This morning I went and bought more mushroom compost to spread on my new crescent of flowerbed. Eight bags went on remarkably quickly compared to applying compost to the established borders, when you are working around the crowns of the existing plants, and weren't enough to finish the job, so after lunch I went back and bought another eight bags. In an ideal world I'd have designed the front garden so that there was somewhere for bulk loads to be tipped, but I didn't, so bags it is. The local garden centre supplies it by the truck load, or by the thirty litre bucket, leaving a bottomless bucket in the yard so that customers can measure out their purchases. The bucket has had its bottom cut off, and the theory is that you stand it in your bag, fill it, and then shake the contents into the bag. Following the recent rain the current load of mushroom compost is lumpy and about as sticky as treacle, and clumps together instead of shaking through the hole, so I stood my bags in the bucket and filled them until it looked about a bucket's worth. The garden centre supplies a plastic shovel as well, but I take my own stainless steel spade since life is too short to try and dig spent mushroom compost with a plastic shovel.
I noticed on my first visit that the garden centre had got both pot grown and potted Christmas trees. The Systems Administrator and I had already agreed that this year we had better not get a full sized tree or put lights on it. It's a shame, we both like Christmas trees, but the kittens are still very kittenish in many respects, and we were pretty sure they would want to climb the tree and chew the light cable. Spending the festive season plucking cats out of the tree and pleading with them not to electrocute themselves, alternating with picking up the shattered remains of cherished baubles, sounded like hard work. I had suggested that I could get a small tree and decorate it with the ornaments that would not break, with no lights, while the SA proposed putting lights along the top of the bookcase in the study. A nice little pot grown tree could be just the thing.
I checked the plan with the SA at lunchtime before going back for the second load of compost and the tree. The key thing to check is that your tree is pot grown and not merely potted. These came with shiny tags promising that they had lived in pots from seedlings and been repotted several times. That is what you need. A potted tree has merely been dug out of the ground and stuffed in a pot. This is likely to be a shock to its system from which it will not recover any the better for spending a couple of weeks in a warm room. It may or may not survive, or drop half its needles in the meantime. I spread the pot grown trees out a little so that I could see their shapes properly, and picked out the tallest, bushiest and most symmetrical one. It was a very nice plant, almost three feet tall excluding its pot and about as much across, and I felt quite affectionate towards it as I put it in the car. I shall nurture it very carefully next year, and if it does OK it can stand outside the front door next Christmas. Not a bad morning's work, having an excuse to charge a new pet conifer to the housekeeping.
Meanwhile, the Systems Administrator managed to salvage some usable lengths of wood from the old pot shed floor, and has built an extra compost bin, and Mr Fidget caught a fully grown rat. All in all we've had a productive day, though I don't suppose most people's idea of a nice trip to the garden centre includes loading two boot loads of steaming ordure into plastic bags.