Sunday, 19 March 2017

Overheated and Hairy

Morning all,

What a very busy week that was, a definite spring feel in the air. I see that the first flocks of sand martins are appearing over parts of Cornwall with the odd house martin and swallow, it just goes to show how close the summer is. Can’t wait to hear their chattering outside the bedroom window, it’s usually the first indication of their arrival back here.
The frogspawn in the nursery pond is developing well, not a huge quantity but we should get another good addition to the local population. I’m not sure if we are actually short of lady frogs but we had a pond full of males hanging about for a couple of weeks and the one lady we did spot was I suspect loved to death judging by the attention she received. The birds are all singing away especially a particularly vocal Song Thrush which must be exhausted by now. It’s all go.
Nursery life rushes from one priority to another. Most of this week seems to have revolved around non-plant issues which is frustrating. I’m not sure if everyone is running much closer to the edge on stock levels but we have had quite a few deliveries delayed through unavailability, restructuring or overwork, pots, compost, tubs for the micro-propagation, wooden boxes, even the new van seems elusive. Even when I’m organised enough to order well in advance it doesn’t seem to help but hey ho that’s how it is. To be honest these issues pale into insignificance when the day to day hiccups challenge you. This week it was our vans, which have always been so reliable, but a combination of missing drivers and mechanical issues nearly scuppered the weeks planning. With the big van off the road until next Tuesday we relied on a transport company that worked brilliantly other than they turned up 24 hrs early to pick up the trolleys (luckily we were nearly ready) and the ‘comedy van’ plus the farm transit. The comedy van started flashing up its engine management light followed by periodic loss of power gradually getting worse as the week went on. Trips and advice from the garage just about kept us on the road and it is now in the garage being assessed for mending. Hoping it’s not bad news, it’s done a few miles (270,000) but seems pretty sound overall, no smoke, sounds fine and doesn’t use any oil or water which always used to be good indicators of plenty of life to come. We’ll see. Meanwhile on the last trip home on Friday the transit stated to overheat, luckily quite close to home so limped in. Water all over the place but still some left and a split in a tiny little bit of hose the culprit. Naturally you can’t get the part off the shelf and it won’t be in until Tuesday. Ace. At least all the orders got done, but Monday is going to be an exciting day to see how things unfold!
It’s a lifestyle choice you know, trundling around with my trowel in hand enjoying the fresh air.

Availability highlights
Growth is bursting forth, spring is in the air and the sap is rising.
Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, attractive burnished foliage and with the first flower shoots and bud showing. Don’t hang about on this one, they aren’t available for very long, but we have our spring crop of Lathyrus verus in bud and showing some colour. A really charming little plant that deserves a wider audience for its spring flush of blooms. Dicentra spectabalis in both forms have burst through, their flower buds and colour already showing well. Really chunky Lupins and Delphiniums are looking great, full of vigour and promise.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also present on Apricot Twist, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep. Pulsatilla have shot up in the last couple of weeks with masses of bud now showing, and colour showing. Brunnera are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, the delightful forget-me-not blue flowers are appearing now. Helleborus Crown Purple are now throwing up their flowers, we have limited stock so don’t miss out. The other colours are in shorter supply and selling through quickly, there are a few buds appearing now on some of these too, but not enough for us to guarantee a full tray.
The little orange Geum Cooky are flushing into growth nicely, and now have flower shoots and buds too. The spring flowering Euphorbia are coming into their own now, lovely plants just watch out for the irritating milky sap. The Pulmonaria are coming on well with bud and delightful pale blue flowers on the Opal, Mageste and EB Anderson all looking smart with bud and colour showing. The snakes head lily (Fritillaria) are produced their first few buds, looking good with plenty to come as spring rolls on. Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers are now appearing.
Just a few Narcissus WP Milner left in bud with a few of their petit pale yellow flowers showing off nicely. A real spring beauty. Some of the Aquilegia varieties are thrusting up their flower buds, they won’t be around long!
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.


Monday, 13 March 2017

Old and Hairy

Morning all,

Just a quick note this weekend as I have a monster list of tasks to tackle this weekend, Spring is upon us and suddenly everything needs doing at once. We have our first overtime Saturday today and what a lovely day for it, just one slight complication is that the compost delivery got delayed until Monday so no happy potters. Instead we are getting stuck into spacing plants to give them a bit more elbow room. The trouble with growing such chunky stock is that it gets greedy for space so quickly, but it looks fantastic so I can’t really complain.
Added another annual ring this week, I think that’s why I’m struggling to get my belt done up. I can’t believe where the time goes. Had a very nice night out at another birthday party, meeting lots of old friends all of us looking disbelievingly at all the grown up kids and their own offspring. One day I will feel grown up I’m sure, I still can’t really get my head round handing over a piece of plastic and taking away goodies, how do I get away with that? Don’t knock it if it works.
Great meeting with the local Sustainable Business Network last week, held at the local council offices, learning lots about sustainable building stuff. It was a bit out of our league in sophistication but lots of bits still apply. It was shocking to hear that award winning big green buildings often end up performing no better than a normal building after a year or so, because no one explains to the users how the building works. There is a scheme/process call Soft Landings that has been put together to try and sort this out and appears to be pretty successful, although a lot of it is just good sustainable housekeeping, read the meters and try to understand your patterns of energy use. Small pat on the back for us after mentioning our LED installation and the Good Impact workshop afterwards recognised that we had already filled in all our Bronze criteria so good to see we are getting noticed. Still a few days to go before we actually officially submit our data so might slip in a few more updates to make sure we sail through the audit which follows.
Sending me out into the real world is never a good idea. At the SBN meeting I arrived in time to grab a tea from the usual array of kit presented on these occasions. Got my mug and tea bag and fill it from the container marked ‘hot liquid’ which naturally contained ready brewed coffee. Why me? I should have been looking for one saying ‘hot water’, what’s wrong with labelling it coffee. Now I’ve got half a cup of coffee, a floating tea bag and nowhere to dispose of it without making it obvious that I don’t get out much. By this time there is a queue behind and I abandon ship. Later I did overhear Caroline saying what an idiot I was and I felt compelled to bring this up when we got home. To be fair she did apologies but she hadn’t realised it was supposed to be a secret!

Availability highlights
Growth is bursting forth, spring is in the air and the sap is rising. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, attractive burnished foliage and with the first flower shoots and bud showing.
They aren’t available for very long, but we have our spring crop of Lathyrus verus in bud and showing some colour. A really charming little plant that deserves a wider audience for its spring flush of blooms.
Dicentra spectabalis in both forms have burst through, their flower buds already showing well.
Really chunky Lupins and Delphiniums are looking great, full of vigour and promise. The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also present on
Apricot Twist, Variegated Peach, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep. Pulsatilla have shot up in the last couple of weeks with masses of bud now showing, and colour showing.
Brunnera are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, the delightful forget-me-not blue flowers are appearing now. Helleborus Crown Purple are now throwing up their flowers, we have limited stock so don’t miss out. The other colours are in shorter supply and selling through quickly, there are a few buds appearing now on some of these too, but not enough for us to guarantee a full tray.
We have a few more bulbs coming into bud as you will see from the list, but we are short on numbers for many as this was another trial run, more next year if all goes well. Anemone blanda White are really good but won’t hang about long. The Pulmonaria are coming on well with bud and stunningly blue flowers on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal, Mageste and EB Anderson all looking smart with bud and colour showing. The snakes head lily (Fritillaria) are produced their first few buds, plenty to come as spring rolls on.
Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers are just appearing.

Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Light and Hairy

Morning all,

Spring is definitely upon us and the stock is bursting forth, now we could just do with some pleasant weather to boost the throughput and get the lovely stock here into everyone’s garden. Although it can look very pretty in our net sided tunnels the bank balance will look ugly later if we don’t ship it out at some point. Not panicking yet but the spurt of growth put on over the last few days makes you realise things are really on the move.
I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear I completed the hat-trick of mechanical meltdowns last week after the potting machine died on two fronts. There was a quiet lull in the weather last Sunday so I got the sprayer out for a quick splurge on a few patches of weed around the edges of a couple of tunnels before we potted into them this week. A nice quick job to fit in around the others lined up for a well planned productive day. As I filled the sprayer with water and tested the electric pump, water ran out from where it shouldn’t. A whopping split in the spray-line pipe just where it goes into the motor housing. An obvious point of stress, it always bends at that point and it was bound to happen one day. Spent an hour on-line finding the part number and sourcing a replacement by which time I had recovered my cool and returned to the offending kit and set about dismantling. It took a while, going down several blind alleys, taking out the wrong bolts and odd bits dropping off, but eventually I was able to disconnect it all, shorten the line and reassemble, with hardly any parts left on the bench at the end. All now working perfectly and just the one day lost!
The new LED lights are doing wonders for our electric consumption, February was down 27% and March so far 36%. That’s £204 towards the £10,000 cost! Smugness all round. The daily meter reading hasn’t been this exciting for ages. I’m off to our sustainable business network meeting next week so looking forward to some back slapping there. We also have a session due on helping us through our Green Impact entry which is due in on 24th March ready for assessment and auditing. We have completed all the Bronze level stuff and made a start on the Silver so just need to check we are on the right track. I’m even looking forward to the audit, the young folk running it are so enthusiastic and up for it, I am hoping to soak some of it up.

2017 Catalogue
Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;

Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)

Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the world’s resources)

Availability highlights
A lovely flush of growth on many lines showing how life in the garden is returning after the winter break. Chunky Lupins and Delphiniums are looking great, full of vigour and promise.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also appearing on Apricot Twist, Fragrant Sunshine, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep.
Pulsatilla have shot up in the last couple of weeks with masses of bud now showing, a bundle of colour in the making. Brunnera are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, buds of those delightful forget-me-not blue flowers are appearing now.
Helleborus Crown Purple are now throwing up their flowers, we have limited stock so don’t miss out. The other colours are in shorter supply and selling through quickly, there are a few buds appearing now on some of these too, but not enough for us to guarantee a full tray.
Dicentra spectabalis have burst through, their flower buds already in evidence. The white form has arrived now as well.The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and stunningly blue flowers on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste both looking smart with bud and colour showing. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, attractive burnished foliage and with the first flower shoots and bud showing.
Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. A compact and early flowering selection, it will flower on into the summer if old shoots are removed.
Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers are just appearing.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Time for Hairy Alliums

Morning all,
A bit of a grey weekend but definitely signs of spring in the air. I hope Doris didn’t cause too many problems for you, the turbines certainly liked seeing a bit of wind, we nearly caught up with this month’s running average. It’s been a disappointingly settled winter so far down here, so we are not going to get any financial bonus from the turbines this time, it’s a good job consumption is lower so we can keep on the export side of breakeven. We had a very busy week rushing around with orders trying not to get blown off the road. After the forecast on Thursday we delayed our little comedy van deliveries as it rolls about a bit already even before you add the wind. A wise choice in the end I think. To top off the wind worries I had an NBIS meeting with our local nursery group to discuss the latest figures and industry issues and made the mistake of opting for leek and spring onion tart with a side of onion rings. A few too many alliums I fear. Well worth it, the meeting was really productive, a few good ideas to bring home and an upbeat feel to things despite costs for everyone beginning to escalate with the exchange rate changes since Brexit. This is often a good one, there is plenty of potential to come in the season and few disappointments yet!
With delivery demand beginning to take off we are running around trying to finish off the winter jobs before we run out of time. The spring potting started this week once the orders were done, which was exciting, except the potting machine refused to play ball. One of the drive chains jumped a cog or two on starting up and the drill ended up drilling between the pots instead of in them. A mild panic ensued to stop it before any damage was done and then a dismantling operation to uncover the chain, reposition and re-tension it. Naturally the chain tensioner was at its maximum setting so we made do for the moment and ordered a new chain to fit later. We ran on for a few minutes before the hydraulic take-off arm, which pulls the pots off the machine onto the conveyor belt, went on a go slow. It’s been a long time since this happened but I vaguely remembered repositioning a mount before for the hydraulic rocker cover that controls the air going to the arm and sure enough a movement of about 1 mm overcame the slight wear on the rocker. Frustrating stops to the production but the successful repairs were very satisfying.

2017 Catalogue
Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;
Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)
Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also appearing on Apricot Twist, Fragrant Sunshine, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep.
Pulsatilla have shot up in the last couple of weeks with masses of bud now showing, a bundle of colour in the making.. Brunnera mac Variegata are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, there are more buds appearing now, with a few on the green form too, always popular early in the year with those delightful forget-me-not blue flowers. Dicentra spectabalis have burst through, their flower buds already in evidence. The white form won’t be far behind.
The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart with bud showing. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, attractive burnished foliage and with the first flower shoots showing. Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. A compact and early flowering selection, it will flower on into the summer if old shoots are removed. Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers will be following shortly.

Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 20 February 2017

Proud to be hairy

Morning all,

Joy of joy I finished the LED light installation on Monday, I can’t quite believe it is all done it feels like I have been living in there for weeks. It’s quite a relief to everyone else as well, because we were then able to have a real tidy up, clearing despatch and the label print room where piles of fittings, tools and cable had amassed. It took another two days on and off to clear up all the debris, sorting out the different piles of recycling and reusable stuff but it’s all more or less clear now. Just the recycling man to arrange to pick up all the electric bits and all those fluorescent tubes. Thankfully the electric use has dropped off with quite a step, using another 20% less overall for this week, although the overall saving is more because some lights have been in for a few weeks already.
We have been invited to apply for the Winchester Business awards which we did win a few years ago. It’s a lovely event but we didn’t qualify in recent years due to the lack of dosh left at the end of the year! Now we are rejuvenated in our finances and our sustainable endeavour (having signed up for Green Impact) we thought we might put in a bid for this year’s event in the Green Business of the Year section. It’s never easy working out quite what to put down on the entry form, it’s not a very British thing to do, blowing your own trumpet, but we’ve had a go. It has ended up being quite a positive experience so far, it’s quite rewarding to actually put pen to paper and list some of your achievements over the years, it is surprising how they mount up. Almost proud.
A little bit of pre-season tension is creeping in, are we going to finish the winter jobs before it all kicks off? Will it kick off? Is it going to rain all year or will there be a drought? Have I spent too much overwinter and are we running short of cash? (I already know the answer to that one) When is the new van going to turn up? Will we need more bodies on site? Where is the next batch of labels, boxes, plants, cakes? Can we please have an extra day in the week? Ok now I need a lie down. Just a few days of milder weather and the plants suddenly look really saleable with a nice bit of spring growth appearing on many lines and more and more bud threatening to show. It’s all go, just need a nice run of sensible weather please.

2017 Catalogue
Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;

Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)
Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by. The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also appearing on Apricot Twist, Fragrant Sunshine, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep.
Brunnera mac Variegata are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, there is the very occasional bud showing but too few to guarantee bud at the moment. The green version is close behind, always popular early in the year with those delightful forget- me-not blue flowers. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, great foliage bronzing and with the first flower shoots coming.
Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. A compact and early flowering selection, it will flower on into the summer if old shoots are removed.
Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers will be following shortly. We have a small number of new bulbs we are trying out this year and a couple are in bud already, Scilla are opening prettily and the Muscari have healthy fattening buds. Get them while you can.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Brr Hairy Pots

Morning all,
Nice to see a bit of winter weather, nothing too serious just feels really cold. Hopefully it will knock a few bugs back although judging by the number of colds hanging around it hasn’t helped the humans. The longer cold spells really seem to suck the heat out of the house after a few days especially when the cold breeze picks up and we have had to resort to the central heating as the log burner has been unable to keep up. Still I shouldn’t beat myself up I suppose, we are at least trying our best. The cold is holding up growth on many plants although it is always surprising how many lines are already showing signs of spring excitement and how life enhancing a display can look. Not much colour just yet but I suspect it won’t be long. With signs of spring in the air I am panicking slightly with the number of winter projects still to get finished before we get really busy. I always picture the winter as a long period to invest some time, and this year a little money, in making lots of improvements around the nursery. But time always seems to get the better of us, by the time we have got Christmas out of the way, many staff are on shorter hours and the weather plays its part, it is all over too soon. I have to rush back into the lab growth room in a minute to finish mounting the new LED lights and plugging the last few in, it will be a great job done but would have been a lot easier in an empty room rather than a room full of plants. The new lab store is finished and packed full of stuff again which means we have nearly got Despatch back to normal, just a final clearout and reorganise to do there. I can’t quite believe how much of the old lab cold-store we reused, recycled, or used for fuel. The longest life story goes to the aluminium shelving that originally came out of one of our first delivery vans, which was first recycled as the old cold-store shelving for plants and has now been remade as racking for storing the lab media. I will put this story to an extra use by recycling it through the NUS Green Impact scheme we are now enrolled on, should go down a storm, although the much of our earlier recycling goes down to being a really tight nurseryman!
Looking back I think we will be pleased with the winter changes, lower energy use, more efficient lab facilities, a new roof cover over the lab has stopped the weather making its way in, more ground cover to reduce herbicide use, the installation of a new drainage system to reduce the open ditches and flooding and eventually enable us to collect more water for the irrigation. It’s all go.
Keep up the good work out there in the cold, it’ll be warmer soon.



2017 Catalogue

Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;

Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)

Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already in bud, it will be a while before much colour shows but the plants are strong, hardy and bushy. Also now bud appearing on Apricot Twist and the lovely Red Jep. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart.  Although some plants may look sad for a while after a hard frost, they soon perk up again if left to recover in their own time. Ideally they benefit from a bit of protection from the harshest conditions to keep up the good looks, but try to avoid too much warmth.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Lighting up my life

Morning all,
Nursery ramblings should be back next week, I have to shut myself away for the rest of
the weekend (again) in the lab growth room fitting LED lights, ooh it must be
such a fab lifestyle working on  nursery!

Just a quick reminder of the catalogue link below.
I have added a pdf version below it as I have been asked for a printable version of
the file and this is easier to print from than the flipbook.

The 2017 flipbook catalogue link is;

http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/
(This onscreen version is best viewed on desktop, laptop and most tablets but not on mobile phones)

The 2017 pdf catalogue link is;

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0 (This pdf version is best viewed used if you desperately need to print off a version of
the catalogue. It is a very big file due to the large numbers of images in it.
We would encourage you to use the flipbook version instead which saves more of
the worlds resources)

Keep warm,
Derek