The Nursery News
Keeping you up to date with the latest news of what is happening on the nursery, announcements, etc.
31 January 2018
Well, that's January almost over! The weather of the past few weeks hasn't been too kind and getting plants out has been delayed some weeks. Actually, it's getting a van in to collect the parcels that has been the problem due to snow. Our nursery sits high up so we tend to get heavier falls than places nearby. It's another joy of rural living!
I like the snow - even if it often causes us problems. Several mornings this winter we have needed to clear heavy snow from our polytunnels to relieve the weight loading and not being able to get our car out due to drifting snow is just a normal winter. In fact, I would say what we have had so far is exactly that - a normal winter, not the mild winters of recent years.
Both Nicola and I were ill over Christmas/New Year with all the seasonal viruses going about and it took a while for us to get back to normal. It's as well we were 'on holiday' but we are back to normal now and looking forward to spring. We have started propagation again so we are underway for next spring. Spring 2019 that is - this a long game!
Christmas and New Year Holidays. This is our quietest time of year so we take a break from sending out plants. Our last day for dispatches will be Tuesday 12th December so ideally orders need to be received by the 10th at the latest. We will still be here looking after things, answering emails etc.
It's been some time since my last update - please don't think nothing has been happening! The weather over the last couple of months has been more like it should have been and October has actually been a pleasant month overall. I only mention this because the weather affects everything we do - our sales, how the plants grow, what we can do outside, etc. etc. So we have been busy and have got a lot done over the many good days.
I may have mentioned that we have had building work done on our house over the (so-called) summer and that has now finished (at last!) and we are actually well through redecorating. The shortened day length allows us more time for that. With all that has happened this year from a busy early spring, hospital visits, funerals, builders and everything else, we often haven't been able to devote the time to business and customers as we would have liked. Sometimes life just takes over. I do know that we occasionally disappoint potential customers, especially those seeking advice, but there is obviously a limit to what we can do.
It has been an especially hectic year so we are looking forward to a quieter time. Looking at the calendar, we will stop dispatching orders after Tuesday 12th December. We don't receive many orders after then anyway and we wouldn't risk plants being delayed in the Christmas parcel rush either.
We are currently rearranging the nursery as we move the plants to their winter quarters - some will remain outside but most will be moved under cover. We are finding we need to protect plants (i.e. just keep them dry) more than we used to, partly because winters aren't so reliably cold and may be damper, but also having dry plants really helps us to dispatch orders quickly in the early months of the new year. Nothing here is molly-coddled, believe me, we just keep the rain off.
Propagation of plants occupies our time too. We take a lot of cuttings over the autumn/winter for potting the following spring and it's good inside work for those not-so-pleasant days. There is always something to do!
22 August 2017
The August Bank Holiday falls on Monday 29th and as usual we won't get parcels uplifted. Normally after a bank holiday we try hard to send out all orders on the Tuesday but I have a hosptial appointment that day. Deliveries will be sent out on Wednesday 30th.
18 August 2017
Life has been more than hectic than ever since my last update. June was a busy month workwise, and July, but sales nosedived in July as they sometimes do. Horrible weather, the holiday season - so many things affect sales. The weather in particular has been very .... unlike summer! We have had rain almost every day for several weeks it seems and sunshine has been fleeting. Most plants are coping although we have kept more plants under cover for longer than we would normally have, just to ensure they have enough roots to cope with wet conditions.
Our Sempervivum suffered last year from excessive wetness so we were hestitant of placing them outside this year. They look superb with not a mushy leaf in sight. They will be moved outside at some point soon to toughen them up but we desperately need a spell of dry weather. Sempervivum are one of our most popular plants so we need them to be good. We're expanding our range of these fascinating plants too.
Work must continue in the hope of a busy spring again next year and so it has. We only have about four weeks remaining to complete all our potting for next year but we'll get there. Life has been hectic on the domestic front too as we have builders working on our house. If you have ever had builders in you will appreciate the disruption! We planned to get this work done - a small extension, new roof, new steps and paths and the house re-rendered - during 'the good weather'. Hah! The builders are struggling on with the weather just as we are.
Returning to plants, I feel we have a good range for next year and many plants are actually ready for selling now. We are adding plants to our list every week and we have a few new plants to entice you as well.
4 June 2017
Having just typed the date, I suddenly remembered that this was the day when I started work as an apprentice gardener, 38 years ago - yikes!
May was a very busy month for us, as always. We are at last catching up with work after the troubles we had in April. We're still a little behind with some things when we compare to previous years but not desperately so. We have lots of plants potted for later this summer and even for next spring. Some plants simply need a long, slow, growing season.
We have an excellent range of Sempervivum (houseleeks) just now, from a later batch we started last June/July. The recent drier than usual weather has made them look very appealing. I'm glad we increased our numbers as I'm certain we would have sold out if we had not. We have recently acquired many new (to us) varieties which we hope to offer in coming years if they perform as we hope. I have now realised just how difficult it is to source good, well-grown Sempervivum in good varieties - they must be one of the most abused plants!
We have had a slight pause in propagating plants from cuttings which is very unusual for us but other tasks have demanded our time. I'll start again soon. We have a good range of specially grown mother plants from which we can propagate so I hope to have lots of good quality young plants for potting until September. It's hard to believe that the nursery will again (fingers crossed!) be full to bursting by late September.
We have experienced some major gaps in the range of plants we offer. Dianthus have been scarce, as have Thymes and Phlox, having been eaten by our furry friends late last summer, but new plants are coming through now. At some point we really must appraise our entire range - sooner rather than later. We find some plants simply don't sell well with us so we need to concentrate on what sells and on those plants where we excel. We have a wide enough range of plants on the nursery to satisfy our needs as well as please our customers.
29 April 2017
Our delivery schedules are back to normal after our recent troubles and we are getting back to normal too. Remember, we have no parcel collection on Monday, 1st May, but we shall still be sending plants out on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday too.
I am still struggling to answer accumulated correspondence and it is becoming inevitable that some enquiries will go unanswered. I can only apologise - this certainly is not the level of service we wish to offer.
23 April 2017
I would prefer to relay good news, or positive news at least, but am unable to do so today. I suffered a sudden collapse over Easter and was rushed to hospital by ambulance where I spent a few days under investigation. This has been a very stressful time for us both - being told you have a rare syndrome that causes sudden collapse and death brings everything into perspective. All the tests were negative, thankfully, and it was put down to a simple faint, albeit in unusual circumstances. When I fainted again on a hospital bed following one of the tests, this actually confirmed my propensity to fainting. It's nothing to worry about now, I simply need to be a little careful.
Nicola was trying to hold the fort in my absence but there is a limit to what one person can do. And she wanted to visit me in hospital too, which wasn't our local hospital either so involved a fair journey. All this has left us with a huge backlog of orders, enquiries and numerous jobs that absolutely must be done or we lose months of work and valuable plants. Despite what many think or how we appear, we actually run Craigiehall Nursery entirely on our own, just the two of us and with no staff. Had this episode occurred at a 'better' time of year it wouldn't have been so serious. Given it's spring and we're flat-out anyway, we simply don't have any 'slack' to take up or spare hours to use.
We're doing our best to get all outstanding orders out this week (from Monday 24th April), dispatching Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Our stock control system that tallies the numbers of plants available to order is becoming desperately in need of updating and I know we are losing orders and disappointing customers. Once we clear all outstanding orders we shall have a clean sheet to start from, it's pointless attempting to do it before then.
As far as dealing with enquiries, I can only do so much and frankly, they aren't our priority. We get many enquiries every week, some very simple but others require a more involved response, especially when people ask for help in choosing plants and often for difficult or unusual situations. I don't like ignoring potential customers but the sad fact is that many of these enquiries never lead to any business for us - in effect, I'm giving costly advice for free and some people are very blatant about it - "Okay, I'll look for something similar in my local garden centre"! This has long been a bugbear for us but it goes with being in business, I guess.
Having just read through the above, it seems we're in a desperate state! Well, perhaps we are, but only for a few days. We fully expect to get back to normal service by the end of this coming week. We are well-used to being constantly under pressure, especially at this time of year, and we can never do all that we would like. That is the nature of the nursery trade.
I would appeal for patience and understanding but, despite the troubles customers can bring, the gardening public are largely pleasant and thoughtful people to deal with, so it's almost unnecessary. Thank you all, especially those patient customers who have waited longer than we would like for their plants and for all the good wishes. Thank you. And I'm fine!
9 April 2017
Deliveries around Easter and spring Bank Holidays. We normally only dispatch orders on Mondays and Tuesdays so Monday holidays obviously disrupt this routine. We cannot send plants out on Monday 17th April (Easter Monday), 1st May (May Day) or 29th May (Spring Bank Holiday) Instead, we shall be dispatching on Tuesday and Wednesday of those weeks. We are always busy around these times so please allow us some time to prepare your order for dispatch, especially if you would like plants for when you are off work.
Everything is especially busy on the nursery just now. In fact, we dispatched more plants last week than we have ever managed before. Orders have been more than plentiful - thank you all. Plants are growing quickly now too, so some need moving outside or splitting up/cuttings taken before they get too big and of course all the cuttings we have rooted over autumn/winter need potting. It's all part of the 'spring rush' we expect every year but even though we were well-prepared, everything still seems to need doing at once. Oh well, must get on!
11 March 2017
Well, the weather may not agree but spring has arrived! Orders are flooding in, thank you all.
Enquiries and requests for advice are plentiful too and we're dealing with those as best we can; it can incredibly time-consuming. We're always torn between plant work and answering queries and ultimately, plants need to come first. Without producing plants to a high standard we have no business, so we try to strike a happy balance between producing and satisfying customers' desires. One constant source of annoyance is other businesses who email lists of plants requesting us to price them - we have a website, everything is priced, we don't discount, we don't sell wholesale ..... I'll stop there; this is becoming a rant! I think in future any 'non-applicable' requests will need to be ignored, however rude we find that.
Anyway, back to plants! Most things are selling very well and we can already see large spaces opening up on the nursery. More and more we're finding the same plants being ordered by customers, which is great, then everyone seems to swap over to something else.
We don't grow large numbers of some varieties (or are unable to) so some plants are already low in stock. One benefit of our website (and we think it a huge one) is that customers are unable to order what we don't have in stock. So we don't waste time and disappoint customers by contacting them to say ' you wanted 12 but we only have six' or 'those won't be ready until June' Everyone can see what we have available, no hidden surprises.
Sempervivums have been especially popular yet again - in fact, we have been selling them steadily all winter. They seem to be getting harder to find as a few small, specialist nurseries have given up/retired. Or perhaps people just like the way we offer them - established plants, grown slow and hard as they always used to be, not soft and fleshy in the cheapest of peat-based composts. We have increased our production of Sempervivum and grown batches for sale later in spring so we hope can continue to offer a good range over the coming weeks.
We have had a good amount of interest in plants for stone troughs. It seems there are still genuine stone troughs waiting to be unearthed or put their 'proper' use as a home for alpines. Some people are making their own and it's not too difficult. We have put in a couple of links to other resources - some dedicated enthusiasts have even produced videos showing their techniques. You may see them on our trough pages.
Work on the nursery really ramps up this month as growth starts. Thank heavens (literally!) for increasing day length! We haven't yet started potting fresh plants - it's a still a bit on the cool side here and plants will come away better potted into warm compost. I continue to propagate plants almost every day. Space for cuttings is fairly limited until we start potting but we always seem to find room. One of Nicola's greatest abilities, creating space!
5 January 2017
A Happy New Year to all our customers, old and new.
This is an exciting time of year on the nursery as we look forward to new growth, flower buds are starting to appear and orders are already coming in. 2016 was a good year for us and we hope that continues for 2017. We have a good number of plants coming on for sale and in a wide range too. We also have a large number of plants propagated over the autumn/winter for potting in the spring so everything looks promising.
We have enjoyed some time off over the Christmas holidays but we're now back to work. The major task for this month is preparing the nursery for a busy spring, cleaning, reorganising and generally just making sure everything is in place. The nature of this business and the 'spring rush' means we must be ready.
I am currently renewing much of our irrigation system. We use spring water which we collect in a large, 2,000 gallon tank. Unfortunately, this tank has sprung a small leak in its butyl rubber liner. So, the roof covering has been removed, the water baled out, the inside cleaned and dried and I've found the hole! It's tiny, barely a couple of millimeters across, but leaked a lot of water. I have a patch so we should be sorted.
The pump that takes water from this tank has been renovated too, along with some pipework. I'm hoping it won't need attention again for some time but I always keep a range of replacement parts, just in case. We simply can't be without water when growing plants!
Happy gardening to all in 2017.
01 December 2016
Our last day for dispatching orders before Christmas will be Tuesday 13th December. Ideally, we would need your orders at least a day or two earlier. We shall recommence dispatches on January 10th 2017, weather permitting, as always. We will still be here and would be happy to receive orders over the holidays and answer queries - but we won't dispatch until early January. All the parcel delivery people will be busy as you can imagine and it simply isn't worth the risk of plants possibly being delayed. We're naturally quiet around this time anyway so it makes sense for us have a break as well.
02 November 2016
Autumn is definitely here now but we have been blessed by the pleasant side of autumn so far - crisp mornings, quiet, sunny days and the most glorious autumn colours I can remember. October has been a wonderful month. We have been kept busy, as usual, and the fine weather has really helped. We managed to re-cover our largest polytunnel and have started moving plants in for their winter shelter. We haven't had use of this tunnel for a couple of years and I'd forgotten what a nice place it is for growing plants - bright and airy.
Our 'big tunnel' is filling up quickly as we move plants from outside, tidying up any that need it. This is a slow job but a necessary one. All our other covered spaces are already filled with plants and we overwinter the hardiest of plants outside too. It's nice to have a tidy nursery, at least in places! Unfortunately, the less tidy parts must remain that way as more important work need doing first.
We are still busy with orders (for the time of year) but have returned to our winter dispatch routine of dispatching all orders on Tuesdays, as I explained last month. We have another six weeks or so before we stop dispatching over the Christmas/New Year period.
07 October 2016
It's hard to believe the first week of October has passed already. August and September were very busy months for us, mainly preparing plants for next year but the good weather in many parts of the country has kept us busy with orders too. Our own August weather was unremarkable, barely summer, but September has generally been a fine month.
This first week of October has been excellent - in fact, I had to water plants outside yesterday, a very rare thing for October! We have had a few mild frosts some mornings and it is getting gradually colder but good for the time of year. Cool, dry, bright and breezy is just perfect for the plants at this time of year. Amazing!
The nursery is as full of plants as we could hope and I'm happy with the selection we have. As ever, we monitor what we produce and what sells and hope to add something extra or different to keep our range fresh. We have a huge range of plants available at very fair prices, including many excellent plants which are becoming harder to find. We can take time to produce plants in small numbers that larger growers couldn't contemplate.
We do have one minor disaster to report - we have been attacked by rabbits! More accurately, probably only one rabbit and only in the nursery for one night. But the damage is there. It nibbled many of our fresh young Thyme plants (one of their favourite foods!) and when I say nibbled, it eats them entirely down to the top of the compost. The plants will recover, eventually, but we won't have those varieties to sell well into next spring. We soon found the entry point, a piece of corroded netting which had been lifted by a foraging badger. Wildlife; isn't it wonderful! And typically, this spot was right next to a length of new fence we replaced earlier this year. Oh well, more jobs for winter.
Later this month we shall revert to winter dispatches when we can get all orders sent out on a Tuesday. This will let us have Sundays off - other than bank holidays, we haven't had a Sunday off since March. We still have a lot of necessary work to do on the nursery but it is a quieter time of year. This is also my favourite time of year - very soon my days will be spent propagating plants for next year and beyond. That is the essence of what we do and possibly a large part of who I am. Hmmm, too early for contemplation just yet!
03 August 2016
We continue to add new plants to our list and we have an excellent range of fresh plants ready now. We now have an extended range of Houseleeks (Sempervivum) ready now. These have proved very popular and we have increased our numbers for next year. We grow our Houseleeks to a high standard, showing the plants off to their best advantage. We are very well stocked with Rock Roses (Helianthemum) too and offer one of the widest ranges available online.
Growing plants in stone troughs is becoming very popular again. This style of gardening matches perfectly with modern trends of smaller gardens and people with less time to garden, allowing those who still appreciate beautiful plants to grow a wide range of plants in a small space with minimum maintenance. We offer a huge range of plants truly suitable trough growing - the small, neat plants which look and perform best in these smaller spaces.
The weather of recent weeks hasn't been too unkind but we have lacked sunshine. I didn't need to water any outside plants in all of July! I would have preferred the sun but the time saved means we are well up to date with production of plants for next year. What a bonus!
03 July 2016
July already - it has been a quick year! Spring was exceptionally busy for us but things have quietened down now. We are well prepared for next year - in fact, we never stop, growing is a constantly rolling program. We have lots of plants potted for next year, growing away over the summer months, but we haven't finished for this year, far from it. We have lots of plants in flower just now and many have still to reach their best. We have an excellent range of Sedum, always popular summer plants, the autumn Gentians will be budding up shortly and so too the Cyananthus, Persicaria, Silene and Astilbe to name but a few. The Campanulas are summer essentials and many will continue flowering into late summer.
Sempervivum have sold especially well for us year as our current list shows - Sold Out. We have lots of fresh plants potted and they are almost ready for selling, probably only a week or two away. I know we have several customers waiting for these alone. Helianthemum are popular with us too but we have managed to keep a range available, albeit reduced in variety. We have fresh plants ready now and an ever-improving range of varieties coming through.
We shall continue to dispatch plants every week right through to late autumn.
19 May 2016
What an amazingly busy spring! Orders have continued to come in thick and fast but we have managed to keep to our usual prompt dispatch schedules. We believe all of our plants are good (we wouldn't offer them otherwise) but we really have sent out some amazingly good plants. I don't why I'm surprised by this - it's what we aim for - but everything has come together this spring. For once! We did 'lose' some plants last week due to an unexpectedly severe late frost, now removed from sale of course. Some of these plants had been outside all winter. They'll recover, but it is annoying and frustrating. Nature always wins.
Some plants are now in very short supply. Sempervivums have sold especially well but the quality was outstanding resulting in many repeat orders. Fresh plants have been potted some weeks already but they still won't ready for selling until about the end of June. Thymes and Sedums have proved very popular too but thankfully new plants are starting to come through now and we hope to have good stocks for sale fairly soon. Helianthemums have been as popular as ever but we still have reasonable stocks of many (though not all) varieties. We massively increased our numbers of last year. Again, fresh plants are already potted to follow on into summer.
We have been very busy potting fresh plants all spring, between preparing and dispatching orders. We still have lots to do but we're almost on target and our list of available plants will reflect that in coming weeks. We have lots of plants potted for next year too - all our Sempervivum (mentioned above) are potted for next spring, and many of the slower-growing little trough plants we like are potted too. Much of what we grow needs time to develop properly in the pot.
We have one more Bank Holiday to come (always a rush!) but I'm sure we'll cope. Just one final mention to everyone who has sent us such wonderful feedback and compliments about our plants and service. Thank you all, we do appreciate it. Unfortunately, we simply haven't had time to upload those comments to the website, especially those sent directly by email. Long hours and hard work are made so much easier when we learn how much people appreciate our efforts, so thanks again.
1 April 2016
Once again, March has proved to be an extremely busy month, possibly our busiest month since we started our online venture nearly 4 years ago. The extensive changes carried out to our website over the past winter have proved very beneficial - not only for us, but for customers too who are finding it even easier to use. Our improved delivery options are helping customers (and us) achieve what we all want and have helped streamline deliveries.
A great range of plants keeps us busy too! However, gaps are starting to appear, some of them large gaps, but we still have good stocks of most plants. Some things sell out inexplicably quickly and it's entirely unpredictable - we might keep a plant for months with no orders then suddenly we get 2 or 3 good orders and they're almost all away. We try our best to offer good stocks and a wide range, but after all, we don't grow them to keep them! We intend starting to pot fresh plants any day soon so we should maintain a healthy offering throughout summer and into autumn.
1 March 2016
Welcome to March - normally our busiest month for sales. We are well prepared for processing orders quickly (weather permitting) and we have very good stocks of most plants on our list. We also have a huge stock of plants for potting once the weather properly warms up. Our list is fully up to date and we always aim to keep it so - you should always receive exactly the quantity of plants you order and we never send substitutes.
Our new delivery arrangements are proving very popular (see below) and make it easier than ever for you to get your plants.
7 February 2016
Five weeks into the new year already - where does time go?!
The least said about the weather the better, but I can say we have survived (thus far) relatively unscathed, as have most of our plants. In fact, for most things, conditions have been relatively benign so we have an excellent stock of good quality plants. And signs of spring are appearing every day!
We have recently added some new plants to our list - some Androsace, a desirable variegated form of Alyssum spinosum and more Saxifraga, among others. We still have a few more to add too, as soon as they are ready. You can see our most recent additions here.
New, more secure checkout. We have made some technical changes to our website checkout page - it is now fully SSL encrypted, look for the green padlock symbol in your browser bar and the 'https:' ('s' for secure) prefix to the website address before you enter any details. This is the best securirty open to us - no bad thing when scare stories of fraud appear almost weekly. All your personal details are encrypted as you enter them, as are payment details with Nochex. We have never experienced any security issues with our website but the addition of SSL encryption keeps us ahead on the security front.
Changes to our deliveries. We always aim to offer the best service we can and we believe that using Parcelforce as our delivery agent achieves that. We don't believe it is fair for you to place an order then know nothing of how, when and where your plants will be delivered. We understand that it is incredibly annoying and frustrating waiting for packages that don't arrive as and when they should - it happens to us too!
Here are some ways in which we can all work together to get the best and most convenient delivery service for you:
- Give us your mobile phone number. Parcelforce can then send a text message (SMS) on the morning of delivery day so you can make arrangements for receiving your parcel. Your number will only be used for this purpose.
- Ask us to deliver to your local Post Office. A useful option if you are out most days or you don't want a parcel just being left at your door. You do need to be able to collect the parcel yourself during Post Office hours of course and you will probably need a form of identification with you, but this option might suit your circumstances. Please be aware that larger orders may be quite heavy for carrying.
- Tell us your 'Safe Place'. Parcelforce can leave a parcel without signature in your designated 'Safe Place'. Many of our customers are happy for parcels to be left in a front porch, in the greenhouse or with a neighbour, etc.,etc. However, It is only fair we point out that Parcelforce will reject claims for non-delivery (and rightly so) but every parcel is still tracked right to its destination - even the delivery vans are GPS tracked and recorded.
- Ask for delivery elsewhere We can arrange to deliver to, for example, your place of work, to a friend, neighbour or relative or anywhere else you choose. There is an option in checkout to select delivery address.
Selecting one of these alternatives should help us all to get what we want - accurate, first-time deliveries with no inconvenience. Simply enter the relevant details (mobile number, deliver to P.O. or Safe Place) in the 'Special Instructions' box as you enter your details on the secure checkout page or change the delivery address to your chosen alternative.
7 January 2016
A Happy New Year to everyone! (slightly belated).
Dispatch of orders received over the Christmas holidays will be dispatched Tuesday 12th January when we recommence our weekly dispatches - weather permitting, as always.
Our Christmas 'holidays' have been a difficult time for us - my older sister sadly died just before Christmas. She was only 54 years of age and had been suffering from cancer. Her funeral service is tomorrow, 8th January. We have a small backlog of enquiries and many orders still to process but we hope to catch up soon.
We do hope you have been relatively unaffected by the horrendous weather and floods of recent weeks and our sincere commiseration if you have. We don't experience any flooding here (we're too high up!) and we have managed to keep ourselves and our plants sheltered from the rain. These conditions are generally benign for most plants (with shelter) but the incessantly damp atmosphere does attract leaf moulds to certain plants. We don't use chemical sprays to prevent these attacks - we're betting on the weather turning colder to knock them out and we attempt rigorous hygiene by removing dead leaves etc. I don't anticipate many plant losses but it's early days as far as winter is concerned. We always have plenty of plants to offer!