Getting while the Getting is Good

February 18, 2022

It’s a sign of the times that tomorrow we’re heading out to a local peat bog to do a day’s volunteering that was originally scheduled for (checks notes) … March 2020. We’re not quite at the second anniversary of lockdown, but it seems we have reached the point where we are now busy uncancelling all the things we had to cancel back in those uncertain times (and watch this space for more news on that front). I was especially pleased to see that New Nearest Village is once more running its annual Fairtrade event complete with coffee and cakes in the village hall. Village hall baking-related events are the best kind, and I’m looking forward to a rock’n’roll spring of cycling around as many of them as I can find out about and hitting the tray bakes as only someone who has suffered a two-year coffee morning drought can do.

cake spread

This hasn’t been a cold winter, but it has felt like a long one (perhaps even two years long …). Everyone I speak to seems to be in the same boat: uncertain, nervous, fed up, but ready to cautiously emerge (adjusted to our own individual risk appetites) while the emerging is good. Today I headed down early for the paper before Storm Eunice got going (in the end she largely passed us by, fortunately) and I could hear a lark singing above the wind and the rain. I don’t suppose the lark meant it as anything but birdspeak for ‘get orf my land’, but I am choosing to take it as a sign.

pine sapling

Going Cheap

May 13, 2013

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for the village plant sale. Any village plant sale, to be honest. While I can walk round a garden centre quite easily with my hands in my pockets and remain untempted by all the glories on display, there’s nothing like a trestle table full of miscellaneously potted plants, some labelled, some not, to get me forking out the cash. Throw in a tea and some home baking and it’s an afternoon made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. Last year the village plant sale didn’t happen, so this year as soon as it was announced I had it in the diary and yesterday afternoon I set off in the teeming rain on the Brompton to get there before the vultures descended.*

It was a miserable afternoon but the turnout was pretty good and the plant selection was wide if a little random. There was a very knowledgeable gardener manning the stall which was helpful as nothing was in flower and despite working for over a decade at Kew Gardens, my plant identification skills have not advanced much beyond ‘legume’ and ‘not a legume’. As the prices ranged the gamut from 50p to £1.50 it didn’t really matter what I bought anyway. The good thing about these sales is that people mostly donate plants that have grown well and spread themselves in their gardens so you know that most things will do well in the prevailing conditions. This is also the bad thing about these sales – one punter did sail off with a tray full of Lady’s Mantle which spreads itself like wildfire, despite even the woman manning the stall trying to dissuade her. Still, one person’s invasive nightmare is another person’s useful ground cover and as long as there isn’t too much ground elder and bindweed root lurking in the pots I should end up ahead on points.

loaded Brompton basket

So here’s my booty – whatever it is. I’d have bought a lot more but the Brompton basket was getting quite full and I had to leave room for the home baking. Plant stall lady did tell me what most of them were but my brain refused to retain the information – it can’t remember people’s names, why on earth would it manage with plants? One of them is a shrub with berries that blackbirds like. Two of them are ‘special’ foxgloves, reason for specialness not entirely clear. One flowers in July, which is useful and was described as a ‘really good doer’. One had other sterling qualities that seemed enticing at the time but which I have now forgotten. And one of them was a mystery both to me and Plant stall lady, but at 50p was worth a punt. Waiting to see what emerges is half the fun…

* you’ve got to be quick: theoretically it started at 2:30 but I knew all too well that the people bringing plants arrive earlier and get first dibs of the good stuff, so I was there by 2:15 and it was already heaving. They just don’t do fashionably late around here.