Monday, 9 April 2018

My Body Is A Temple

The winter months have taken their toll on me. Work slows down, and as a result we get loads of time 'off'. I would like to say that this time is spent living healthily and wisely, but after nine months of manic gardening in the heat, with the stresses and time constraints involved, one does tend to collapse somewhat. My fitness and weight go up and down seasonally, and as I get older (57?....damn!), the body needs more and more of the good stuff, and less of the self indulgence. If I ever retire, then I look forward to loads of R and R, too much red wine and charcuterie, whatever bread I want to eat, and travel. For now though, I have to try to keep indulgences under control (always a problem), and self discipline in the fore (always a problem). 

Although it has proved to be useful in the past, I don't like the gym. Working out in an artificially lit room, awhile staring at a screen or blank wall isn't a good use of the valuable time that is my life as I see it. I much prefer to take energetic walks, cycle rides, or kayak trips, and that is about to happen....again. I am fairly fit, and have been told that I have unusual strength, especially for one my age, but I can feel things not so much stiffening up, but settling into place.

And so, on a Monday evening I am learning Chen Tai Chi (something I dabbled with some twenty years ago).
So far, all is going well. I have learnt that to stand on one leg whilst moving isn't as easy as it used to be, but am pleased with the core strength that I do have, and can appear to control the movements fairly well. The teacher has unusual control over his body. I think this may take some time.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Return To Worbarrow

It was many years ago that we first went to Worbarrow Bay.
Amanda was 28, and I was 34.

We had met at Compton Acres Gardens a little earlier, where I had already been working for about fifteen years, and was in charge of looking after most of the grounds. Amanda had recently left the corporate world of lawyers, to pursue her dream of becoming a gardener. She was introduced to me on a scorching hot summers day, and we worked together as I taught her the ways of the gardener.

We got on well, both professionally, and as friends, and it soon became apparent that things were taking a different turn, but we both came with very complicated lives, commitments, and troubles.

We talked, a lot. We always have, but it was on one afternoon, on top of the hill in the picture above, that after driving the short distance in her metallic blue VW Beetle, we sat with a flask of tea and some custard cream biscuits, and talked about what we meant to each other.

We never really envisaged a long term future together at this point, but knew that we were serious about each other. That was twenty three years ago, and we married, and have worked and lived together ever since.

We went back for the second time yesterday, and took a flask of tea. The climb up the hill wasn't so inviting, and so we sat on the shingle beach, and talked. It's a beautiful and peaceful place.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Gardeners Lot

A good Acer Griseum is not to be sniffed at, and they don't appear in gardens enough. To get hold of one is tricky enough, but one at 10ft tall for planting is even trickier. We had a problem last week.

We have been transforming a large garden for a fairly new, and very important client. Over the last year it has involved organising tree surgeons to reduce 40ft overgrown Laurel hedging, tree removal and crown tidying. Recently they have reduced huge Rhododendron ponticums in another area, along with using a stump grinder to eradicate a large area of troublesome bamboo.We now come in to clear and plant up this area, along with the border, some 200ft long, now re-instated since the Laurel reduction.

 Whilst we were looking at the latter, and making final plans for planting, the client came across and voiced a desire to have an ornamental tree in the centre of the very large lawn. We aren't the sort to just suggest the usual cherry tree or such like, as we like to shake things up a bit, and so after phoning the local suppliers, came up with a shortlist for him to choose from, including heights, girth, price and description etc.

He selected an Acer Griseum from the list, at 3 metres tall (I was personally hoping that an Acer Sangu-Kaku would be chosen, but hey), and we duly placed our order with the nursery. They got back rather quickly to inform us that they had made a mistake, and in fact the price was three times that quoted. Even at wholesale prices, it was a lot of money. We could have got into an argument about our rights as a consumer, but our energy needed to be spent finding a replacement. Also, we had been very vocal in our frustrations with them.

Plan B was put into action, which involved driving to another nursery near Lymington, as they were our last hope, having just one other Acer Griseum at such a height. We arrived with excited anticipation at having another option, but our hearts sank when we saw the tree, bent at the top, and with a twisted stem. All could be put right with the correct staking and guy lines, but our tree was to take centre stage in a lawn, and not in a border.

We sat in the van, thankful for modern phones and their internet connection, as we tried to find anyone else that we had not heard of, and came across Agrumi, who as it turned out, were just a 20 minute drive away, and said that they do indeed have some trees for us. 

It was quite the gardeners nirvana, as we were firstly shown two trees that had just arrived. They were vast, and needed a fork lift truck to move them. This wouldn't be a problem, but sadly the price, which although reasonable at £600 each, was too much for what we had quoted. They then showed us some multi-stemmed Acer Griseum for the price we were looking for, but they were only 5ft tall, way too small. Finally, they showed us six more, tucked away in a side area, all at 10ft, all straight, and all looking really quite perfect. We chose one, secured it into the van (quite a few feet of it sticking out the back), and duly paid. We will make a big loss on it financially, but we have the tree, and the customers satisfaction comes first.

The first picture is of an Acer Griseum at Hilliers winter garden, a little works excursion earlier in the year.

As for more logistical problems facing the humble gardener, well, tomorrow will tell. It's snowing again, and we have just purchased one ton of lawn food and a new spreader......aaaaarrrggghhh!!!

Friday, 2 March 2018

Testing Times

It's official, we are all snow and iced in. Traffic is going nowhere. We have the essentials to get us through being housebound, such as cakes, chocolate, dvds, cakes, hot tea.....and did I mention cakes?

It all started to change for the worse at the beginning of the week, exactly the same time that Bex was to go through her PA1 and PA6a pesticide training courses.  It was all being carried out at a training centre in the middle of the countryside, some 20 miles from home. A very large and exposed site.

Monday it was the PA1, which was spent indoors, and involved everything to do with pesticides, their use, legislation and laws etc. It was sunny, but very cold and windy. 

On Tuesday she was training for the PA6a, which involves the use of knapsack sprayers, calibration, safe working conditions and safe and accurate application of the pesticide. We dropped her off to a somewhat different day to come. The icy weather had started to arrive, 'The Beast from the East' I believe it has been named. By the time we picked her up it was snowing, and the practical training had been held in the open field. Testing indeed, especially with the paperwork calculations to be made accurately.

By Wednesday, the day of the examinations by an external assessor, the big freeze was well under way, and there were stories of sprayers and lances freezing up. But luckily there were plenty of spares, and the assessor took into account the conditions. 

She passed both with flying colours!

The following day, Thursday, and the whole of the south of England appears to be in a big freeze, and we still are. Timing eh?

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Weather

Last week was a time of opposite extremes of weather. On the few good days, it was cold, but sunny and pleasant.

We took a works trip to Kingston Lacy House, a National Trust property close to home, where they have several displays of Snowdrops within the grounds.

It was a lovely day, and i took a particular liking to this feature in the gardens, a dry stream with stepping stones.

The following day we cancelled work, as gardening just wasn't going to happen, and so Rebecca had a study day, and we headed down to Sandbanks to take in the weather.....and what weather it was!