The Nursery News
Keeping you up to date with the latest news of what is happening on the nursery, announcements, etc.
25 July 2020
Enquires about plants have taken a huge spike in recent days. I urge you, please read the various notices we have placed throughout our website pages.
At present, here is what we propose:
Sempervivum - our online shop will re-open for orders on Thursday 30th July. It may close soon thereafter if we receive a rush of orders and will definitely close by Sunday evening each week.
Alpines in general - we will have a range of plants (not our full range) available to buy from Thursday 3rd September. Once again, we will close as soon as we receive a limit of orders we can deal with week to week. We will then close for the season on Sunday 4th October, at the latest, and start again early January, weather permitting.
We aim to start next year with a good stock of plants in a good range.
16 July 2020
The demand for plants has eased a little but we still get lots of enquiries every week from people looking for plants. We have very few plants left to sell but the forecast on our Home Page is when we expect to have more plants available.
We are in a difficult position - I can easily foresee that as soon as we have plants available, they will be sold, which is good. The problem is, we will then start next year with an even worse selection of plants and in limited numbers. Basically, we just can't grow enough plants to meet the massive demand. And it's not just us, most online plant sellers will tell you a similar story.
For us, time for growing plants is running out. I like to have all our potting for next year finished by early or mid September. We could stretch that out but we grow in a cold area and we need plants ready to sell early in the year. Similarly, we can't start potting too early in the spring. We're not interested in growing small, second-rate plants just because we could possibly sell them. There comes a point in every growing season where we need to say 'That's it' and concentrate on the following year. We're there now. This has been a successful year for us but an incredibly difficult one too. Hard decisions have been met frequently.
We have a tried and tested annual routine for how and when we produce each of our plants, with some leeway, but we have been forced to the limit with some plants. Some varieties we just won't have at all next spring because we didn't have time to do them. It's disappointing. At the same time, demand for certain plants has made us look hard at what we produce, so perhaps some good will come of this year. Dealing with uncertainty is the difficulty - and our problems are tiny compared with what some people are facing, and will face. We should try to be positive and help those less fortunate.
25 June 2020
Online shop open - then closed. This has been the way we have needed to work in recent weeks, now months. We open our shop to receive new orders and close when we reach a limit of what we handle, with deliveries of those orders the following week. We don't think it is right to take your order (and your money!) and keep you waiting for delivery. Our online shop opens 9.00am Thursday and tends to close Sunday night - that seems to be the pattern.
We are working hard to keep everything moving - orders, enquiries, potting, propagation, watering and the hundred and one other jobs that crop up. I haven't had a day off from work since early March! It's not as bad it may seem though; what else would I do? I'll admit I'm concerned about next year. We will have a good range of plants to offer but perhaps not as wide as range as we would usually have. Demand for Sempervivums is huge, demand for Helianthemums simply massive (does no one else grow Helianthemums any more?!) And then there is the usual conundrum - how many will we grow? Will we be as busy as we are this year? I'm never short of things to think about during these long days.
5 June 2020
Business is still brisk, despite us having next to no alpines available, but people are taking advantage of our wide range of Sempervivum in 6cm pots. Only slightly smaller than our usual 9cm sized plants, these are amazing value. When we look at some competitors' prices, we are practically giving them away! It's easy to ask high prices when you only have a limited quantity of plants but we have a few thousand plants still to sell. There might never be a better time to start your own collection. We have over 150 varieties available (with several more we haven't listed) and about the same again of varieties we are slowly building up or assessing.
Parcel deliveries are improving but Parcelforce seem to have adopted a rolling restriction on parcel collections - so they can manage the huge volume of parcels they are handling. It is still likely that some depots in some areas will be overloaded, leading to delays, but we are dealing with the situation.
Our online shop is still closing once we receive the maximum amount of plants we can dispatch each week. Some people will no doubt be disappointed and be unable to order, but it is essential we continue working this way under current circumstances.
24 May 2020
We are starting to experience delays with our parcel service, Parcelforce. All our parcels in recent weeks have been delivered without excessive delays but the situation is changing rapidly. Parcelforce will not be collecting parcels on Tuesday 26th (after the Monday Bank Holiday). All parcel couriers are seeing a massive increase in business due to Covid-19. [Edit - we now discover Parcelforce will not be collecting on Monday 1st June]
We have decided not to dispatch all existing orders this coming week for fear of plants being excessively delayed and losing condition. Neither you nor us would want that. We intend dispatching only those orders that contain only Sempervivum this week, not any that contain alpines. Semps travel exceptionally well, even if they are delayed. It is possible we will only be accepting orders for Sempervivum on Thursday 4th, when (and if) our online shop re-opens. Also, as we will then have a (small) backlog of orders, we may have to restrict the number of orders we do accept. These one day delays have a huge impact on us.
All online plants sellers have seen massively increased business in recent weeks. We chose at the outset to restrict the volume of orders we would accept each week thereby allowing us to continue offering a prompt service - to those customers able to place an order, at least. Spring is always our busiest season in a normal year and we are often already near the limit of what we can handle. Restricting business was crucial for us.
Not all nurseries did this, some continue(d) to take orders and we have heard of people waiting weeks for delivery of plants, some with no prospect of delivery at all, I'm quite sure. We refuse to work like that and whilst many people have experienced frustration and disappointment when trying to order from us, at least we are trying to make an honest job of a bad situation. 'Buyer beware' has never been so important as it is now and reputations will be won, lost or destroyed as a result of this epidemic. Let us hope it's all for the better.
21 May 2020
Our online shop will be open for orders again on Thursday 28th May, 9.00am. We have very few alpines left and very few coming on - I estimate it could be July or even August before we have a good range of alpines available again. We could grow them faster but you wouldn't like the resulting plants and neither would we, they need to grow slowly.
We have masses of Sempervivums (or Houseleeks) ready to buy. These are sold in 6cm mini-pots but the plants are a decent size with babies developing. These were all potted last summer. We have reduced the prices to reflect the smaller than usual pot sizes and we think they are amazing value - there could be no better time than now if you are wishing to start your own collection of Sempervivum. We have some outstanding new varieties from Germany of which we have slowly built our stock so we can now offer these in the UK.
Enquiries are still flooding in - even asking for things which we don't do and are unrelated to what we do. I simply cannot respond to every email we receive, I'm sorry.
17 May 2020
We are almost totally Sold Out of alpines for now, something I never thought would happen. It has been a crazy year! We will be doing a complete stock-take on Wednesday before we re-open our shop on Thursday, but I don't anticipate us having much to offer once we process all our current orders.
However, we still have lots of Sempervivums to offer - over 150 different varieties. We are now only offering these in 6cm mini-pots (and priced accordingly) but the plants are actually quite big. By July/August we will gradually change from 6cm size back to 9cm pot size and with our full range available, plus some. Most customers seem to prefer our standard 9cm size and we didn't to expect be selling as many of the smaller, 6cm ones, but things haven't exactly gone to plan this year. It's our intention to only offer the 9cm size from August onwards, as we did in previous years.
Our Sempervivum Collections are still available in 9cm pots and we hope that will continue.
The demand for alpines has been phenomenal this spring. To be honest, we have been busy every week since January with no missed weeks due to the weather, so it was set up for a record-breaking spring before this virus pandemic started. We have a lot of plants to pot - and plenty of space to fill! Time is pressing for those varieties that need a long growing season so we need to complete those soon, before we concentrate on plants for later this summer. It's one of those hard decisions, hoping we judge things correctly. Last summer was such a miserable time for growing plants I'm praying we don't have a repeat and hoping we can get plants potted and rooted whilst the weather is favourable. But it has been so dry for so long, the rain must come ..... Oh well, we'll just have to deal with it - if this current situation has taught us all anything, it's to cope as best we can and get through it.
Thank you again to all our customers, especially for the good wishes, support, reviews and in some cases your patience. Thank you all, it has helped more than you may realise.
7 May 2020, Thursday
Our online shop is now closed but will reopen next Thursday, 14th, 9.00am. We will do a full stock-take on Wednesday evening. You may still view plants but the ability to buy has been disabled for now.
We sent out more plants than ever last week - we closed our shop when we were approaching our target, only to be caught out by lots of orders still being processed in the system, unseen by us until we receive the completed order. We managed to get all orders out but in all honesty, I wouldn't like to be as busy again.
Normally, these news updates inform customers of what has been happening on the nursery but it has all been orders, orders, orders recently. I was looking around at some plant labels yesterday, seeing when I did things this time last year and the year before. I reckon I am about 5 weeks behind with work - 'work' for me is propagating and potting, everything else such as watering, tidying etc. just has to be done as needed. Watering has been endless this year so far, warm, sunny and an almost incessant east wind. I have potted a few plants (a thousand or so, which is a few for us) so I don't know where that will leave our offering for the summer - I suspect June and July will be difficult but I'm hoping by August we will have a fairly full list again.
Finally, and this should have been at the start, a huge thank you to all our customers and even some non-customers who have supported us in recent weeks. The warmth and sincerity of the feedback we have received has been amazing. Thank thank, thank you!
30 April 2020, Thursday
The situation now is insane - our online shop was open for only 21 minutes this morning before we closed it again, having taken as many orders as we can reasonably deal with. We are working as hard as we can - long hours, 7 days a week and we haven't had a day off for weeks - and yet people are still disappointed. No sooner do we close our shop than we start receiving emails - I can't buy this plant, my order hasn't gone through, this is so unfair .....
To those directed here - if you are unable to place your order, our shopping basket will be disabled. This isn't how we want to operate our business. Times are difficult for people in all sorts of ways. Please, have some patience and consideration.
17 April 2020, Friday
Events are moving at a rapid pace - no sooner do we start accepting orders, then we reach the maximum we can possibly deal with. Yesterday, we opened for about half and hour! We could keep taking orders and yet more orders but very quickly we would run into problems - so in order to keep things manageable at our end and acceptable at yours, this is how we are working. I'm aware this doesn't suit everyone (us included) and the lack of a Shopping Basket in our shop is confusing for those trying to buy plants (we disable it) .
We have never had to close our shop before. Most years we experience a few very busy weeks when we are pretty near the limit of what we can do with orders that arrive over 7 days, but events this year have changed everything. I'm still coming to terms with many people having too much time on their hands when we are struggling for time to get everything done. Our business is doing well whilst others are, well, if not struggling ..... finished. That must be a heartbreaking situation. At least we have our health so please take care of it.
9 April 2020, Thursday
Our shop is now open once again and receiving orders although we may close again without notice. We are still extremely busy - excessively busy! These weeks around Easter are traditionally our busiest of the year anyway. We are working hard to supply plants to as many customers as we possibly can - we are very aware of the struggles some people are enduring with isolation etc. We want to ease that if we can by sending plants to as many people as we can manage and we are being told every week how much customers appreciate this. We are working long days, 7 days a week to get through this.
It's true that we are taking lots of money just now and we almost feel guilty when we know others must be struggling desperately, but my goodness, are we working for it! It would be easy to assume we will have a bumper year but I very much doubt it. Time is our limiting factor - everything needs doing at once at this time of year. Plants need propagating or else we won't have them to sell next year, better weather means increased demand for watering and plants urgently need moving outside. And that's just the start - add on a mountain of orders and customer enquiries with orders to be packed by a collection deadline ..... Energy and motivation are sky-high just now but that won't last indefinitely and I can foresee a major slump once we have got through the worst of this crisis. And that will be the time when we need to keep going to get plants ready for next year. That might be the harder part but we'll deal with that if and when it happens. It's hard to predict anything just now, things are changing so quickly. Or as someone said recently - the news doesn't age well!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining one bit and we have never shirked from hard work. But the 'good years' when we have made money (all things being relative!) have been the steady years. Busy, certainly, but manageable, and this is not one of those years!! We are blessed that we are able keep working and with only Nicola and me here we are totally isolated and able to be out in the fresh air - just as we always are, so don't be mistaken that we are taking any risks in continuing to operate. The benefits of rural living have never been so welcome. If we can ease the pain of those who are not so fortunate, the least we can do is help them to enjoy their gardens or balconies.
Thank you to all our customers, old and new, and thank you for all your good wishes. Take care - we'll see this through, one way or another.
3 April 2020, Friday
Once again we have decided to close our shop for a few days so that we can process and dispatch orders received. We are phenomenally busy, unsurprising given current circumstances with people stuck at home and most nurseries and garden centres being closed. We intend accepting orders again on Wednesday or Thursday 8/9th April for delivery the following week. The weeks before and after Easter are often our busiest in a normal year and losing two days (Easter Friday and Easter Monday) hinders us somewhat.
The last thing we would want to do is disappoint customers and/or have them wait weeks for delivery. Neither can we work like that. We also use a stock control system whereby every customer placing an order receives exactly what they have ordered - no substitutes, no disappointments. By 'clearing the decks' after all orders are dispatched we can stock-take and start again. We believe it's a fair and honest way of working although some will inevitably miss out. We still have lots of plants (even if some varieties are almost all gone) but we simply can't sell them all at once.
We are asking that customers restrict orders to a maximum of 32 plants. Larger orders, whilst probably more efficient and profitable for us, do take time to pick and pack. We wish to spread our limited time over the greatest numbers of customers we can. Many customers whether existing, new and even new gardeners have expressed their gratitude that we can send them plants quickly and they tell us how it is helping them cope in the current situation. We will enforce the 32 plant limit rigidly by way of immediate order cancellation and refund.
Other news.... Early April is always a very busy time on the nursery, not only with orders but with actually growing plants and looking after what we have. There are just certain jobs - propagation in particular - that if they don't get done now, they simply won't get done at all. We always have to have our minds as much on next year as this. We have quite good stocks of all that we need for this year (by luck rather than planning) - compost, labels, boxes etc. - everything except our style of plant pot which we can replace with another if needed. Unlike a lot of our fellow growers, we are in a strong position to see this crisis through. If our health survives ..... Please consider supporting other small nurseries if you can as all gardeners will lose if some fail.
The weather has been almost helpful, in the recent past at least. After last summer's and autumn's deluges, (and winter's!) it's good to see things drying up at last. The east wind we have is always drying but cold with it. This has held our plants back from growing which is, counter-intuitively, a good thing for us - its keeps our plants short and hard and delays flowering. Once they are in warmer climes (practically all parts south and most north) these plants will come away beautifully.
2 April 2020, Thursday
Our shop is now back to normal after a short hiatus. The numbers of plants available to buy have also been fully updated. Parcel deliveries seem to be coping well but this may vary area to area.
29 March 2020
Shop closure. Due to unprecedented demand we have temporarily stopped taking orders. We have disabled the buying facility but you may still browse our range of plants. We intend reopening on Thursday 2nd April - we just need a few days to deal with all our existing orders.
24 March 2020
Coronavirus update. Following the Prime Minister's announcement last night and further clarification today, we are still operating pretty much as normal. We are very fortunate in so far as we are physically isolated in our location, we don't receive visitors at the nursery and we don't sell at any of the many plant shows. And Nicola and I are the only people here; we have no staff. The rules as they currently stand may change at short notice. Parcelforce have confirmed that receiving parcels is safe and whilst they have restricted some of their services, they will make their best endeavours to deliver as normal. Or as our Parcelforce driver said, " the plants must get through!"
One major difference is that we (and Parcelforce) are very busy. We normally only dispatch on Mondays and Tuesdays but the volume of orders means we are now sending plants out on Wednesdays, just to keep any backlog from building. Wednesday is normally our only day off during the week but we're safer in the nursery so we might as well work. Also, due to hugely increased demand, we are restricting orders to a maximum of 32 plants per order. We feel it is fairer that we send plants to the maximum number of customers during these difficult times - spreading the plant love farther and wider!!
It seems inevitable that someone won't receive their plant order as planned. Delivery drivers are under increased pressure in difficult circumstances so we would ask for some tolerance if placing an order. These are difficult times for everyone. The situation may well deteriorate quickly if drivers (or family members) become infected. And if Nicola or myself become ill, we immediately stop trading and refund outstanding orders.
Our arrangements for customers receiving plants are already fairly compliant. We don't require you to sign for parcels and if you tell us where you would like parcels to be left (on the doorstep, in porch or shed etc.) our existing setup allows that. One thing I would ask is that you give us a mobile phone number (if you have one). We won't use it but will pass it to Parcelforce who will text you details of when your parcel should arrive. Any delays can be dealt with directly via text with Parcelforce giving you options for alternative arrangements we can't provide. It could be invaluable for all concerned.
28 November 2019
We always take a break from sending out plants around the Christmas and New Year period. Our last day for sending out plants will be Tuesday 10th December. Ideally, last orders will be received by Sunday 8th. We shall start again in January, around the 7th.
23 October 2019
It has obviously been some time since my last update. August and September are busy months for potting and there is always a rush to get plants potted and established before the weather turns cold. October in many ways has been a lost month for us - first, Nicola was unwell and then I had my turn - so we had too many days just doing the bare minimum that needed doing. And it's amazing how things pile up when you miss a few days.
All our potting is now done and orders are naturally slowing down. The nursery is badly in need of a good autumn clean up, then I'll start propagating again.
We have now moved to dispatching only on Tuesdays, as we do every winter.
I'm hoping to give our whole website a revamp over winter but we'll see how that goes. Our hugely expanding collection of Sempervivum needs presenting better and we have some new ideas for that. Sempervivum have become a very important part of our business which is unsurprising, I suppose, as good, named varieties are getting harder to find in the UK. And the prices some people charge for little more than a rooted offset!!
We will also be introducing Sempervivums in small, 6cm mini-pots. We think these could be a big hit with customers, they look really cute, although we started growing them in mini-pots more for our benefit. The incessant rain this past summer has meant our normal 9cm Semps have struggled a bit - if there is one thing Semps don't like, it's being too wet. Rooting directly into smaller pots gives us more flexibility with when we pot them and saves a lot of space if we need to keep them under cover. Another benefit is that we think we can get a more realistic price for the amount of work we put into these plants but it will also allow customers wishing to build their own collection a more economical way of getting vigorous young plants, albeit slightly smaller ones. We shall see how it goes and we need to get our website display sorted first. Winter work!
4 August 2019
July was a troublesome month for us. Firstly, the weather didn't suit us (as usual!) with freque nt thundery showers which kept everything soaked. Normally, that isn't such a bad thing, but there quickly comes a point where the plants are just too wet, especially recently potted plants that haven't made fresh roots. They just sit there and sulk when are too wet and do better if allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. They will be fine of course, but we like to see things growing well. All this time the southern part of the country was enduring record high temperatures which we avoided - there is rarely a happy medium with weather.
Our other major upset was also weather related - our telephone line was struck by lightning. We had no internet and no email which was more than inconvenient when we run on online-only business. Once we did get back online we discovered our main business computer had been damaged too, so a replacement was needed. Luckily, we managed to retrieve all our data from the old one but getting our plant labelling software to work took days before I got it all back to how it should be. It's not an experience I would like to go through again, even though we have come out of stronger and more resilient.
Despite these set-backs, we have an excellent range of plants available and improving almost daily with new, fresh plants becoming ready. Other than Sempervivum (more about those in a moment) we haven't really got any new plants to boast about. What we do have is more of our popular plants and less of what isn't - i.e., just our usual tinkering with numbers and trying to predict what might be popular next year. And we're quite on-target with where we should be with our workload, for a change!
Some plants have done exceptionally well through the showers - our Saxifraga oppositifolias are outstanding this summer, as are all the little Astilbes. It's no surprise as they all excell in damp weather.
We have, as promised earlier this year, an increased range of Sempervivum or Houseleeks. We sought out new varieties from Germany in recent years and now have the first varieties becoming available. Some are really stunning, despite the wet weather. This summer, although far from ideal for Semps, has at least been a good test of what varieties will do well here and those that won't. I think we still have a few more varieties to add this month then the rest will follow in spring. We don't have large numbers of each variety but we still aim to offer a very wide range overall.
5 June 2019
I celebrated an anniversary yesterday - 40 years in horticulture! Man and boy, obviously, and I could add a few years to that if I were to include my schoolboy gardening. That's a long time and not many stick with it as a professional career. I would say the majority of our college peers left the industry within a few years of qualifying. Even fewer went to work in plant nurseries and I wouldn't be surprised we were the only two (from a band of 40 in our year) to still be directly involved in growing plants. At our age, you could say we have failed miserably! Anyone with any sense or talent would be in a 'clean' management position at our age, building up their pension entitlement. Oh well, choices made .....!!!
Back to the now, we have been incredibly busy with orders all spring - thank you all. The pressure has eased a little in the last week or two. We have many plants showing as 'Sold Out' and only a few of many others, so it all self-regulates.
As I said in my last update, we are actually quite well on with plants for summer and through to next year. The majority of the propagation is already done and the potting is going well. All of our Sempervivum for next year are potted - over 200 varieties! All the slower plants are growing away quietly - they do need a long growing season so always get potted first, even when the temptation is to pot what we might sell quickly. An extra month's growing at this time of year is massive and can mean the difference between an okay plant and an excellent one.
On the website (this one!) we have introduced a new layout to our checkout pages. It looks 'cleaner', more intuitive and so should be easier to use. It's not our work - the background people who we pay monthly see to that. Information technology (IT) isn't our thing but we are always acutely aware that some of our customers are not computer savvy so we do try within our limitations to make the website and ordering system as easy as possible.
Thank you to all who made this our busiest spring ever and to all who sent us complements and reviews. After more than 40 years, that's all that keeps us going! Happy gardening!
26 April 2019
This has been our busiest spring for a few years - we are almost at the end of April and we are already selling out of some plants. We have broken records on quite a few weeks, the orders just keep coming in, for which we thank you.
We are actually quite well ahead with our workload, I have lots of plants propagated for next year and later this year and we're potting fresh plants every week to build our stocks up.
What I haven't been able to keep up with is correspondence. We get so many enquiries (mostly for advice) that we simply can't make time to deal with. We have lots of advice and information on our website already, more than any of our competitors, and maybe it's too much or not easily read? I hate not replying to people but it really has become a necessity in some cases, there is only so much we can do. And fulfilling orders quickly is always our top priority. That, and keeping everything watered .....
Before I go, I must say we have been making some people happy as we have had some wonderful feedback from customers. Thank you all, sincerely. I still have to add those to our reviews section - where's the time!
3 March 2019
Well, we have made it to early March without any major dramas! The weather has been fairly benign overall and it has been an easier winter than most.
The majority of our plants are in top condition although a few things are slightly smaller than we would have preferred. I'm putting this down to last summer's wonderful weather. We delayed potting of some varieties to save them from stress but then the weather in August wasn't actually that great here, so the plants didn't make up growth as we had hoped. But better a smaller, vigorous plant that is actively growing.
Some plants absolutely revelled in the hot weather and our crop of Sempervivums is looking fantastic. Their colours are starting to develop nicely. Speaking of which, we have vastly increased our range of Semps and will soon (April/May) be offering some fantastic new varieties. We have increased our numbers of Sedums too - succulents seem be increasing in popularity.
The Helianthemums or Rock Roses are another major crop for us and we probably have one of the widest ranges available anywhere online. Again, we have a few new additions to our list this year.
We also grow a wide range of alpines and especially the smaller, neater plants - perfect for stone troughs and today's smaller gardens
24 January 2019
We are dispatching orders regularly every Tuesday. We will continue to do so as long as weather conditions allow.
We offer some advice on ordering and planting during winter.
10 November 2018
We always take an extended break over the Christmas and New Year periods - we are naturally quieter at this time of year and people have other things on their minds besides gardening. We don't need the extra risk of delivering plants when all the couriers are at their busiest either.
Our last day of dispatch will be Monday 10th December and ideally we would like any orders before Saturday 8th at the latest.
We will still be here to deal with enquiries and our website will accept orders for January delivery.
5 October 2018
Autumn is truly here now, the leaves on the trees are colouring nicely and we have had a few sharp frosts. Low temperatures are a blessing and a curse - it 'damages' some plants but helps to harden off others in readiness for winter. Some of our little Astilbes have been turned brown by frost which has surprised me. They will die back for the winter soon anyway.
We are now quite well stocked with most plants, but as usual, some things won't be ready until next spring. We are very happy with the range we have for this year and next.
We are frequently asked whether to plant now or wait until spring. It certainly isn't too late. Only a few decades ago, autumn was considered the time to plant, not spring. The soil is actually warmer now than it will be next April so new plantings will make new roots quickly (if not top growth) in preparation for next year. Things change and everything is geared to the spring market these days, but driven by commercial considerations more than the plants' needs.
11 August 2018
Our plant stocks are slowly improving but we still have a poorer selection than we would like. Circumstances are never ideal - too much heat, now too much rain, lots of orders, but no time to pot new plants - and so it goes. Every year is different. We hope to be well stocked soon but it might be mid-September before we have some plants available again, maybe even next spring. We do have an excellent selection of some plants though, especially Sempervivum. They were potted back in May and are now looking tremendous, ready to go.
We have a lot of potting done and all our propagation is finished (for now) so we are getting there. But we still have winter damage to some polytunnels to repair and these jobs always seem to take more time then planned. I hate to say it, but autumn isn't so far away. In fact, the night before last was especially cold and clear - the temperature must have dropped to low single figures. Most gardeners will say spring is their favourite season but for me it's autumn. The bulk of our hard work will be over so we can (hopefully) take things a little easier.
Finally, a gentle reminder of the late summer bank holiday. We are always busy around this time but we still hope to get all orders dispatched on time. Early ordering helps us greatly.
12 July 2018
Water, water, water! That's how I spend a fair amount of my days just now, I guess like many of you trying keep plants alive or get them established. Some parts of the country have had some rain, even flooding, but we have been very dry. That is most unusual for Lanarkshire! We have also topped 30°C or been very close to it. I can't remember it ever being so hot here and we always have some air movement as we're quite elevated. It's nice to see the sun though, especially after last year's wash-out summer and the long winter.
It has been some weeks since my last update. This has been the busiest spring we have had for a very long time and it's no coincidence that the weather has been good, and has continued to be good. The old growers used to say 'The sun grows them and the sun sells them'. How very true.
We have sold a lot of plants this spring, but as ever, not of everything. We always sell a lot of Armeria juniperfolia - but not this year. Spring Gentians we usually sell out of - but not this year. We found the same with certain Primulas, some Phlox and other plants too; it's very strange how demand varies year to year.
Between watering, preparing orders and doing time-critical propagation, there hasn't been much time for potting fresh plants. So our stocks are very low, embarrassingly low. There is nothing we can do about but we're now starting to catch up. I actually hesitated to pot more plants when it was so hot as we actually had a few plants scorched with the intense heat. We're just not used to this weather! I suspect we'll be quite well stocked fairly soon.
I'm hoping we will end up having had a good year, we certainly feel we deserve it and we're far from finished yet. The weather has helped us to sell plants but has also stopped us from growing more, so we might not end the year any better off. The weather gives with one hand and takes away with the other! We always have a sales lull in July as people start to enjoy their gardens rather than working in them, or they go on holiday. It all balances out.
We already have good (or excellent) stocks of Sempervivum - if one plant likes the sun, it's those. We have more Sedum coming on too, another late summer staple for us. Things will catch up.
We have also had to spend more time than we could really spare on office or website duties. You will have heard of GDPR regulations that took effect from late May, and that took valuable time to deal with. There was so little dependable advice it was a job working how it would affect us and how to deal with it.
You may also notice that our whole website is now fully secure, not only our payment pages as before. Look for the 'https:// ' before our website address on your browser or the green padlock symbol. Changing to that didn't take much time, only money! Our payment pages were already fully secure but Mr. Google will soon start displaying non-secure pages with a warning message which would be very off-putting for customers. Not that anyone was at any risk from viewing our plants and payment was already secure, but we all have to dance to Google's tune, like it or not. Anyway, it's done now, so everyone is as safe as they can be using our site.
28 April 2018
Spring is always a busy time on the nursery - plants are starting to grow, some need moving, some need propagating or potting, we now to need to water regularly and all the while orders are arriving by the minute. However, we are managing to keep up - but only just!
The late spring (everything is very late this year) and a few days of warmth (such as it was) seems to have made the spring rush worse than ever this year. But we are keeping up with prompt dispatch - no one likes waiting once the purchase is made! We also like to clear our order board week by week, it keeps things simple, so we start early and finish late. Every plant business will be the same at this time of year - we don't get long to make our fortunes!
We were struggling for Helianthemums earlier this year but now have a wide range available and they are looking really good. Most of the early flowering Saxifraga have passed flowering now but the flowering stems are starting to rise on the silver, encrusted Saxifraga. I think the extended winter cold has stimulated many plants into profuse flowering, probably more like nature intended.
May is a big month for us - so we'll battle on!
20 March 2018
Deliveries are now back to normal after the recent snow and wind and we have cleared our backlog of orders.
Most plants have emerged relatively unscathed but there are precious few signs of new growth. Some of the very early Saxifrages are starting to flower - but they almost revel in the snow. I expect things may improve very quickly when the weather eventually warms up and we certainly now feel the warmth of the sun when it does shine.
We are now well behind with our seasonal workload - cuttings we would normally have taken and rooted by now are still too small to do and we haven't thought of potting yet. It has been a long winter as I'm sure you will know, wherever you are in the country. But spring is coming! - even though the calendar tells us it's here already!
1 March 2018
The recent (current) weather has really taken its toll on our nursery. We have already lost one polytunnel and the plants are now exposed though thankfully many of them are now covered and protected by snow. Most of our plants are now covered in snow, a few feet deep in places, even those that are 'under cover'. We have very dry, powdery snow which has blown into every crevice.
This is an ongoing situation but we will need to halt any disptaches until further notice - probably not before the week commencing 12th March at the soonest. We would kindly ask for your patience.
31 January 2018
Well, that's January almost over! The weather of the past few weeks hasn't been too kind and getting plants out has been delayed some weeks. Actually, it's getting a van in to collect the parcels that has been the problem due to snow. Our nursery sits high up so we tend to get heavier falls than places nearby. It's another joy of rural living!
I like the snow - even if it often causes us problems. Several mornings this winter we have needed to clear heavy snow from our polytunnels to relieve the weight loading and not being able to get our car out due to drifting snow is just a normal winter. In fact, I would say what we have had so far is exactly that - a normal winter, not the mild winters of recent years.
Both Nicola and I were ill over Christmas/New Year with all the seasonal viruses going about and it took a while for us to get back to normal. It's as well we were 'on holiday' but we are back to normal now and looking forward to spring. We have started propagation again so we are underway for next spring. Spring 2019 that is - this a long game!
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!