Newsletter No. 19: November 2011

Much to do, as ever. We’re starting to ship fruit trees, which reminds me, belated congratulations to R.V.Roger, one of our fruit tree suppliers, who not only won a Gold at Malvern this year but also the coverted President’s Trophy at Harrogate. Good job guys – a fiver well spent!

New Products
We’re launching a new range of solitary bee and bug boxes. Like other sales through the website we’re donating 50% of profits to a charity partner, in this case the invertebrate charity Buglife. We generally stay clear of selling “stuff”, as opposed to seeds and plants, but well designed bug boxes do work and engage people’s interest. They’re attractive too, which is important to us; promoting biodiversity doesn’t mean the garden has to look like a biohazard. The boxes come in 4 different sizes, working up to the regal Buggingham Palace, and are priced from £21.50 inc. VAT and P&P. They are individually made in a small workshop in Dorset from locally sourced materials.

We are planning to be at the following shows in 2012 with our spiffy new signage – hope to see you at one of them:

Ecobuild, ExCel Centre, London
20th – 22nd March
Chelsea Flower Show
22nd – 26th May
BBC Gardener’s World Live, NEC Birmingham
13th – 17th June
Game Fair, Rutland
20th – 22nd July

(Social) Media
Unlike Tom Archer’s footballing pigs we’re not a social media sensation, but as I write we’re a gnat’s breath away from 1,000 mostly sane and mostly interested followers on Twitter. The 1,000th follower of @Habitat_Aid wins a packet of Meadow Anywhere wildflower seeds. I’m also on LinkedIn and failing to understand Facebook properly too, so there are lots of ways of staying in touch with us. Oh, and, of course, the blog toddles on – latest offering is a guide to planting native hedges.

Fruit Tree Management
The next of our orchard management days is on the 19th January. Tutored by well-known nurseryman Kevin Croucher, this one day course is an invaluable and practical introduction to establishing and caring for traditional fruit trees. Sign up now to avoid disappointment!

Habitat Aid Newsletter No.5: 13th May 2010

This cold dry weather is a nightmare, but I suppose at least it’s given me time to sit down and write a newsletter. I’ve been a very busy boy over the last month, so much to catch up on.

We ran our first course in April, which seems to have been a great success. Tutored by Hugh Roberts of Environments for People we all learnt how to build a wildlife pond, now sitting in front of me. Thanks to Hugh and to our wetland plant supplier Gower Wildflowers. The pond’s already populated by a selection of interesting looking invertebrae, and the swallows are collecting mud from it as I write. All very rewarding. Next off are our meadow days, run by Sue Everett, on the 11th and 12th June.

I flogged up to Sheffield last week to go to an intriguing workshop on Green Roofs and Living Walls, which is an area we’re keen to get more involved with. We already have a relationship with a consultant, and supply generic native seed and plug mixes for green roofs, but hope to do a lot more in future to encourage folk to plant native plants rather than just use the sedum mats they have done in the past. Green Roofs in particular seem to me to be a fantastic and practical way to encourage biodiversity in urban areas – among other advantages!Green roof in Sheffield

I also hope we can do more work with seeds, where we are starting to supply end business customers directly. After a successful trial we are supplying the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA Enterprises Ltd.) with two native seed mixes particularly helpful for bees, which I have high hopes for. We’re also supplying Flowerworld with the seed for a 50,000 sachet promotion at Morrisons to promote the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Our other bee related news is that we’re expanding our range of plants and exotic trees for bees as a result of some suggestions from Andy Willis at the BBKA Spring Convention and Norman Carreck at the Laboratory for Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. They’ll be supplied by R.V.Roger and available from this autumn.

We are seeing the first fruits of our work with designers, sourcing native plants for some very exciting schemes. We’re both promoting those currently working with habitat creation in mind, and encouraging others to think about it more.

As to life here, Kingsley the new ram has been a success and the mad Runner Ducks are laying again, albeit mostly not in their Duck house. My bees are happy too, and I’ve set up a couple of bait hives for them. Mike the gardener’s grand veg plot looks great and our various mini-meadows look promising too – if only it would rain!

Poll Dorset in the orchard
Post Kingsley moment in the orchard

Points North

R.V.Roger, Pickering
A Proper Nursery
I had a good time on my trip last week. First stop on Wednesday was Pickering on the Yorkshire Moors and the obliging Ian Roger, who runs R.V.Roger – a proper plantsman running a proper nursery, a thriving family business founded in 1913. Although we use Ian for fruit trees and bulbs he has a fantastic collection of seeds, roses and herbaceous too. Then off to Crayke and to the lovely Dutch House, where you can find an arts centre with a cafe, and an eco garden with wildflower meadows (from Habitat Aid seed!).
Art Courses in Crayke
Dutch Art Pig
It’s the brainchild of Cecile, a graphic designer, and Sjaak, the manager of the museum gardens at York. The site is lovely, with a stream running through it to boot, and on a circular tour around the village which takes walkers right through the meadow area. Good luck to you – it’s a venture that deserves to succeed. Wednesday night spent as the only guest at the Strines Inn just outside Sheffield – another proper Yorkshire job – the Good Pub Guide triumphs again. Sheffield on Election Day at a pretty thought provoking Green Roof workshop, then a drive to Louth past endless oilseed rape fields (no bees) and Hawthorn hedges (no Blackthorn).
Louth, Lincolnshire
Exquisite Copper Beech, Louth
Stayed up much too late on Election night and somewhat hung over for my meeting with Steve the seed man, but stayed awake enough to flog over to the Malvern Show that morning. Malvern was slightly anticlimactic to be honest, but met some good folk including Gilly from the British Plant Nursery Guide and Brigit from the Big Green Bus. I bought my annual Pitcher Plant from the ravishing Hampshire Carnivorous Plants stand, promising to look after this one better. Slept well on Friday.
North of Louth
A Long Way From Somerset

Perry Pears for sale

Another selling point for Perry Pears
Some good news from Ian Roger of R.V.Roger. I’ve rattled on before about the joys of Perry Pears, and I’m delighted to hear that Ian is starting to grow selected varieties, regardless of whether or not we can extricate any trees from the defunct Scotts of Merriott. He is beginning with Black Worcester, Gin, Green Horse and Sweet Huffcap, grown on Pyrus communis rootstock. If you would like to reserve any maiden trees for delivery from November 2010 please let me know. Woot woot.

Related Posts:
Perry Pears
Heritage Fruit Trees…A National Treasure?

Heritage Fruit Trees… A National Treasure ?

I had a very sad trip to Scotts Nursery at Merriott today. Scotts were a a byword for quality and choice in fruit trees, and had been trading since before the 1850s until the recent sudden and premature death of John Scott Wallis. One consequence of this tragic tale is that all their stock is now being auctioned off, with potentially catastrophic results for a number of rare traditional varieties which Scotts alone sold. Common Ground told me about someone locally who bought 300 apple trees at auction last week, of unspecified types “beginning with B, M, or W.” He has probably ended up with a lot of Bramleys, but he might have Bridgewater Pippins or Byford Wonders. He’ll never know, in all likelihood. Ian Roger of R.V. Roger, one of our key suppliers, has very kindly agreed to help to persuade the auctioneers to identify, re-categorize, and hopefully sell us some of the rarer trees. Let me know if you would like to be involved.