Friday, 29 January 2016
We sow many of our seeds in July, using the warm sunshine to initiate germination. The seedlings are then pricked out into small pots and left to grow on until September.Half are potted into larger pots and they go outside for the winter. Those remaining in the poly tunnel we pot on in the spring.
The small pots in the large poly tunnel have been happily frozen solid several times this winter. It always amazes me that these little treasures are so resilient and when spring sets in proper, they quickly spurt into growth.
We never used to cover the plants outside, but one year we had so much rain that many plants rotted in their pots. Left sitting in a puddle of water, plants, like most things, slowly rot. Their luscious healthy roots turn into a slimy smelling gloop. In the ground there is more drainage and other plants to take up excesses of water. So now we put small, make-shift poly tunnels over the plants at the end of November. They are removed in February, whatever the weather! The plants still regularly freeze but the tunnels keep off the worst of the winter wet. For it is not cold that kills but the combination of cold and wet.
Andy & Gary repair the poly tunnels
Ready for the polythene covering
In spring these plants are ready for sale, with their roots well-established within pots.There follows a frantic rush to pot on the small pots that have remained in the large poly tunnel, to be ready for sale later in the year. Also we need space in the poly tunnel to sow any tender perennials and annuals that were ordered by customers in September. Now begins the juggling of limited space and our precious time.
Thursday, 28 January 2016
Andy has worked at Cheriton Cottage for about twenty years: I have worked there for sixteen. Our plants now fill the borders.
I won't pretend that I have done extensive research about the history of Cheriton Cottage and the garden. I have used one source: 'Cheriton Now and Then' by Pat Culpin.
The first known occupants on the site of Cheriton Cottage go back to 1280. But it seems likely that the Inkpenne family were responsible for the building of the 'cottage'. John de Inkpenne bought the land in 1353 and an Elizabethan survey describes the Inkpenne's house as a mansion. By the early eighteenth century the 'cottage' is described as a farm-house.
In 1871, Vincent Gosford, the Tichborne steward, was living in Cheriton Cottage and he was responsible for creating a kitchen garden, planting numerous trees and the laying out of a flower garden. Rear Admiral Frederick Egerton and his wife, Augusta Phipps, took possession in 1885: they made extensive improvements to the 'cottage'.
In 1939, two years after Mrs Egerton died, Cheriton Cottage was requisitioned by the War Office. American and Canadian troops were billeted in the fields to the back of the cottage. A local man, Trevor North, (now in his late eighties) told me recently that, as a child he would visit the 'cottage' on Saturdays when the Americans would give children donuts. I've also been told that because it was cheaper than transporting them home, two jeeps were buried in the fields nearby.
In the 1950s, Cheriton Cottage and the surrounding lands, were purchased by Mr & Mrs Garnett-Orme. She was an avid gardener and a 1987 book, 'Garden Open Today' produced by the National Garden Scheme, gives an extensive description of the garden:
"The garden of about four acres is situated on the edge of this beautiful village. The upper reaches of the Itchen run through the garden and the soil is light, overlaying chalk."
It mentions the trees planted by the steward of the Titchborne estate:
"...the weeping silver lime, the blue cedar and the weeping beech."
and trees planted over the course of thirty five years
"...including fern-leaved and Dawyck beech, sugar maple, fastigiated tulip tree and the lime, Tilia x euchlora."
And finishes with:
"Whatever the season or weather this garden is a welcoming place,loved and cared for over the last hundred years."
I would second that!
Lime & Weeping Beech
To be continued............
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
Knowing that our website would be up and running by the end of January, I had always imagined that my first blog would be about cold and frosty days. You know the kind I mean, when ice crystals cover the landscape to create a winter wonderland; when my horror of spiders can be forgotten as I gaze in awe at the intricate patterns woven everywhere; when the ground crunches under my feet; and when my cheeks burn with the cold. Those pruning days, when saws rasp and axes chop, and the smoke, from umpteen bonfires, tickles my nose.
I even imagined writing about the laborious task of removing snow from the top of a sagging poly tunnel that is threatening to rip and dance away in the wind. I'd write about the crisp, clean blanket that had covered the nursery, and about the creatures we could identify by the tracks they'd left behind .
Those are the kind of days that I look forward to. They are a welcome relief from those oppressive monotone skies, bearing down on my spirits and making me weary. No such luck! So for once I find myself almost agreeing with the Lebanese philosopher and poet, Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931):
"Fire is the only fruit of winter"
For a nursery that has not, as yet, had to resort to nasty chemicals, this mild weather is a worry. We actually welcome long, cold spells that help to kill pests and disease and create dormancy in the plants.
At The Nursery
As a nursery, with only one poly tunnel and no electricity, hence no heating, we rely on the changing seasons to assist in the propagation process. I once longed for a heated tunnel where little plants were guaranteed a safe transit through the winter months. In spring, I felt aggrieved at the stalls, displaying full flowering plants, with customers queueing to buy the delightful displays. Our plants would only be a few inches in height, with not a flower in sight, and so ignored. On closer inspection though, it was clear from the light green foliage and weak, emaciated stems that those flowering plants could not compare with the vigour and good health of cold grown plants. Fortunately, 'proper gardeners' can spot the difference and I am now glad that we have persevered and developed this way of growing. It does mean that our stocks are limited to how many we can physically produce. But nothing is more pleasing than returning customers saying: "Your plants are always look so healthy." and "I lost a lot of plants this year, but none of yours died." Of course we cannot guarantee that a plant won't die, but at least we know that it has survived its first winter with us.
Roxana Fraser, Garden Designer & Our Photographer.
Common Blue in Nursery Wild Area
Poly tunnel at The Nursery
Painted Lady Butterfly on Buddlja 'White Profusion'
Peacock Butterfly in Nursery Wild Area
Knot Grass Moth Caterpillar in Wild Area
Busy Bee on Symphyotrichum