Newsletter No. 10: December 2010

Enough is enough; even William (11) is now bored with the snow. What a hellish couple of weeks for our bare root tree suppliers. Digging plants out of a foot of snow in temperatures down to -10 is not the perfect prelude to the Festive Season. Thanks for your efforts, which have meant that we are only running into real delays for a small handful of orders. Whether it had anything to do with my article in the FT or not, we’ve had a good season for fruit trees in particular, which has been very encouraging.

We hosted a successful course last week on Starting an Orchard, with tutor Kevin Croucher of Thornhayes Nursery. The next one, on renovating older fruit trees, will be held on 25th January. See the website for details. 2011’s schedule also includes days on meadows and wildlife ponds.

New Products

Hilliers will be launching our new meadow product at the Garden Press Day in February. Hannah McVicar and Jenny Steel are also now working with us on the project, and the result should be gorgeous. Watch this space! We are also working with Butterfly Conservation on a special readers’ offer of gorgeous mixed native wildflower plugs, selected particularly for butterflies and/or moths.

Thank you

Thank you everyone for all your help and support this year. The progress we’ve made has been fantastic, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Happy Christmas!

Oh, and by the way, if you would like to subscribe to this newsletter by email, you can sign up here.

A Little Outing

A quick trip to the Marches last week to visit a couple of folk and the Malvern Show. I’m not going to mention any of my normal Show gripes, but concentrate on the positive. The nice thing about the trip was the strong sense of what Common Ground would call “local distinctiveness”. It’s part of the world that hasn’t sold its soul.

I got off to a good start by visiting Jenny Steel in Shropshire to have a catch up over a coffee, and thence to Plant Wild, outside Leominster. Plant Wild is the brainchild of Keith Arrowsmith and Suzanne Noble, who are growing and harvesting native plants and seeds. Keith, like me, is a refugee from an altogether different world. Fingers crossed we might work together and we can sell their locally harvested meadow seed mixtures.

Overnighted at the Three Horseshoes in Little Cowarne. The Good Pub Guide rarely lets me down, and I’m always amazed with the quality and value our best independent pubs provide. Local produce – food and drink – the watchword. Lovely Wye Valley Bitter and fantastic draft cider from Oliver’s, which as it turns out is just down the road. And some bloke came in and bought a round of a Becks and three Carlsbergs. Sigh.

Set off for the Malvern Show with some trepidation on Saturday – my thoughts on Gardening Shows are well documented, so I won’t go over them again. Gorgeous day though, and had a lovely time. Spent most of my time in and around the “Good Life” tent to avoid the tat. Met up with Ian Roger, my main fruit tree supplier, whose amazing display of traditional apple varieties won him a Gold medal. He was even more chuffed by the response from the punters to his stand. More Perry and Cider tasting, of course; particularly liked Severn Cider’s Perry and Cider – good luck to you.

This Bloke Walked into a Pub with a Szechuan Pepper...
Bravura performances by Mark Diacono and that Joe Swift (he should be on TV), and John Wright. Mark and John were promoting their new books, which are rather good. EVERYONE with an interest in food and the countryside should read them. God knows, we all need a bit of inspiration at the moment. I wonder if social historians of the future will talk about a River Cottage movement and its impact on food. And what nice people, too. Talking of which, there were various bloggers about, including Veg Plotting and the Patient Gardener, who it was nice to see – albeit briefly. I wish I could have stayed longer for a proper chat.

Heavy HorseTo cap a fine day – and before I got lost in the ludicrously unsigned carpark – I was asked to sell Perry Pear trees at the show next year. Delighted to, especially if it means another stay in Little Cowarne. I wonder if I could sell some local seed for Keith and Suzanne too. Oh – and I almost forgot – here’s a heavy horse photo for my mum.

Vinnie the Vole

Limey and Vinnie
Limey and Vinnie

Vinnie is the friend of Jenny Steel, and I couldn’t resist posting this photo from her Facebook album.

Planted up wildlife pond
Our New Wildlife Pond

He hangs out in her potting shed where he chats to Limey, but mostly just eats. He is keen to point out he is no way responsible for the voles currently destroying my lawn. Jenny is, however, responsible for our spanking new pond – it was one of her excellent wildlife gardening days that got me thinking about putting one in. It’s going to be fantastic.