We have been working hard as the Christmas season unfolds. With Britain firmly in the grip of recession we dare not turn work down if we can possibly fit it in. But one thing we wanted to be sure we had time to do was this huge wreath style installation, again at one of my favourite spots, the Reflections statue in Bedford town centre. The wreath was commissioned to promote Bedford and Small Business Saturday. Needless to say, when not working on this, the rest of the month so far has been intense with workshops and orders. We’ve not finished getting all of the tulips in, and there is a lot of tree planting to do. But the dahlias are all lifted, ready for packing. I’ve one more week of intense work on ‘front of house’ jobs – workshops, orders and wreathmaking and then I am free to get back to the planting. It is not too late to be doing these jobs, and as long as the ground is not frozen, the plants, which are dormant, won’t mind it one bit. In fact if it isn’t cold enough when you plant some things the risk of disease can become an issue. For example tulips are very susceptible to tulip fire – Botrytis tulipae, if conditions are mild and wet when planted. As a grower people expect me to hate the cold for the damage frost does to plants. But a good cold, dry winter is the best for healthy plant growth next year, as pests and diseases in the soil are killed or weakened by prolonged cold conditions.
In other news – yesterday we took a day out to visit Pete’s parents. His Dad has been quite poorly, but is on the mend now (although he must rest, which he does not find easy). We also grabbed the chance to stop off and visit our Auntie Jean and Uncle Francis in the Vale of Evesham. They are vegetable growers, now retired from market gardening, and talking with them about their work has always been inspirational to me as a grower and lover of rural life. Francis had brought me some apples and pears in a large plastic crate a little while back and saw how I liked the crate almost as much as the fruit. Sturdy plastic crates are one of the most useful things on a cut flower farm, but very expensive to buy new. Francis told me he had lots still in his barn if I wanted some. So Jack (who’s middle name is Francis for this favourite Uncle of ours) has had an early Christmas present of a stack of crates and pots, which will make his life much easier next Spring. They will be ideal for starting the dahlias off and transporting the thousands of baby plants down to the field at planting time. It will feel good to keep using them for producing plants and I will think about where they have come from every time we use them.
Auntie Jean also took me out to see their stunning crab apple orchard, with trees smothered in little red and golden apples and laden with mistletoe. It is how I imagine our little blossom orchard looking somewhere down the line. Such useful inspiration when the weather is turning cold and enthusiasm is lacking. Just what I needed to give me the energy to finish the planting. I wish I’d taken photos to show you how beautiful their land is, but had left my phone in the car. It was a much needed and overdue visit.