A challenging year

Welcome to my late summer blog; We have had a second incredible year, commercially very successful, but utterly exhausting. The nursery has been looking awful, since we have had no time for maintenance, just pack, pack, pack. We are determined that things will be different next year, more detail on this further down.

Things seem to be going over quite early after the challenging year. We had a long cold Spring with nightly frosts in May, gales and cold in June, heatwave in July, damp, tepid and windy in August. The late flowering plants such as Pontederia and Thalia are still performing well; the architectural plants really come into their own at this time of year. They need a long time to build up an impressive stand of foliage, so while they may not start to grow much until late May or early June, they carry the season of interest right through autumn and into early winter.

Our water lilies have been really good this year and our new growing tunnel has been tremendously successful. The extra heat and space gets them off to a really good start before transferring them to your pond, they like HEAT and SUN in shallow water, so please don’t put them over a metre down in a dark corner. Bare root lily sales will cease after the 1st of September; after this they will not establish reliably before they go into dormancy and it’s best to wait until April to plant out. We still have a reasonable selection of potted lilies which can be bought in the autumn, but some sold out early in the blitz that was April and May. Generally, we recommend that after the end of August it’s best to leave the purchase of any lilies until April or May.

We still have a good range of most marginal plants available for autumn planting schemes, but one or two popular types have sold out and will next be available in Spring. Summer oxygenators and floaters are either over or sold out, so the same applies. Callitriche, the only winter growing oxygenator, will become available from about the end of September onwards. We still have really good stock of water irises and would be keen to quote our best price for larger orders.

NOW is the time to ask for advice regarding your new pond for next year, not during the Spring rush when we have no time for anything but harvesting and packing! I’m always keen to help you avoid costly mistakes, but I just don’t have time to type long detailed emails in Spring. Photos are always very helpful and if at all possible, please ask before you put a spade in the ground.

PLANS FOR 2022 AND BEYOND: This year and last, we have punched way beyond our weight, and as a result we are all burnt out and need to change our approach next year. It’s all very well selling three times as many plants as usual, but it leaves us no time for propagation and maintenance, so we end up buying in plants to catch up. This compromises our ideals and has led to a few issues with wrongly named cultivars, something we feel strongly about. Therefore, we have decided to reduce somewhat our range of options on some of the slower selling lines; this will mean that we will offer less variations and in turn this will make space for more popular plants. Some varieties will no longer be available in the smaller P9 pots singly, and some not at all in P9. Some plants will be sold only in pots and not available bare root, especially later in the season. We are also going to discontinue some of the moisture loving plants completely, since we can’t continue to look after hundreds of plants that almost nobody seems to want to buy. This applies especially to named varieties of Iris ensata and Iris sibirica, so if there’s one you have had your eye on, please get it now – soon they will all be cleared in the mixed selection, which outsells the single varieties ten to one. A full list of lines to be discontinued will appear at some stage on the website and there will be some bargains to be had during the autumn and winter while they are dormant. These will include Trollius, Rodgersia, Ligularia and Astilbe plus many more.

If time allows, we plan to do some instructional videos which can be downloaded, this will start in Spring when things begin to grow. Watch this space.

Prices have been mainly unchanged for several years now, but we are being hit from all sides with massive increases in our costs. A box that cost us £1.95 at the beginning of the year is now being quoted at over £6, baskets have been hard to get and are now being increased by 50%. This is likely to apply to all plastics including our packing bags. Compost too has increased by over 25% this year and transport is going up steeply too. Thus, inevitably there will be some price increases in our catalogue but as always, we will endeavour to keep them to a minimum. Our aim, as ever, will be to provide excellent plants and service at a reasonable cost. We aren’t interested in a race to the bottom, selling smaller and smaller scraps for less and less. There is always the temptation to go for a cheaper option, but you do get what you pay for.

At this stage, we are unsure about what will happen regarding opening the nursery to visits next year. In the Spring the mail order is so demanding that we simply don’t have time to look after visiting customers too, but if we can, we will open at least on Fridays when we can’t dispatch parcels. If things are quieter than this year, then we might possibly extend that; full details can always be found on the website.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us through these difficult two years and especially to our lovely staff who have worked right through lockdowns in good humour. We are all very proud that nobody was furloughed, and we have not had a penny of assistance from the Government.

Let’s all pray for something a little closer to normality next year.

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