Growing advice


 RSS Feed

  1. Packing Plants

    Since we started selling plants online, many people have asked us how we pack our plants. "Do you just stick them in a box and label them 'DO NOT SHAKE' ? ". The strange thing is - some of them are serious! If only it were that simple.

    There are many different ways to pack plants. Some nurseries remove the plants from their pots and some of the compost as well. It does save  weight, obviously, but I don't like it. It leaves the plant exposed around the neck and the customer is forced to deal with the plant immediately on receipt (plant it).

    The modern way is to use blister packs - moulded plastic bubbles with preformed niches that hold a specific size of pot (and the plant) securely. They are amazing - and costly, and we don't like costly! They only work if your plants conform to the dimensions of the pack. All the big growers use them for mail order; nurseries who produce a limited range of uniform products by the thousand. That's not us!

    When I worked for a large retail nursery many years ago, they wrapped plants in paper or shrink-wrap but packed them into boxes using straw as a cheap and readily available packing material. And it worked very well - unless you suffered from hay fever. Straw, especially if it has been baled ever so slightly damp, is full of dust and fungal spores. It's not nice to handle close up.

    So, what do we use, if not plastic blister packs and not straw? Here we show you how .....

    order wrapping 1 

    An early spring order ready for packing. The plants have been picked out, labelled and cleaned over to remove any dead leaves etc.

    Then we double-check the plants against the printed order. And check the box label matches the delivery address.

    Then we start wrapping. 



     order wrapping heli 1 Here is a Helianthemum ready for wrapping - not from the above order, obviously, but a good example to use.Next we show you how we wrap the plant so that it will arrive with the customer looking (almost) as good as it does here.   


     order wrapping heli 2 We take a sheet of newspaper and carefully wrap it around the neck of the plant. 

    This keeps the grit and compost in the pot but more importantly, it protects the base of the plant.We secure the wrapping with elastic bands. When unwrapping, please be sure to remove the wrapping very carefully - it is often tucked right into and under the plant.

     order wrapping heli 3 A final outer wrapping of a single sheet of newspaper helps protect the top parts and is again secured with a rubber band.It wouldn't matter too much if these stems were snapped off but we like you to receive as nice a plant as we can. Yes, we do use a lot of newspaper! But it can all be recycled or composted. 
     order wrapping box The wrapped plants are laid into a strong cardboard box lined with crumpled newspaper. Any gaps - like corners and between each pot - are packed with yet more paper. It's vital that the plants can't move in the box. Before sealing up the box we include a copy of your order and a few notes on how to care for your plants upon receipt.We often add a business card - for when you need to tell a friend .....  ; )

    This is a slow process - well, it is if you take care of plants the way we like to. Monday and Tuesday mornings are spent packing plants (it's a 6am start when we are busy) and I like to be prepared well before - orders printed, plants lifted and prep'd, boxes selected, courier booked and labels printed. All set for a busy morning with no interruptions - sometimes!

  2. Weeds

    The gardeners' enemy - and the growers'. Alpine plants can suffer more from weeds than other, larger plants. Tiny cushion plants can become almost smothered with weeds and if weed seeds lodge among the leaves they are almost impossible to remove. And weeds never look pretty.

    How do we as growers control weeds in the pots we sell you? Well, I don't know about other growers, but we operate on a policy of Zero Tolerance. We constantly keep them in check - entirely by pulling them out when we see them. It's not easy, but it works for us.

    Does it matter if an alpine in a pot has a few weed? I think it does. I have visited nurseries which were jumping with weeds and even though I knew I would regret it later, have bought plants. Some weeds can just infest small alpines - there is no other word for it. Weeds seeds can get into the heart of the plant and are there forever. We avoid this on our nursery and won't send out weed-infested plants.

    These are my top three weeds - the ones that would cause us most concern.

    bittercress Hairy Bittercress liverwort Liverwort pearlwort Pearlwort

    Hairy Bittercress, also known as Snap weed or Pop weed is common on most nurseries. Its seed capsules have an exploding mechanism which catapult the seed far and wide. And within a few weeks those same seeds will have grown and be ready to produce the next crop so we must be vigilant. What really annoys me with Bittercress is that some growers will weed their plants before dispatch but within a few days of purchase you suddenly realise what else you have bought. Grrr!

    Liverwort is a strange, primitive plant and another troublesome one. It thrives in moist, damp conditions, just like we have on our nursery. It grows over the surface of compost and can smother very small alpines. See those little cup-shaped bits on the leaves? - they are filled with minute pieces of plant that are dispersed when rain or irrigation water splashes them around. In dry conditions they won't survive but with over-watering (or a Scottish winter, or a Scottish summer!) they can spread rapidly. Liverwort also produces 'seeds' (actually spores) that can germinate too, and are produced from angular capsules on short stems. The best control is dry conditions.

    Pearlwort is a common weed that produces masses of tiny seed. These can be especially troublesome on smaller alpines and like Liverwort, is most annoying if you grow alpines in troughs or in pots.

    So there you have them - my top three weeds to avoid in alpines. Be vigilant!