Barlow Nurseries

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

Archive for the ‘Nursery news’ Category

Garden to go

Sunday November 1st 2009

Sometimes things just fall into place….we had a customer arrive on the nursery a couple of weeks ago who wanted the garden of their new build house made a bit more interesting .  And they wanted it doing NOW.

It was just lawn, everywhere, although surprisingly large – one of those “could’ve got another house on here!” gardens.  The brief was to cut decent size borders (1 – 2mts deep) around the perimeter, and plant up with easy care shrubs.  About 100 square metres of turf to strip, and about 160 (mostly specimen size) plants and trees to install.

Garden to go

Did you order 165 shrubs sir ?

And everything just kind of happened – we were able to juggle our diary to free up the time to do the work, we planned and organised the plants at very short notice (less than a week) the weather was extraordinarily benign, Steve and Nick worked their socks off, and the customer has a garden!   Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together!?

There are still some finishing touches outstanding – bark mulch to be laid, and some bare root trees and hedges to be installed when that season starts in a few weeks time, but the job is largely done.   Alan Titchmarsh would have been proud!

The picture shows our new Ifor Williams trailer ready for its maiden voyage,  loaded up with the first batch of plants for this job, so its earning its keep already.   And no, we wouldn’t normally transport plants on an open top trailer – but the job was very local, along very slow country lanes, so just on this occasion….


Saturday October 17th 2009

Horticulture is nothing if not unpredictable.    Working in an industry which is so very weather dependent, in a country with notoriously unreliable meteorology is perhaps not the smartest move if you want any level of predictability in your life.  And if you can cope with working around the weather and the fact that sales forecasting is little better than buying lottery tickets, you still have to handle googlies like that nice Gordon Brown and his politician pals around the globe conspiring to deliver us the mother of all economic downturns.

It’s safe to say we started the year with absolutely no idea where we might go – the media was awash with doom and gloom about the economy, and horticulture was reeling from the effects of two years in which key sales periods had been, well, a bit wetter than we’d have liked.

We wanted 2009 to be better, but it wasn’t looking great.

Luckily, our spring weather this year was very nice, and while people certainly seemed to be cutting back on big ticket expenditure (holiday companies were advertising summer holidays on television in the summer, which rather implies they’d missed their targets by a country mile) but popping out to the garden centre to buy a few plants still seemed to be on the agenda, and sales were good.

Unluckily, some of our business is “big ticket” too, and we’ve seen a significant drop in border design and installation enquiries……until now.   We can only assume that this is down to the weather – September was remarkably mild and almost completely dry, and apart from a couple of wet days, October has so far been much the same.   People are still using their ‘outdoor rooms’, probably much later into the year than they’d expected,  and seem to be coming back to the idea of gardening on a sufficiently grand scale that they need our help with design and installation work.

Perhaps the economic gloom is lifting just a tad too, tho’ we’re not going to tempt fate by suggesting we may be climbing out of the mire just yet.   We’ll just content ourselves with the thought that right now, our biggest problem is getting all the work done before the weather breaks.

You’ve got to make the most of these days

Thursday October 8th 2009

After an unnervingly dry but very pleasantly warm September,  Autumn is most definately rearing its head.  Most of the rain we missed in September seemed to fall during Tuesday night, so now the ground is as wet as you might expect for this time of year, the nights are getting noticeably longer and colder (the wood burning stove had its first autumn firing last night) and the mornings are distinctly chilly.  No frosts yet, although the night time lows are getting perilously close to zero, and for the first time today we started work in one of the polytunnels because it was too cold outside!

OK chaps, lights out, set your alarms for March 2010

OK chaps, lights out, set your alarms for March 2010

But what days!   After a couple of hours potting up some of next years plants, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and the clothing layers started to peel off.   After another hour we decided we had to make the best of what is likely to be some of the last serious sunshine of the year, and get outside.

So the grand autumn tidy was resumed, and a few more batches of plants were weeded, top-dressed, gently pruned, and finally set out on the nursery beds where they’ll see out the winter.

And it was glorious – we love working outside of course, but I suspect even the most die-hard office junkie would struggle not to revel in autumn sunshine. There’s something very special about grabbing those last few rays of warmth before the sun heads properly south for the winter.   And there’s something special about seeing the stock you’ve carefully nurtured for months (or years!) being tucked up safe and sound for its winter hibernation.

Rain is forecast for tomorrow, but then a few more days of sunshine…bring it on!

And on it goes …

Friday October 2nd 2009
Herbaceous kindergarten

Herbaceous kindergarten

Just as one season draws to a close, another looms on the horizon, and here we go again….

Although the late autumn season sees a resurgence in interest in evergreen shrubs and trees, it also sees the end of herbaceous plant sales – the plants themselves realise that it’s time to take a break, and retreat underground for a winter rest.    But while the older plants go on their subterranean sabatical, there’s a whole new generation limbering up in the wings just waiting for their chance to bloom.

No sooner does one season finish than another one gets under way.   Our picture shows a few of our next generation – some of the plants we’ll be selling next season.   If the volume of seed and young plant catalogues currently dropping onto our doormat is anything to go by, there must be gazillions of others lined up in other nurseries across the UK and continental Europe too.

The plants in the picture will have to grow a bit first of course, but that’s what we’re here for!   Little green things right now, but colour in your borders next year!

And finally Cyril….

Sunday September 13th 2009

Hang on, there's a bit more space there....

With September comes the final plant selling outing of the year – Louise is off to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire very early in the morning, for their Autumn Plant Fair.     Chatsworth is a fantastic place, glorious gardens and spectacular landscaping;   it’s difficult to imagine just how wealthy the family who built it must have been – presumably in the Bill Gates league in their day.   One of Chatsworth’s own history leaflets says, perhaps a little coyly, that the first Earl of Devonshire “prospered as one of King Henry VIII’s commissioners for the dissolution of the monasteries” so you can draw your own conclusions about exactly how his fortune was amassed, and how many monasteries equals a stately country pile….

Unfortunately, Chatsworth is a long way from here – easily the most distant plant fair at which we sell, and preparing for the September event (there is also a spring plant fair, in April) generates heaps of angst about whether we can get enough stock into our trailer to make the trip worthwhile.

The spring fair is easy, because all the plants are small and we can pack loads in – plants in September are bigger!   Anyway, we usually pull it off, more or less, and the picture shows the end result.

All we have to do now is hope that the sun shines, and that the plants go home with customers, and don’t come home with Louise!

So, farewell then, Ifor Williams

Wednesday September 2nd 2009

After prevaricating through last season we’ve bitten the bullet and decided that we don’t need both our huge Ifor Williams box van trailers.   They’ve served us very well over the years, but changes in the plant fair circuit, and our own attempts to refocus our business on sales direct from the nursery, mean that we’re selling more from home, and less  away, so we’ve sold one of the big trailers.

Ifor Williams box van trailer

All the best, old fella....

We’ve learned a couple of things – Ifor Williams trailers go on forever (we’ve had ours seven years, and they’re really not showing any significant wear) and they depreciate really slowly – we sold at 80% of what we paid for it, which means its cost us £700 over seven years.   If we’d bought a van of similar capacity it would be well on its way to the scrap yard by now, and would have cost many £000’s more.

And so we’re going to buy a new one – our tree business continues to flourish, and we’ve actually refused sales this season on some of the big specimen trees we have on the nursery because we had no way of delivering them.   We’d never actually intended to sell them, we just wanted to let customers see what the smaller trees would look like a few years after they’d bought them…. but we’re not in the business of refusing sales, so we’re effectively “swapping” an old trailer for a new flatbed one that should handle trees of maybe 25 feet tall – probably as big as you’d want to go without having to resort to a crane to plant it.

Here’s to the new tree season!

The bare root season starts in November, so if you’re thinking of adding a tree to your garden, talk to us soon.

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