Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nursery Duty

Recently I had weekend nursery duty. We have a rotation which the nursery staff and gardeners are part of. Although the garden isn't open to the public until April, the nursery is open year round. The hours do change during the winter; we're only open for half a day on Saturday, and we're closed on Sunday. We don't have that many customers in the winter, but it's still nice to provide this opportunity to the public. Anyway, customers or no customers, there's always work to be done! 

Coldframes and greenhouses in the nursery

First of all, the greenhouses and cold frames should be watered and ventilated as necessary. Then we check the rain gauge and record any precipitation.  We also take a quick walk around the garden to make sure things are in order.  Then we open up the sales shed and do any final preparations (which usually involves making a fire in the wood stove and a cup of tea!). 

The necessities!

Aside from assisting customers and answering the phone, we have a list of chores specific to that week. This list usually involves a series of plants that need to be potted up for the nursery, which is enough work to last when we don't have customers. 

Potting benches in the sales shed

I really enjoyed working in the nursery. Not only is it good work experience, but it's also a great opportunity to familiarize myself with our plant inventory, since we spend most of our time in the garden during the week.

And I still hit my head! 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Symposium Week

This past week we hosted one of our week-long symposia. We had a nice group of folks, many of whom were returning participants, from North America, Europe, and the UK. This symposium specifically addressed pruning. Although we have other ongoing garden tasks, I also participated in and assisted with the symposium. 

Fergus demonstrates pruning Cotinus coggygria

Fergus had us pruning trees and shrubs around the garden, which acted as examples for the symposium group. Then they were split into groups and did quite a bit of pruning themselves. I think it's very helpful to have that practical experience offered so as to make the learning more tangible. 

Pruning is such an important job in the garden. Not only does it help keep plants aesthetically pleasing, but it's important for functionality, health and vigor of a plant. Although I've been in horticulture for years now, and pruned numerous plants, this was the best, most commonsense approach to pruning I've heard.

It was a fun week and a fun group of people. The weather was mostly windy and rainy, but they were real troopers to stick it out and make the most of it. Most of them were already experienced gardeners, but I think they still learned a lot and enjoyed their time. 

I've never seen this many Hamamelis together--wow! 

At the end of the week, I was able to join the group on a visit to Witch Hazel Nursery. The nursery, owned by Chris Lane, specializes in, and is a National Collection of Hamamelis. It was a wonderful time to visit as the Witch Hazels were in full flower. Chris was very kind to show us around and talk about the different varieties. The rows of yellows, golds, reds and oranges were nicely backlit by the setting sun and produced a sweet honey-like fragrance. It really was something to behold. 

Chris Lane talking about H. 'Frederic' (R) and H. 'Gingerbread' (L)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Plant of Interest

Astelia chathamica

Origin: New Zealand

Size: 1-2m(3-6ft) x 1-2m(3-6ft) 

Cultivation: Prefers moist soil, in sun-pt shade. Not fully hardy, may require winter protection. Hardy to about -5/-10ÂșC (15-20°F

Observations: This plant first caught my attention when I walked by it one day, stopping to see why it was covered in white paint? I then discovered that it wasn't paint at all, but the natural coloration of the foliage! This beautiful architectural plant has long sword-shaped leaves which are light green with a silvery-white sheen. It can easily hold its own, but also makes a fantastic companion plant. In colder climates it could make a nice container plant.