Thursday, 19 May 2016

the herb pot project phase two

The robins have fledged in the pot shed.  I had to go in this morning because I needed a pot, and there was a little brown bird in the nest, no red breast, which must have been a youngster.  When I went back in the afternoon for another pot the nest was empty, but a scruffy brown bird suddenly shot erratically up the shed.  I don't know how many babies the parents brought off successfully, since I've rather left them to it since discovering they were in there.  Perhaps it was only the one. They are messy nest builders, robins.  There were piles of leaves and vegetation in three other pots besides the one they finally nested in, and the Systems Administrator said there was an abandoned half-built nest in the workshop.

Meanwhile the rabbits have eaten the hollyhocks by the blue shed, or at least something has grazed most of them down to leafless stalks, and I think it was rabbits.  A few other things in the area had been eaten down as well, and I'm not aware of a hollyhock stripping caterpillar.  I don't mind as much as I would have now that it's only a couple of months to go until the new ant-rabbit squad will be out on patrol.  I'm still cross, though.  I like hollyhocks and I grew those plants from seed.  It's a lot of effort to go to waste, with the sowing, the pricking out, the growing on and the planting, only for a pest to munch through the lot.

My Lewisia pot project is finally planted up.  I ran into a snag, since having ordered enough plants for two pots, I discovered when I came to plant up the second that I could not physically get the Lewisia leaves through the holes in the pot.  It is a very arty pot, bought years ago from a pottery in Manningtree, but instead of removing a disc of clay from each planting hole the potter had cut a slit, and pushed the lower edge of the cut outwards to make a lip, and the upper edge inwards. The arcs of clay protruding into the pot made it impossible to bring the crown of the plants flush with the inside surface of the pot.  Wedging the root balls at an angle sloping away from the hole might have worked for a trailing plant, but was no good for a rosette former like a Lewisia.  I broke a few of the fleshy leaves of one plant experimenting, before realising I would have to pull the plants half to bits to plant them through the sides of that pot.

I decided the answer was to buy another pot, though the project was beginning to balloon out of hand because I'd then have three herb pots.  Herb pots are not so much in fashion as they were twenty years ago, but I hoped I'd find one lurking in a corner at one of the local nurseries.  I struck lucky at my first stop, the Clacton Garden Centre, finding a nicely shaped pot with only four holes in the sides, but a wide enough top for the remaining five plants.  It looked as though it had been in stock for virtually twenty years, price label long dropped off, a patina of lichen and a thick layer of pine needles inside.  I resigned myself to a wait at the till, or alternatively to trying a bit of haggling and offering ten quid for it.

The man who served me said he would go and check the price, and disappeared.  His colleague, seeing me standing there after a couple of minutes, asked if I needed help and I explained that his colleague had gone to look up the price of the antique pot.  The price, when the first chap returned, was £9.99, remarkably close to my guess of a tenner (unless he couldn't find a price in the office but thought that £9.99 sounded less made up than ten pounds).  I remarked that £9.99 had been worth more in those days, and bore my ready weathered trophy away in triumph.  It is a long time since you could buy a thirty centimetre by thirty centimetre herb pot for under ten pounds.

It looks well planted up, and I have high hopes of the scheme.  It was noticeable, though, how much growth the first lot of plants had made since being moved into a bigger container compared to the second lot which had sat in their seven centimetre pots on the hot concrete, even though they'd been kept regularly watered.  The latter were flowering more, which I take to be a sign of stress.  I will report in due course how they did next.  Meanwhile I have a spare herb pot sitting under the greenhouse bench.  The moral of the story is to inspect your materials more carefully before starting these projects.  I blame the robins, discouraging me from rummaging freely in the pot shed.

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