Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

Archive for the ‘Life on the nursery’ Category

Spring, compressed

Sunday April 19th 2015

Sometimes spring comes to the plant world before the gardeners are ready;  sometimes gardeners wake up and want to garden before the plants are awake.

This year, the humans woke up early.

Our phone started ringing at the end of January and as a result we opened the gate a couple of weeks ahead of schedule (mid-February) and have been busy ever since.   But the plant world isn’t sharing our customers enthusiasm for getting going yet, and seems to be having a bit of a collective lie-in – it’s going to be one of those springs where nothing happens for ages, then everything happens at once.

Cercis Avondale buds

Cercis Avondale, tantalisingly close to waking up….

Our garden birds are obviously on the same timetable as the humans though – the dawn chorus is waking us up at 5 am already, we saw the first swallow of the season yesterday, and the yew hedge in the garden is hosting its first clutch of blue tit babies.   Lets hope there are enough leaves to support enough creepy crawlies to keep them fed.

The usual suspects

Friday October 17th 2014

This years autumn colours aren’t turning out to be as disappointing as we’d feared; the deluges we’ve had this last couple of weeks seem to have refreshed the trees around here enough that they’re going to hang on to their leaves a bit longer, and give us a bit more autumn colour than we’d expected.

But for the moment we’re still casting our eyes down…and admiring the usual autumn shrub suspects.

Rhubarb autumn leaves

Except that of course, there’s an imposter in the camp – Rhubarb isn’t a shrub, but those colours are rather lovely aren’t they?

Euonymus alatus autumn leaves

Euonymus alatus finds its way into our viewfinder every autumn (how could it not?) but it always proves very difficult to get the photo colour to look anything like real life. This is probably the first year where we feel the photo looks properly like the shrub!   No, really, it is that colour!

Cotinus Grace autumn leaves 2

It wouldn’t be a proper autumn without at least one photo of Cotinus Grace would it?

Cotinus Grace autumn leaves

So for good measure, we took two!

Hamemellis autumn leaves

Hamamelis Jelena will be back in action in January, with flowers in shades remarkably similiar to these leaves.

Blueberry autumn leaves

And finally, probably our favourite autumn colour so far;  Blueberries always colour well in autumn – but this is extraordinary isn’t it?


Wednesday October 8th 2014

Some years ago, when there was more than one gardening show on TV, pop-star-turned-garden-designer Kim Wilde appeared on one of them enthusing about her garden in autumn, and how much she enjoyed the slow process of plants decaying into their winter shutdown.   We seem to remember her particularly enjoying the way Hosta leaves turned brown.

Frankly, at the time, we thought she was slightly barmy, as all we saw in our autumn garden was a lot of clearing and tidying.

But this year, we might just be coming round to her way of thinking.

It doesn’t look like it’s gong to be a glorious autumn – the very dry weather in September appears to have accelerated the plant worlds usual slow and glorious autumn decline into a headlong rush for hibernation, and a lot of autumns colours seem to be whizzing past at break-neck speed.

So we’re getting our pleasures where we can, and instead of looking at startling displays of brilliant autumn-hued foliage, we’re enjoying the more muted tones in the leaves of some of the plants we’d normally overlook.

And thinking of Kim Wilde.

Anemone leaves autumn

Anemone hupehensis leaves in shutdown – they must do this every year, but we’ve clearly been looking the other way!

Anemone hupehensis flower

And just in case you’re not quite on board with this, here’s a more conventional appreciation of Anemone hupehensis – the same plant, a few weeks ago.

We met Kim Wilde once, at a garden show where we had a stand, and supplied her with some plants for the show garden she was building there.

We’ve just Googled her to see what she’s doing now, and it seems she is now pop-star-turned-garden-designer-turned-back-to-pop-star.

So that makes us plant suppliers to the stars, right?


Friday October 3rd 2014

Rodgersia aesculifolia leaves colour beautifully in autumn – but this year we have the rather strange spectacle of its older, larger leaves doing their autumn thing, while brand new fresh green ones push past them from below.

It’s all the fault of our confused weather – August was cooler and wetter than it ought to have been with some near zero night-time temperatures here, and lots of the plants decided that was the signal to start their autumn shutdown.  Then September dawned very warm, and dry and the plants decided that it wasn’t autumn after all, and put on lots of lush new growth.   And so we have the (admittedly rather attractive) sight of autumn and spring foliage nestled together on the same plant.

Rodgersia aesculifolia autumn leaf colour

Life in microcosm – young bucks vs. old stag!   Which do you prefer?


Wednesday October 1st 2014

Our Vitis cognettiae would completely cover our lychgate given the chance; it needs a mid-season prune to keep it in bounds.   But in autumn it flips from exuberant growth to graceful decline.

Vitis cognettiae autumn leaves

Elegant decrepitude – half way to hibernation (and the leafmould bin).


We’re currently enjoying the first serious rainfall of the month, and forecasters are predicting that by the weekend, we’ll see an end to the warm dry weather that has dominated autumn so far. There’s an almost audible sigh of relief coming from the plants in the garden.

Autumn arrives in the tree aisles

Tuesday September 30th 2014


Tree aisles autumn 2014

Low autumn sun shines through leaves washed by overnight rain in our tree aisles.

Autumn, official

Monday September 29th 2014

The plants have been thinking it’s autumn for weeks; the calendar caught up last week as we passed the autumn equinox. And right on cue, the weather delivered the first proper misty moisty morning of the season.

Autumn cobweb

Imagine going to all that trouble, only to have your cunning trap so spectacularly exposed by the weather. Maybe that’s why spiders come indoors in autumn.

Cornus alba ‘Westonbirt’ AGM

Friday September 12th 2014

Usually prescribed for those who want to add some winter colour to their garden – the bare stems are a vibrant red – Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ AGM also looks pretty good through autumn – its leaves turn a lovely muted maroon, and contrast wonderfully with its white berries.

Cornus Westonbirt autumn shades and berries

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ AGM – we’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Westonbirt arboretum, so we we prefer the C. a. ‘Westonbirt’ synonym

For best winter colour the stems should be pruned hard each spring;  all of them, to ground level.  They’ll regrow at staggering speed, and be ready with a full flush of post office red stems for the following winters display.

It’s that time of year again…

Wednesday September 10th 2014

…when all those leaves that have been quietly minding their own business for months, suddenly start to shout “Look at me!”

On Gardener’s World last week Monty Don estimated that this year autumn is 2 – 3 weeks early; we think it’s at least that. These Cladrastis leaves will probably be on the ground next week; we wouldn’t normally expect them to be there until well into October or November.

Cladrastis kentukia leaf colour autumn 2014

Cladrastis kentukia, common name, yellow wood, and at this time of year, matching leaves!

Surprisingly, Cladrastis managed to avoid our camera lens in last autumns photo-fest, but in 2012 they still had their leaves in early November.

So we’re agreed, autumn’s early.   Gird your loins for an onslaught of autumn leaf photographs.   It’s irresistable.

New trees!

Wednesday September 3rd 2014

Today we have been mostly sorting, filing, pricing….

The first of the new seasons trees arrived at 8 o’clock this morning,  so after a day spent whipping this lot into some sort of order, our tree aisles are looking good for the autumn.

Tree delivery Sept 2014

This seasons colour is yellow – step up to the plate Catalpa bignonioides aurea, and Acer platanoides ‘Princeton Gold’

We’ll have a new season tree stock list on line in the next day or two, so you can see exactly what’s available.

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