The internet is full of jokes about St Jude, once again photos of wheely bins and plastic patio chairs lying on their sides with the side splitting captions “Utter Devastation” “We can Rebuild”, all terribly humorous.
We were really lucky across Herefordshire and Worcestershire, St Jude tracked further south than anticipated and whereas we got a good soaking with localised flooding we didn’t suffer anything like the predicted damaging high winds.
As a business we use social media, and for us twitter is a major part off keeping up to date with suppliers, trends and just keeping in touch with the rather fab peeps that fill our timeline with snippets of whats going on in their lives. So we have seen and heard from people truly devastated by St Jude and those, who today are starting to rebuild.
Blackmoor Nurseries have lost over 3 hectares of orchards in fruit. The ferocity of St Jude snapped concrete supports and trunks alike leaving a trail of devastation.
If you can’t imagine what 3 hectares look like its the equivalent of two Lords Cricket Grounds, Three International Rugby Pitches or, for our American and Canadian readers, Three Baseball Fields.
For a gardener to loose one tree can be really distressing, but we are talking about hundreds upon hundreds of trees. So not only is most of this years crop of apples from these fields lost, but so is the crop for the next three or four years. Multiply this by the number of other nurseries and farms affected and the true cost of this storm does indeed become devastating.
Happily for Blackmoor and for us, their retail section hasn’t suffered in the same way, so they are still very much open for business as usual.
As too are Victoriana Nurseries who awoke to find St Jude had, quite literally, blown thorough their nursery, punching out the glasshouse panes along the way.
Now I’m sure somebody in Parliament will come up with the idea of a means tested, give us your inside leg measurement and your first born child – Storm Compensation Package, wrapped up in miles and miles of red tape and finished off with a pretty red bow. But as the Great British Buying Public we can all do our bit, by supporting our local and independent nurseries.
So go online, search them out and show them that they may be down but they’re not out. After all St Jude may be the patron saint of lost causes but he’s not needed here!
Nestled in the side of the Malvern Hills is a stonkingly fine nursery and yet, up until last week, a place I’d never been. Purveyors of Michaelmas Daisies and holders of Plant Heritage National Collection of Autumn Flowering Asters- Old Court Nurseries have always been a must visit at the Malvern Autumn Show. However I have a new planting scheme for a client and was after a more delicate and airy aster than they had a the show, so that called for a nursery reccie.
Now I may be the only Garden Designer in the family, but I’m not the only plant nut, so I asked my Mum if she fancied an aster reccie too (she did), so off we went on a jolly (or if the accountant’s reading this “an extensive fact finding tour”)
There are a couple of things you should know about my mother she has a wicked sense of humour, a healthy disregard for authority and she’s also a wheelchair abuser (she thrashes hers to within an inch of it’s life).
One of the first plants we came across rather fitted the bill for “delicate and airy”, not an Aster, but determined to make it’s acquaintance I hot footed it back to the entrance for an introduction. Althaea cannabena was the name of this delicate beauty, I’m sure Mum deliberately misunderheard, continually referring to it as “that cannabis plant”. Although on further investigation she’s wasn’t far wrong, one of its common names is Hemp Leaved Hollyhock.
As we carried on through the garden some of the more lax plants lining the path were in danger of falling under the wheels of the chair, necessitating a bit of plant wrestling. Obviously during such a bout what you really want is one of the nursery owners to come around the corner accompanied by Carol Klein.
“Dont mind us”, pipes up my mother, “I’m just pruning some of the plants”.
To which Carol Klein replies “oh you need to get some blades on your wheels a bit like Boudica”. I may have rolled my eyes at this point, as my mother needs absolutely no encouragement to be any more Boudicean in attitude.
There are hundreds of different varieties of Michaelmas Daisies in the beds and borders around The Picton Garden, some are planted predominantly with asters. Whyle others have a more evenly mixed planting scheme with other late flowering perennials and shrubs. So if you want a bit of inspiration for an autumn scheme then this is definitely a good place to start.
The Glade, Centenary, Black and White and Sliver Gardens however were destined to remain a mystery as some of the paths were rather narrow and the wheel chair battery had a sudden fit of the vapors. Sadly I’m not as skillful as my mother in negotiating obstacles, so we decided rather than plough through the gardens we would go back and look at the stock beds.
It was all going quite well, me pushing the chair, stopping every now and then so we could both take a closer look at various plants. Then, having encountered a thick layer of gravel we rather ground to halt. The ensuing struggle led to perhaps the odd accusation of brakes being applied and rather a lot of giggles. We were still mirthful and perhaps a little too vocal as we made it to firmer ground, only to be asked by a youngish chap if we could please be quiet as they were filming. At this point the penny dropped, yep we had stumbled, rather noisily, into a Gardeners World segment being filmed.
(We’d missed the first clue – doh)
So we waited quietly for them to finish. We watched as again and again Carol walked round the corner of the garden and said “Wow” at different points depending where the camera was. We watched as she languorously stroked the petals of the daisies as she walked past. Poor things must have been quite relieved when they’d got the shot.
It became evident that the GW team were, as Captain Oats may have once put it, going to be some time, so we abandoned any thoughts of seeing the beds. Which was a shame, as even from a distance they looked great. So to make up for this disappointment we made our way to the sales area and contented ourselves there.
Once upon a time there were three apple trees…………. One was a Bramley, one was a Worcester Permain and one was Unidentified (because for the five years we have been here it never produced a single apple).
The two fruiting trees had been so badly pruned in the past that the apples produces were way out of reach and in the case of the Bramley down right costly. With a thud they fell on the roof breaking tiles as they bounced. The windfalls also bounced off our cars but it was the broken slates skidding down that did the damage. A blanket of apples lay on the ground attracting hoards of marauding wasps and hornets and if you weren’t careful getting into the car they became unwanted hitchhikers. The trees days were numbered.
A local chappy was duly called to take down the trees, but tree number three had a reprieve, it could stay. It was well behaved, producing lovely flowers in spring but no apples. It wasn’t a great shape but had lovely bark and It wasn’t any bother.
Now with the exceptionally late spring this year, all the fruit trees around us flowered pretty much at the same time (we live in a part of the world with the odd orchard or two). Now in the case of tree number three this was obviously a happy thing. For the first time in all these years the partner tree required to pollinate it was flowering just at the right time. So for the first time it has apples.
I have no idea what it is or what the apples taste like, it seems rather more eater than cooker. Happily our local school is having an Applefest so I might take it along for identification.
Its fate is now in the balance, if it’s going to do this on a regular basis it might just have to join its friends in the wood shed.
But for now it will be the ingredient for seasonal Bapple Cake.
The Cyclamen by Arlo Bates
Over the plains where Persian hosts
Laid down their lives for glory
Flutter the cyclamens, like ghosts
That witness to their story.
Oh, fair! Oh, white! Oh, pure as snow!
On countless graves how sweet they grow!
Or crimson, like the cruel wounds
From which the life-blood, flowing,
Poured out where now on grassy mounds
The low, soft winds are blowing:
Oh, fair! Oh, red! Like blood of slain;
Not even time can cleanse that stain.
But when my dear these blossoms holds,
All loveliness her dower,
All woe and joy the past enfolds
In her find fullest flower.
Oh, fair! Oh, pure! Oh, white and red!
If she but live, what are the dead!