Sunday, 21 April 2013

in the yellow book

Today was practically a re-run of yesterday, but with the added excitement of the garden opening for The National Gardens Scheme in the afternoon.  Yellow book openings always seem to bring some extra visitors, who have failed to grasp that at times of the year when we are open for the scheme, we are open anyway, seven days a week.  Today both gardeners came to work to marshal the car park in the afternoon, which at one point hit capacity, with no space for any more cars at all.  Tomorrow it will probably be possible to stroll round the garden without meeting another soul, though the cafe may not be doing cream teas by then.

Many of the customers commented to us on how busy it was, and how pleased we must be, and how nice it was to see the place so crowded.  I think that's partly why some of them come on a Yellow Book day.  Far from preferring the solitude of the birds and the fritillaries, they seem to enjoy the company, and the buzz, and the chance to see what other people are buying.

We took a convoluted phone call from one public-spirited and enterprising person who had found a purse.  She didn't say where, but I gathered not in the plant centre, and that the purse did not include a contact number for its owner, but did contain one of our receipts, dated today.  Working on the basis that the purse's owner was likely to call the places she had visited recently, its finder called us too.  It is truly a very small world, since I recognised the name of the purse's owner as a fellow mature student at Writtle, whom I still know to chat to, though not to the extent of having her address or phone number.  She'll probably be in touch.

I said yesterday that time spent on the till tended to even out, and so it was that today I did some long stints in the shop.  Award for the most competent customer of the day goes to the man who had spotted that a lot of the plants he was buying were priced at £3.95, and had lined them all up in a neat row so that I could see instantly how many there were.  He was in the minority.  There were also several from the 'There are five lupins' brigade.  Yes, madam, but three are in square pots and cost £3.95, while two are in circular pots from a different supplier and only cost £3.75.  Also the 'There are three delphiniums, five sedums and two foxgloves' squad was out in force.  I don't need to know whether they are delphiniums, sedums, foxgloves or a new species previously unknown to science.  They are all in square black pots costing £3.95 and there are ten of them.

The man who started boxing up the plants in his trolley while I was still putting them through the till was a nuisance too.  He thought I had done all of his pink scabious.  I had not done all of his pink scabious, because the way I make sure I charge for everything once and once only is to work my way systematically across and down the trolley.  I could try and pull off the trick that waitresses in Thai restaurants seem to manage so well, of remembering the entire customer order without writing any of it down, but I don't have that good a memory, so I don't trust myself to come to the end of the trolley and remember that I've already charged for the pink scabious.  I just work through the contents of the trolley systematically, row by row.  The only thing I want to know at that moment is where the plant is, how much it is, and what till category it goes through.

I was able to use my horticultural skill and knowledge to suggest that a shrub with small, pink, pea shaped flowers and delicate leaves that a customer had lost, after trying to move it without success, was probably an indigofera of some sort.  I showed her the photographs in Phillips and Rix's illustrated book of shrubs (which is a very useful book, though some of the blues come out pink) and she thought that was probably it.  Poor woman, she had even grown on some seedlings before digging the shrub up, but her gardener had weeded them out by mistake.  I couldn't think of any other likely candidate.  She was sure the shrub had been in the pea family, but she would have recognised a broom.  The pea family is amazingly large, including all the tropical species.  The boss lent me a book about it once, written by a friend of his and published by Kew.  I don't think it made the best-seller lists.

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