar that isn't widely available. Others such as 'Whitehill' and the very silver 'Doctor Clay' won't be long - the Saxifragas can't be rushed and make much better plants when grown slowly.
Many think of alpines as spring plants but we have loads of plants in flower just now - Oxalis, Sedum, thymes, geraniums, campanulas, Erodium, Hypericum, Lewisia, Sisyrinchum - and plenty more with others still to come into flower. Alpines aren't just for spring!
I may as well finish with looking forward to autumn. We have all our autumn Gentians available now. We propagate these from division and they were very late in being done this spring due to the cold weather, but they have caught up well and are nice full pots of growth that will be budding up now. Our few dwarf Astilbe were late too (everything was) but they have caught up too and are every bit as good as we could hope for. They should all flower well into September.
Work-wise we are flat-out. We are still busy with orders, propagation and potting must be kept up with and the usual summer tasks of watering, trimming and looking out for greenfly must continue without respite. We are far from finished with 2015 but 2016 does look promising. Thank you all.
1 June 2015
May has been another busy month for us, as it usually is. This has all been despite the weather - May here has been very cold. We are promised warmer weather soon ...
New stock is becoming available quite quickly now and our range will improve week by week. Our Sisyrinchium are now ready and full of buds and we again have the fragrant Dianthus 'Warden Hybrid' which we haven't had for a while. We have fresh Dianthus alpinus 'Joan's Blood', a classic plant that isn't widely available and D. 'Inshriach Dazzler' which always sells well. More Dianthus are on their way too.
Looking through our list, it's hard to pick out individual plants - we have so many good plants coming on, as well as some new (to us) varieties. We always aim to have a very wide range of plants to offer and those annoying 'Sold Out' banners will be disappearing once summer gets properly underway.
7 May 2015
After an amazingly busy few weeks our stocks of plants have become somewhat depleted. That is what we grow them for, I suppose, so that lovely people can buy them. It is easy to be confident at this, our busiest time of year, but we both feel we really are on the right track with what we are doing and how we do it. Our quickly emptying nursery is proof enough. And now that this is our only source of business (we no longer grow and sell wholesale) we can give it our full attention.
As our nursery has emptied we have constantly been monitoring stock levels of each plant. Not many people realise it, but we count all our plants on to a stock control system. This prevents customers from buying or even ordering what we don't have. I don't know how other nurseries operate - it's interesting to visit another nursery website and enter, say, 10,000 of a single plant in to a shopping cart and it gets accepted and will even allow you to pay. You can be 100% certain they don't have those plants or would ever be able to source them! What would happen then? My biggest concern would be getting my money back!
A stock control system comes in to its own when levels become low but they depend on accurate information being entrered in the first place. So today we have together gone through the whole nursery and updated numbers of every variety we sell.
I say our nursery is emptying but in fact it is also filling up with recently potted plants. We have a good range of Sempervivum already potted and we will soon be doing a lot more for next year. We like to grow these as long and slow as possible. One of the first plants we split and pot in spring are the varieties of Sisyrinchium - these will be ready for sale very soon having made excellent root growth. We have an expanded range of Saxifraga potted with again more to do for next spring. We like to offer a good range at all times (I'm aware we are pushing that concept at the moment!) so we do have loads of other things potted too - thymes, Dianthus, Parahebe, Gentians for autumn, Sedum, Erodium, Oxalis, Astilbe etc., etc. and (where we can) in better numbers.
14 April 2015
Mid April already! Everything is in full swing - orders are coming thick and fast, I'm potting up fresh plants most days and still propagating for later this year and next. Freshly potted plants should help us maintain our range of plants on offer although some plants don't grow so quickly - we have a good range of Saxifraga coming on but they will spoil if we rush them in any way.
We have two Bank holidays approaching - 4th May and 25th May. These are busy times for us, not least because we lose our Monday dispatch days which pushes our workload into Tuesday. On the Tuesday after Easter we started at 5.30am, just to get all our orders out on time.
We have been fairly successful this spring in acquiring new plants to grow. It can be difficult getting new (to us) plants - we have a good idea of what does well here, what we can grow to a high quality and (we hope!) what our customers will like. But finding those plants isn't without risk; I have lost count of the number of plants I have bought over the years which turned out to be incorrectly named. With some we can generally investigate their true name but with other plants such as Sempervivum it can be impossible to tell. Some plants just take a while to settle down and some may never do, but we have to try.
Almost all the plants we grow were acquired as a single plant and we have built up our stock from that - it can be a slow process, often taking a few years. We refuse to buy plants simply to resell, that's not what we're about. I can still recall where I got some plants from thirty years ago, especially those given to us by fellow growers, friends and enthusiasts; this can be a nice business to be in.