Don't you just love Monday mornings? This week I staggered out of the car into the iciness of the pottery car park, gathering up my baggage (extra fleeces, lunch box, bag of notebooks and seed catalogues, camera bag) and what did I drop on the rock-hard ground? My camera, of course. As I had stopped on the way to work to take interesting misty frost pictures of the valley it had its big lens attached and the fall wrenched the connecting ring off the body of the camera. So no fresh pictures this week, I'm afraid, but I do have a good archive.
|Succulents safe from frost in the greenhouse last week|
|Happy succulents outside last summer|
A sucker for a pretty picture
|Ricinus 'NZ Purple' towers in the foreground|
The seed catalogues are my secret weapon. Gaudy pictures of novelties catch my eye, and I have to include some of them, especially if I think they may annoy Jim (he has a thing about Busy Lizzies...). But I'll try anything from humble nasturtiums and marigolds to exciting exotics like Solanum quitoense and Leonotis nepetifolia; some of the experimental choices become regulars and I'll order them year after year.
|L. 'Riviera Sky Blue' with Felicia and pelargoniums|
Lobelia 'Riviera Sky Blue' is a case in point because it has such a lovely clear colour - I just have to think of something else to combine it with. Another regular, Hordeum jubatum, adds some elegant flowing lines in late summer, best backlit by morning or evening sun; Ricinus 'New Zealand Purple' is spectacular in any large pot and a great foil for orange, red, blue, pink... There are so many great plants that are easy to grow from seed.
|Hordeum jubatum in the foreground|
On Wednesday Richard, Maggie and I visited Hillier's Nursery near Winchester. We have started selling Hillier plants at the pottery and were invited to an open day to see exciting new collections of plants for spring. The site is enormous (about 50 acres I think), huge amounts of glass, tunnels and open areas for a wide range of plants. It was fascinating to see plant production on such a scale, although Richard was disappointed not to see the Edward Scissorhands pruning machine in action. MD Andy McIndoe and director Kevin Hobbs showed us the new plants with pride and enthusiasm - it was good to see that the people in charge still obviously know and love the plants they are dealing with at the same time as having an eye for their commercial value. I'll have to place an order soon, so that there will be plenty of stock for when our customers start to come out of hibernation and visit the pottery in greater numbers - more tricky decisions!
Hillier Hellebore Hybridising
Kevin kindly took us to see other parts of the Hillier site and my favourite stop was at an out-of-the-way polytunnel which houses Alan Postill and his hellebores. Alan has been propagating plants since he was a teenager and still obviously loves what he does: flitting from row to row, tilting the chin of an anemone-flowered break here, caressing a fine yellow there, he showed us promising new strains with flowers carefully hand-pollinated, labelled and covered with little muslin bags. Odd corners held motley collections of plants from far-flung parts of the world brought back by Roy Lancaster and John Hillier for propagation by Alan, as Kevin said, "Give him a pencil and he'll get it to root". There's an article about Alan and his work in this month's edition of Gardens Illustrated (I really wished I had my camera with me but this article has some lovely photos). That is one of the things I love best about horticulture: every now and then you get to meet the unassuming proper enthusiasts who form the backbone of the trade and are generous in sharing their enthusiasm.