Driving to hoe

Don would drive the Land Rover with one of the old hands beside him in the front. The rest of us sat in the back, on the bench seats that ran down either side. The journey  was made from a nursery in Langport in order to work on fourteen acres of land used for growing herbaceous plants.  An schoolboy who knew nothing about plants would not have been entrusted with anything responsible, instead the rows of plants had to be hoed. A tractor was used for clearing weeds between the rows, those growing between the individual plants had to be cleared by hand; the hoe would cause blisters on the palms of the hand that would eventually harden into calluses. It was tiring and boring work, the only consolation was that the journey to and from the land was made in working hours. A slow journey there and a slow journey back could take an hour off the eight hour working day which began each morning at 7.45 and finished each afternoon at 5.00, no-one was paid for taking breaks.

Only years later did it occur to ask the question as to why did the nursery grew plants on land that was so distant from its premises. The best suggestion was that the soil was different, that plants which did not thrive at the main nursery might grow well in the soil of the fourteen acres at South Petherton. Perhaps they might: nursery plants were unpredictable species. Sometimes they might not grow as  people had expected, or sometimes they might not grow at all.

Irritated customers sometimes arrived at the nursery with a complaint, intent upon imparting a piece of their mind to the nurseryman responsible for the fact that their plants had not thrived. Standing in the packing shed one afternoon, Don, the foreman, spied a woman crossing the yard from the office, a determined look on her face. “Here comes trouble”, he muttered.

The woman opened the door, “I want to speak to the foreman. I was told I would find him here.”

Without flinching, he said. “I’m terribly sorry, madam, he’s not available this afternoon. May I give him a message?”

Don particularly enjoyed the opportunities to be in South Petherton, where no-one could find him. Although this week he would have been busy in the sheds, preparing plants for the annual trip to Chelsea, where old Land Rovers would have been a rare sight.

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2 Responses to Driving to hoe

  1. Vince says:

    Having a look on the map I’d say because South P is a good 100 foot higher it has better drainage. Meaning the plants wouldn’t be waterlogged. But mostly I’d say since they were meant for sale they would have to be lifted so lighter soil would be a boon. Nurserymen would go looking for sandy ground or loam with a strong sandy element. I suspect where you are is claggy clay. Great for grass, but not so much for anything in a drill. But I’m spitballing here for your area wouldn’t be well known for nurseries, not like Herefordshire, Cornwall of Suffolk anyway.
    If you get a chance to get to Chelsea, go. It’s well worth a trip for the experience. If you can get early in the week all the better. I’ve been many times and think for the plants Hampton Court is better and some of the North England shows are good too.
    How do I put this, Chelsea week is the time when backwoods people who hate London come up. While the exhibitors, particularly those in the tents, are utterly delightful, totally mad of course, but good real people.

  2. Ian says:

    The nursery featured strongly in last week’s ‘The Road to Chelsea’on BBC 1 – it is supplying plants for six of the show gardens. Forty thousand plants have been grown, of which twenty thousand will be selected for the show.

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