It's a pity it snowed on Mother's Day. Not many people want to spend Sunday walking around a plant centre while wet snow, verging on sleet, falls on them, Mothering Sunday or no. The owner had stocked up specially with scones and cream for the occasion, but most of them were surplus to requirements.
I finished putting the rose delivery out for sale, spotted where my backwards working through the alphabet had got 'Charles de Mills' and 'Charlotte' the wrong way round, and then finished removing the old coloured bed labels and putting them up again in the right place now that all the roses had moved, except for 'Alberic Barbier'. Some new labels had come with the delivery, but to re-use the old ones I had to prise the old staples out with a pair of scissors. Walking around in the sleet, trying to unstick a pile of plastic coated labels from each other with gloved hands that were getting wetter by the minute, and fixing them to wooden boards with an industrial-grade staple gun, was a vaguely depressing exercise, especially at half past eight on a Sunday morning.
After that it was time to ring people whose plants had arrived. Calling somebody who was asking for so-and-so in February 2013 is OK, and you feel rather efficient doing it. It isn't too embarrassing to call about requests dating from before Christmas, say in October or November. Especially if the plant concerned is a bit tender, it isn't unreasonable to be getting new stock the following spring. Calls about queries dating from last summer are slightly cringe-making, particularly if it's a fairly bread-and-butter, ordinary sort of plant the customer was after. If the request was placed in 2011 or earlier you really have to draw a deep breath before picking up the phone and dialling.
Some people are thrilled their plant has arrived. One seeker after a Eucryphia lucida 'Pink Cloud' sounded so happy that it had finally arrived, you'd have thought I was calling to say she'd had a small lottery win. However, one woman sounded ferociously hostile until I'd managed to make her understand I was ringing up about a rhododendron, at which point she became charm and happiness personified, and apologised that she had been so guarded before, but she thought I was ringing from a charity soliciting money. My colleague braved the man who had been waiting for Picea breweriana since 2011, but he'd already found one elsewhere. He must have placed an order with every nursery in East Anglia to be on the safe side, since she had great difficulty in making him understand which firm she was ringing from. Mostly we got answerphones, which saves our blushes in the case of a very old enquiry, but means we risk reserving plants for weeks before the final realisation that the customer no longer wants that plant, and is not coming.
The forecast for tonight was for temperatures down to minus 2 degrees, which was our trigger in the list of instructions from the manager to cover various vulnerable species with fleece. We began at four, tucking fleece over the rows of pots, or lifting them into trolleys and wheeling them under cover, and it took over an hour. We ran out of fleece in sensible widths, since you really can't make a decent job of covering a bloc of pots with fleece that's narrower than the area you're trying to cover. and our remaining pieces were only a metre wide. In the end we broke open new packets from the shop. The boss discovered us doing this, and was rather grudging in giving his permission that if there really wasn't any more old fleece in the pot store then we could raid supplies. I felt no compunction at all. We were told to fleece the lupins, Digitalis, Ceanothus, lavenders, Nandina, alliums, gladioli, Cistus, Astelia, Phygelius, and Brachyglottis. That's a lot of pots, and we had to cover them with something. No bricks without clay.
Tomorrow my colleague is due to fly out to Cyprus on holiday. The temperature out there is forecast to be 25 degrees. Nice.