Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tulipomania and Ruthlessness

What an amazing couple of weeks it has been. The tulips have all coloured up at the same time and the pottery looks completely staggering though I say so myself. Normally things are a bit more drawn out but everything seems to have peaked at once in this summery weather.
Entrance to the pottery
Only two or three weeks ago I was rejoicing because the chiff-chaff was chaff-chiffing and I could remove one of my layers of fleece. Now many of us are down to shorts and t-shirts and I heard swallows arriving last weekend.
One of the groups in the stockyard

The Guilty Party
Jane and Sue were happy with the weather last weekend because they were selling pots at Loseley Park in Surrey. As usual Jane and I sorted out a few planted up pots (well about 20 or 30) to brighten up their stand and they all went off in the lorry. They always come back with the odd squashed flower or broken stem, but John our driver is a genius of lateral thinking and can fit the most implausible selection of objects into his lorry safely.

Imagine my surprise when John told me there had been a mishap. At first he wouldn't give details but under fierce interrogation he finally cracked and showed me the alpine planting featured in this blog a few weeks ago. Strangely shuffled it was. And low in the pot. The whole thing had tipped over and John had had to try to re-assemble it before I saw it! To cut a long story short he is now my SLAVE. I'm not sure how long his contrition will last but I'm going to make the most of it...

An alpine planting that didn't get knocked over...

Tulip 'Ballerina' with wallflowers
 in a Ham House Urn
Back to the tulips. Here are some more pictures of the lusciousness that is tulip time. Lots of other nice springy plants too. At the moment there are 270 planted pots on display at the pottery, I can be sure of this because I counted them yesterday.

Everyone likes a nice surprise
There are times in the year when I begin to think I am just doing the same thing over and over again but then we get  a surprise like this spring and suddenly anything seems possible. Plants are flowering now which didn't flower until the very end of April/early May last year so the combinations have been really well shuffled.

Tulip 'Golden Artist'
Watch out for Whichford Pottery
We have had visits from two of the country's best garden photographers this week so I am really hoping that eventually we will see some of their beautiful images in one of those nice gardening magazines this country is also good at.

The stockyard

Not for the fainthearted
Now for my topical tip: look out for lily beetles. These smart red beetles will nibble your lilies and your fritillaries but worst of all they will lay copious quantities of little red eggs on the undersides of the leaves. These will hatch into disgusting grubs which cover themselves in their own excrement to discourage birds and humans from picking them off, and chomp their way through leaves and flowers in no time at all.

The Guilty Party II
If you are not squeamish about bugs (and if you are how can you be a gardener?) you must sneak up on the beetles, cup one hand underneath them and grab them with the other. If they see you coming they will drop off the leaves, fall to the ground and in true beetle fashion lie on their backs. Their fronts are black so you won't be able to find them.

You can't see me, can you?
Squash them, squash them now!
Once you have caught them hold them to your ear because they squeak. Don't let this soften your heart, you must squash them all. Do this daily if possible and squash the eggs too. There are sprays but it is hard to hit them and you will be wasting a lot of poison. If the grubs hatch you must remove them too (a squirt from the hose works quite well).

Keep on moving
I have found that keeping our pots of lilies in a semi-shaded position and only bringing them out into the bright sunshine when they are nearly in flower helps to stop the beetles from finding them. I think the sun makes the foliage smell more strongly and attracts more of the little so-and-sos. In this way the moveable feast that is pot culture adds outwitting beasties to its long list of advantages...

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