Saturday, 23 March 2013


The alarm went off at six, and I dragged myself out of bed and took a sneak preview out of the window that faces on to the wood, to see if it had snowed in the night, and whether I would have to go to work.  There was a very light dusting on the leaves of the camellias opposite the dustbins, and that was it.  Work beckoned.  Oh goodie.  Not that I don't like my work, on the contrary, I generally do, but it's more fun when it's busy with customers than on deadly quiet days at a time of year when it should be buzzing.  And while I am a reasonably hardy creature, spending eight hours mostly outside while the thermometer hovers around freezing is quite tough.

The boss announced that he had a bone to pick with me, which was worrying and also faintly confusing as I hadn't been there since the start of last week.  I enquired what I'd done, but it transpired that the boss had been reading the blog and liked it.  Liked it so much that he presented me with a bottle of wine.  That was very kind, and totally unexpected, and certainly preferable to the alternative, which is that when your boss discovers your blog he sacks you.  He said he knew all about it, though he hadn't bothered reading it for the past eighteen months, but having returned to it he had enjoyed recent posts, and that for my information turkeys did not roost in trees, or catch colds.  Mind you, his turkeys tried to spend the night sitting on the lawn and he had to herd them into the chicken house, to try and teach them to go there at night.  If they don't learn about foxes they won't last until Christmas.

My first job of the day was to set out for sale the last of a delivery of herbaceous plants, that were still sitting in the trays they were delivered in.  We don't like them to remain in boxes, though some garden centres put them out for sale that way.  The trays look messy, especially once they are half empty, and we need everything to be in strict alphabetical order, in one or at the most two rows. The tables are getting fuller, to the point where sometimes existing rows have to be shuffled along to make room for new stock.  Today's setting out was made more difficult by the fact that most of the labels were coated in snow, and the plants were snow-covered lumps that could have been all sorts of things.

There were a couple of red trolleys of stock from The Other Side to be put out for sale as well, and I trudged around the plant centre lining up neat rows of Hydrangea, Cornus, Narcissus, Stokesia, and Origanum, gloves getting steadier soggier as I lifted snow covered pots and brushed slush off labels.  It snowed all morning, sometimes in flurries of heavy, wet flakes, and sometimes in a mini-blizzard of fine particles.  My feet began to feel rather cold, and I reflected that I must buy some better boots.  My right wellington has split over the big toe anyway, and would not be waterproof if I were to stand in more than a centimetre of water.

A few customers called in.  One bought a single bundle of bare root hawthorn hedging.  In some years you'd be pushing your luck towards the end of March with bare root hedging, but not this year. The buds are barely swelling.  Somebody rang to buy a gift voucher, someone else called to collect five trees, but his wife had already paid for them.  I did my best to drum up custom by calling people who were down on our list as wanting particular plants, if I knew the plants had arrived.  One woman who had been waiting for a year for Philadelphus delavayi professed herself absolutely delighted that we finally had some, declaring that she had been looking for it for years, since smelling one in Michael Heseltine's garden, and that I had made her day.  It is a nice feeling to have made somebody that happy, and helps compensate for the times when I steel myself to call someone when a long-awaited plant finally turns up and meet with scornful rejection.  They found one elsewhere, or planted something else, or moved house in the meantime, or can't remember why they wanted it in the first place.

The owner called me over the radio in the early afternoon, to say that it was entirely up to me, but that the snow was starting to settle on the roads and I might want to think about going home early. I sent one final e-mail, to somebody who was looking for a particular rhododendron and one Dianthus 'Desmond' (an unlikely combination), and my fingers stumbled on the keyboard.  I went home.

The Systems Administrator and I were going to visit the excellent Thai restaurant in Harwich tonight, but yesterday when I saw the weekend weather forecast I rang them and moved the booking to Wednesday.  The beekeepers' candle making session that should have been held today had to be cancelled, since it really wasn't a day for standing in somebody's double garage with the doors open, dipping wicks into vats of melted wax.  Surely spring must come soon?  Still, I'm glad the boss likes the blog.  All we need now is for it to go viral, and bring a flood of customers in search of the brilliant, bonkers corner of rural England that is the plant centre.  Chance would be a fine thing.

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