Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Time to get a move on.

Crocus 'Prins Claus' in the Courtyard Garden

More and more bulbs are brightening up our lives as we rapidly slide towards the most hectic part of the year. My new compost has arrived, so have all my seeds and next week I shall be seed sowing in earnest.

So far I have sown the sweet peas, and a few odds and ends such as Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens', saved in paper bags from last year. I have also used up a few packets which were opened last year - they may work or they may be dead, in which case I will still have plenty of time to grow alternatives.
I have to resist the temptation to sow too many seeds early or I will run out of space in the greenhouse and polytunnel when the weather is still too cold to harden young plants off. But those pristine new packets do look exciting!

My glamorous assistant
As the season gathers momentum I start asking for more help. I am allowed to have Barbara (Miss Babs) once a week now. If you have been here you may have met her because she also decorates pots, helps customers, knows where everything is and stops the staff room from turning into a pigsty. She is so omnipresent you might think she is one of identical triplets. Babs is a very big help, she works so hard and doesn't moan when I give her mucky, repetitive jobs either. Most importantly she has green fingers and she makes me laugh a lot.
Miss Babs potting up lilies.

This week Miss Babs hurtled about sorting out the lilies. We have about a dozen pots left over from last year; normally I would completely repot these during the dormant period. This year, however, I am gambling with just replacing the compost above the bulbs and adding some slow release fertiliser. We'll see. It saves on labour time and compost but it may mean that some of the bulbs don't re-flower so well and we may get more lily beetle and vine weevil. She also planted about 10 pots of fresh lilies using bulbs from December's mail order offer: El Grado is a deep reddish pink about 15" tall and Mona Lisa is a scented beauty 24" tall with pink speckled flowers, each petal having a darker pink central stripe.

Ideal homes for lilies.
We make a lot of Lily pots here. If you look at the range you will see that they are relatively tall, narrow pots. This is partly for aesthetic reasons - a plant which naturally is tall and flowers at the top looks more in proportion in a tall pot. A narrow pot which does not flare too much at the top also means that there is little bare compost around the stems.
L. 'Fire King' in a Floral Tom last summer.

There are more important reasons for choosing a tallish pot: lily bulbs like to have about 3 or 4 inches of compost above them and they need at least 3 or 4 inches below them to give their roots room to spread and feed. Many produce roots from their stems too, so deep planting helps them to anchor themselves.

Horticulture in the bath
The weirdest reason for choosing a tall, narrow pot is that the drainage is sharper than in a short, fat one. I am still looking for a physicist who can explain this to me in layman's terms but I would urge you to play in the bath with a rectangular sponge and you'll see what I mean. Anyway, lilies hate to sit in winter wet, so any Whichford pot is good, but a tall, narrow one is best.

Going anywhere nice for your holidays?
This week Tom Negus the tree surgeon came to do some work for us. We have a lot of trees and some were beginning to take more than their fair share of the light and crowd some of the buildings. Tom's been very busy since the awful winter but luckily we managed to get him in before the birds start nesting. He has crown-lifted the oaks near the greenhouse and thinned the large field maples which punctuate the hedges. Like any good hair cut the change in shape and weight has an instantly rejuvenating effect.

Tom and one of the field maples.

Finding it just a little nerve-wracking watching Tom remove large branches above my tatty but beloved greenhouse I wander off to look at the plantings. Every time I time I turn my back on them a few more crocuses pop up. The fat shoots of Fritillaria persica are emerging now... it's all very exciting but I have to stop wallowing in anticipation and go and do some real work!

1 comment:

  1. Well done Harriet,great blog.