Professional Gardener - Christmas: rotas, decorations and events

Now is the time to make sure that all your Christmas preparations are on track, says Sally Drury.

Christmas

With only two months to go until the festive period, it is time to make sure that everything is in place for pre-Christmas events and then the holidays.

Staff rotas

Holiday forms should be submitted. Hold a staff meeting to discuss cover for security duties and monitoring of greenhouses and conservatories.

Decorations for the big house and church

Check over the baubles and tinsel, try the lights and replace damaged bulbs. Make sure that foliage, especially the holly, has been identified on the estate or prices sought where it has to be bought in. Put someone in charge of designing garlands and wreaths. Order wire and ribbon so that they are ready when needed.

Spruce up the gardeners' mess

Do not forget to decorate the mess room. The next few months will almost certainly be cold, with the sun rising late and setting early. Add some colour to lunchtime breaks. Perhaps one of your local suppliers can help with some decorations.

John Deere is offering an advent calendar - with a snowy JD tractor as its theme - for £4.16. The company's Christmas stocking also includes green/yellow 60mm baubles decorated with the JD logo (£11.72 for four), a 12cm gingerbread tractor (£3.85) and a light chain of 20 white filament bulbs inside plastic lamp shapes printed with the new John Deere 8R Series tractor design (£34.68). Go on, Christmas should be fun.

Events

Craft fairs are popular in the run-up to Christmas and do much to swell visitor numbers at those estates remaining open throughout the year. It is also a great time to sell some of those winter-flowering bulbs potted earlier. Consider staging demonstrations on typical subjects such as winter flower arranging.

Liaise with catering and ensure that advertisements are out in plenty of time. Who's for carol singing? Why not team up with a charity to put on special event with a guest appearance from Santa?

Christmas dinner/party

A happy team is a productive team and there is nothing like a social get-together to say thank you for your input, get ready for the holiday or even, in some cases, to air grievances.

Discuss the idea of a Christmas lunch or dinner with the entire team, agreeing on a venue and menu with all concerned rather than springing it on them as a surprise.

Winter kit

Several of the well known weather forecasters are predicting snow as early as next month. Take time to inspect all snowand ice-clearing equipment, whether its is a small plough, a blower or simply a walk-behind salt spreader. Top up your salt and grit bins.

Hedgehogs

Yes, they eat earthworms, but they get through far more slugs and snails. Hedgehogs should be viewed as friends and encouraged to stay. Right now, they are preparing to hibernate.

While we all know it is vital that we check bonfires before lighting them on 5 November, it is also important to ensure that hedgehogs put on weight by the time that they bed down for the long sleep. A saucer of pet food, with a few biscuits and some water, should keep them happy.


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