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Tuesday 30th September 2014

Goodness me, how time flies! I am horrified to realise that it is nearly 2 years since I wrote the paragraphs below. The time has passed in a blur of activity, liberally lubricated by seemingly constant rain. Our main entertainment in the intervening time has been house building, which we are literally doing ourselves; finding it rather more challenging to fit in with gardens and nursery development than we perhaps expected. We are making progress, but it is often frustratingly slow. Our target date for moving in is ever receding, though the concept of another winter in our current quarters is not a pleasant thought. Hence, please forgive me if I don't reply to correspondence as quickly or as fully as you might like as time is a bit of a problem at the moment! Torsten has been the brains (and most of the muscle too!) behind the build - without his efforts, it simply wouldn't have happened. Once the house is no longer taking his time, I intend to hand over the website, since I am clearly failing miserably to keep it up to date!

On the plant front, things are going well. It may have been an incredibly difficult winter, but it was at least succeeded by a kind spring, so things are looking good for a bumper crop of exciting plants this coming autumn. As has become our habit, I shall be stock taking in September which will then enable me to confirm orders with accurate size and price detail prior to commencing despatch in early November. 

The Quarry Garden is also developing very nicely. The initial area has been establishing over the last two seasons, whilst the lower area is a year younger. It won't be long before the canopy is sufficiently developed to allow us to start planting the woodland carpeters, which will be a lot of fun. Indeed I cannot describe how much Torsten and I are looking forward to spending some serious time on the gardens once the building work is finished. 

Meanwhile I have put together a list of plants available through the next growing season. There are lots of "new entries" this year reflecting how well our new stockplants are doing, starting now to provide us with propagation material. some old favourites missing last year have returned too. It should be available to download as a pdf from the "Catalogue" page, or you can simply access it here: Catalogue for 2014-2015

 


Sunday  August  5th  2012

It's raining again, so conscience (as well as wet feet) has driven me back to the office to start updating the website to reflect availability for the coming season. What a year it's been...it wasn't a particularly cold winter for us, but even going back as far as last November, it was very, very wet. And then it finally did get cold, but not until February, when a short but ferocious cold snap damaged a lot of plants fooled by the perpetual damp conditions, that hadn't bothered to shut down properly. March had some glorious moments and we celebrated the clocks changing with our first barbecue of the season. Unfortunately that proved to be the last barbecue for some months as April saw the return of the rain which has basically continued ever since, with only the odd respite. Our climate here is proving to be fundamentally wet anyway, but when you factor in the extreme weather of this year, then we really have been very wet! Indeed, as we strive to improve the grass in the arboretum, there is one particular area that I was finally able to cut for the first time at the end of July. Good job I did it that evening, because it's too wet again now! 

This crazy weather has inevitably caused problems. It's created a whole list of extra jobs needing to be done, and made them all harder to do. Persistent low light levels result in less growth on new young plants, nevertheless others have grown prodigiously. Hence I can see that some of the younger plants may not reach the desired size to leave home just yet, though we have a magnificent crop of larger Magnolias this season. Availability will be a little patchy again this autumn. Regular readers will know that we propagate all our plants ourselves - we don't buy anything in. The recent move disrupted our propagation cycle so there will be some gaps, particularly amongst the younger plants. We have worked hard in the propagation house this summer, but it's a long term process, and this summer's cuttings won't reach a saleable size until next autumn as we strive to get back into full production as new stock plants establish. There are some pleasing results though, and we hope to be able to offer an even more exciting range of plants in the future.

After an interlude of a couple of years, I am delighted to be able to offer a good range of Epimedium this season, including some of Torsten's own selections. These have thoroughly enjoyed the growing conditions and have made fabulous plants in 2 litre pots. I do prefer to plant them in this more established, more robust size as in my experience they grow away so much better. I will also have some Daphne available this autumn, which I know will delight many of you. Stocks are distinctly limited though.

Just to remind you that we are now growing an increasing number of plants in the open ground. This system has a number of advantages. The plants grow more naturally, forming a lovely rootball in the soil, with no fear of root-spiralling or being pot-bound. The plant itself will be more compact and the wood firmer and riper, already acclimatised to the weather and needing minimal staking. Thus the whole plant is more robust than the equivalent one pushed on in a container under protection. They are root-balled and wrapped (not to be confused with "bare root" which is much less satisfactory). We are having super results with this more natural approach. Typically we start lifting these from the end of October / early November dependant on the season. I shall be starting to take orders for the new season's crop in September once Torsten and I have completed our mammoth "pre-despatch season stock take" when I will be able to confirm precise size and price availability.

So far I have uploaded all the Acer pages, and will continue through the rest as soon as I can. My intention is that these pages indicate what plants will be available as we head into the autumn planting season, and I have added lots of new descriptions. Of course, availability will change as soon as I start confirming orders, as numbers are decidedly limited on many plants. We have such a wide range that there are usually just a few of each variety. Thus the inclusion of a plant in these pages does not guarantee its availability. I have not included prices this season, becasue it is simply too complicated. In many cases I have a wide range of sizes available, but only a few of each. As I have mentioned above, our preference is to offer our plants from the open ground becasue they establish so much better. Occasionally there are smaller / younger / less mature plants available in pots as well. I prefer not to let them go at that stage becasue they are still soft and immature, but that is an option if you need to keep the cost down. Hence, when you enquire about availability, it would be great if you could give me an idea of what sort of size / budget you require. If you can do this by email, so much the better as my memory is not what it used to be, and it's much easier to reply in the office with lists etc in front of me.

In the meanwhile, for your convenience, I am delighted to present a pdf version of our catalogue for the 2012-2013 planting season

 


Wednesday September 7th 2011

Well, where did that summer go!

The weather hasn't been great, but we've had a fantastic time sorting things out here. We're definitely making progress, but there's certainly a lot still to be done. Anyway, the main reason for putting pen to paper (or should I say finger to keyboard) today is to introduce you to a new little addition to our catalogue. Many of our "regulars" will have met our son Torsten. Indeed a few hardy souls will doubtless remember the shy toddler who was perpetually covered in mud. He hasn't changed much, except that he's considerably taller than me now! But that's not the point. The point is that he is very much involved in the nursery now, though he definitely has his own personal interests, eclectic as they often are! Several years ago, whilst still at school, he sourced from around the world seeds of various Agave species. You may be familiar with these rather wonderful architectural succulents, but he has carefully selected some of the most beautiful, yet potentially hardiest species and grown them on to now become rather handsome plants. You will find these listed in the catalogue pages under Agave and Dasylirion. The latter has similar growing requirements (which he discusses on the relevant page) and an elegant, graceful habit, forming a fountain of narrow leaves. Pictures will follow (but I find them much more complicated to make work properly.) Do have a look and allow yourself to be tempted!

I have put a link on the Catalogue Index page (bearing in mind my limited IT skills, I hope it works!) to a .pdf version or our catalogue. This should open in a new window regardless of what software you are running. It is set up for simple A4, so should print off easily; or you can select specific pages to print if you have specific genera in mind. There is an introduction at the beginning (always a good place to put the introduction...) which explains why I've done what I've done with it this year. Feedback received with interest as always. If I appear to reject such feedback, it may well be becasue I don't have the technical know-how (or possibly right now the time) to fix the problem, not becasue I'm disinterested! It occurs to me that I can put a link to the catalogue here as well!


Sunday June 12th 2011

Just a quick update...the good news is that my internet access is now up and running again. Less good is the stack of several hundred e-mails that have accumulated in the intervening time! If you're waiting for a reply, bear with me, I'll get to you as fast as I can but there's an enormous amount to do. Mind you, if the weather stays like this, you might not have to wait so long. After another record dry spring that has been a nightmare for anything newly planted, it's raining today as if it will never stop. And it's cold with it. Although we really do need it, it's definitely not nice outside, so the office is almost attractive (I did say almost...!)

I can confirm that the phone number allocated to us is indeed correct. However, life is never as simple as that...the telephone base unit is currently quite low down and thus the range of coverage is proving totally inadequate. So although I am on-site most of the time at present, a lot of that time is spent out of range of the phone. Therefore, it would be easiest for you to e-mail me your enquiry for me to pick up next time I'm in the office as the phone may well ring unanswered. We're investigating relays to extend the signal, but inevitably it seems our current phones are not compatible with such...

Many of you are keen to come and visit to see what we're up to here. I look forward to welcoming you all in due course, but at the moment I'm having to say that we are open by appointment for collection of pre-booked plants only. There is currently very limited scope for looking round. We hope to extend this a little for the busy autumn season but you need to understand that modern requirements demand much more stringent standards of safety than in the past. I must also stress that we have absolutely no facilities on site to which I can make no exception - please don't embarrass us both by asking therefore!

One decision that we have already taken is that we will no longer be printing our traditional descriptive catalogue. I am determined to reduce our carbon footprint, and I don't believe that paper catalogues are environmentally appropriate these days. Thus our initial compromise in deference to those people lacking internet access at home will be to create a simplified "plant list". My intention is that this will be available in time for the autumn, both by post, and from the nursery. It has always been the case that visitors annotate their catalogue as they walk round, so the new list will have plenty of room for your own notes. I would encourage you therefore to use it in conjunction with the website where full descriptions can be found through the "Catalogue" pages. Before that though I need to do a full and accurate stock take.


Important News

We have finally moved. 

Today is Sunday 22nd May 2011 and today we are leaving Lower Mead where we have lived and worked for some 25 years. 

In some ways a scary moment, but by grandmother used to say that you can't make an omelette without cracking eggs, and this particular omelette takes the form of 50 acres just down the motorway. We bought the site a few years ago and have been quietly establishing a new nursery there whilst continuing to work here. It has been frustratingly difficult maintaining both sites so, on a practical level, it will be an enormous relief to be in just the one place. This is an incredibly exciting time for us as we have so many plans and look forward to seeing them come to fruition. I must remember that Rome wasn't built in a day though...

Please be aware that it will take a little way for "normal service" to be resumed and there will be teething troubles along the way. The first issue is that although I signed the paperwork for a new phone line as long ago as February, it will only be connected tomorrow. The new number is listed on our contact page (see menu bar left). This is the number I have been given, but they include the proviso that it's not guaranteed until it's actually connected. Not helpful. So although that should be operational from sometime after lunch on Monday 23rd May, there is an outside chance it won't be! In which case, you'll have to wait until I can update the website again.

Which brings me to my next problem. For some reason that I can't fathom, they can't even think about installing broadband until the phone is connected, so I have to wait another 5-10 working days for that. It seems madness to me - after all, how many businesses these days would install a new line without broadband? Anyway, the result of that is that I will have no internet access for up to a fortnight. So although the website and e-mail addresses will not change, if you e-mail me within that time, you will not get an immediate answer. Of course, that will then give me a backlog of enquiries of epic proportions so you will need to be patient whilst I work through them.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new site in the future, but in the meanwhile we will be closed to visitors for a month or so whilst we lick our wounds and sort ourselves out. It feels as though it's been a long and stressful process, and I could do with time to relax and get my head together. We'll be doing things a little differently at the new site, so there are a number of logistical issues that we will need to make decisions on and implement before we receive visitors. Indeed that will be an ongoing evolution initially, so we will be interested to hear your feedback in due course. 

As you can see from the heading below, it's some while since I last updated you on things here. That's a reflection on the increased workload of running the two sites. I will write in more detail another time, but so many of you ask about the kids that I will just tell you that both our offspring have now left school. Greta, our eldest, has put her University plans on hold again whilst she travels the world. Having qualified as a ski instructor last winter, she will spend the summer in Australia (I can't quite get my head round the concept of ski-ing in Australia in July...) before returning to Canada next winter. I shall miss her enormously. Torsten meanwhile has also left school with top grades, but he has no desire to go to Uni either. Certainly the hike in tuition fees is a factor preying on their minds. Instead he will be working with us on the nursery, for which he clearly has a natural flair and passion. It's also jolly good to have a younger set of muscles! And his muscles have been put to good use of late as this season he has been selected to represent Great Britain at canoe-polo (a little known, but hugely watchable and utterly brutal sport) at under 21 level. Congratulations Torsten.

 

 


 

Summer 2009


For new visitors, curious as to who we are and what we do (never mind why we do it) 

Click Here to go to 2006 ramblings.
or Here to go to 2007 ramblings.
(Stupidly I've overwritten my ramblings from 2008 so they are gone forever!)

It's late June and I'm told that the Met office has just declared a "heat wave warning" for the next week or two, so this seems like a jolly good moment to hide in the office...the potting and stock taking is finished and I can turn my attention to updating the website and sorting out order confirmations. I also ran out of paper catalogues a few weeks ago - apologies to those of you waiting! A flush of spring mentions in the Telegraph culminated in us running out much sooner than we had calculated. Potting was the priority at the time, and Iím afraid the catalogue had to stand in line. But here it is, and I hope youíll agree that it was worth the wait. It's always quite a job putting it together, but this year the most exciting section for me has been the Magnolia pages. We now have over 250 in our collection, and a goodly selection available this autumn. As usual the website, now that I've updated it, has many more plants listed (than the paper catalogue) becasue I am mindful of a need to be sensible with the scale of the latter, so this is the place to look for the new, the few and the downright difficult! Iíve given it a small revamp as Iíve updated it, mainly by indexing the larger genera. Thus, if you know what youíre looking for, you shouldnít need to scroll through lots of pages to find it. Take a look at my efforts with Acer palmatum, Betula, CornusEpimedium and Magnolia for example. I still need to add all the photos Nick has been working so hard at taking - but that is such a slow task. Iíll get there eventually...bear with me!

Click here for the Autumn 2009 catalogue in .pdf format

I am aware of the limitations of the catalogue pages for anyone who wants to print off groups of plants to study at their leisure. To that end, I have put together a .pdf file that should print out in a simple format onto A4 paper. The beauty of this format is that it is neither platform nor application specific - anyone should be able to access it. It is more extensive than the bound catalogue you would receive by post, becasue it includes most of the small quantity plants as well. From memory I think it extends to 45 pages, but of course you don't need to print it all off if you have a specific interest. Just note the relevant page numbers and type them into your printer command box. No photos are included to keep the size vaguely manageable, so you may need to review it in conjunction with the website. As always, let me have your feedback.

So, what progress have we made since I last put pen to paper (or I should say, finger to keyboard)? It's been a slightly traumatic time at family level, but the new site is progressing well, if more slowly than I would like.

There will be more plants available this year that have been growing in the open ground. Weíre doing that at our other site, and it is proving to be most satisfactory. Of course the limiting factor is the shortened planting season, but it does result in superior establishment because the plants have been growing in the real world all season, developing a more natural root system and canopy. In most cases these are limited to larger sizes at the moment, but do feel free to discuss your requirements with me. Remember that we try to achieve something of this in the pot grown stock too, with our use of a soil based compost. This provides the roots with a more consistent environment, avoiding the extremes which are such a problem with peat.

Perhaps I should explain for the benefit of new readers that we operate strictly on a Home Grown basis. We grow everything that we sell ourselves, we donít buy in. This allows us to grow exactly what we please and an eclectic range it has become! It also means we have control of quality and naming. But it does mean that when something is sold out, thatís it until the next crop is ready (which would be the following September). Indeed this updated listing reflects what we will have available by the end of the growing season - things arenít necessarily ready to leave home just yet. And of course the biggest drawback is that when it's gone...it's gone. Some things are already fully booked for September, so even if you're not ready to plant just yet, do get in touch to reserve the plants you want.

Itís been a difficult 6 months for sure. Both on a personal front with family bereavements and also the weather. What an interesting winter that was! We certainly suffered our share of plant damage amongst the evergreens as a result of the ridiculously wet snow, but thankfully no structural damage to either site. We were glad that we originally invested in quality tunnels.

We have known so many of you for so long now that you always ask after the children. Having achieved straight A grades in her Lower Sixth year, Greta faced A levels this summer and now awaits the results. She has a ski season already organised for next winter and hopes her results will take her to University at Bath the following year to study sports science, though she is developing a deep interest in event management and is currently putting her cycling experience to good use, working with a Tour of Britain organising team. Torsten has just finished his GCSEs and is working hard before going back to 6th Form College. His plans are extensive and complicated, but revolve around plants and the nursery, snakes and kayaking...but not at the same time I hope! Work experience at RBG Kew gave him a unique insight into the conservation of some of the planetís most endangered plants.

Finally, "Happy Gardening" and at a time of financial uncertainty, what more enjoyable (or economical) a way to occupy one's spare time could be found than enjoying your garden.

Karan Junker

PS. Use the menu bar down the left hand side of your screen to navigate around the site.