captivating nurseries

June 23, 2010

Another great thing about this job, apart from looking through hedges, is plant buying at small specialist nurseries. The large wholesalers do a good job but we find we need, more and more, rather unusual plants that we can place like jewels within the large cloak or headdress of an area of  planting. Not only do we owe it to our clients to provide a scheme that is thought about and, therefore individual, but owe it to ourselves that the new combinations satisfy us as designers.  I have filled many notebooks over the last 20 years with plant names; things seen in combination with other plants in gardens, landscapes whether large and small. I’m in the process of doing a large planting scheme which will probably take all my time over the next month, so out come the notebooks helping me refresh my memory on things noted down  – maybe some of the plants recorded will find a place in this scheme. Sometimes the names are written in another hand when pronunciation floors me. I can’t get enough of learning more and more about plants and visiting these unique nurseries gives me an opportunity to ask questions and generally bother  those in charge. The majority of propagating and seen sowing is done in-house by those who know a lot!  Recently I’ve been to find plants at the favourite nurseries below. The images are not necessarily of the plants available but more about the individual atmosphere and my personal attraction to it.

Usual and Unusual Plants is run by Jennie Maillord. The nursery is the nursery, plants set out on landscape fabric in sun and under shade tunnels without any show garden area where the plants are planted to show them at their best. Jennie may well have such an area but I’ve never found it or been invited to enter. What Jennie does so very well is set out her plants. mostly herbaceous perennials in  a colourful abundant tapestry – all mixed up so that there’s the most wonderful sense of discovery as the visitor moves through the groupings – sheer delight at discovery of a much hungered after little specimen such as Geum ‘Rubin’ and Polemonium ‘Purple Rain’ .

Very taken with this Erysimum ‘Onslow Sunshine’. Below is Erysimum ‘Parishes’ bought last year from Jennie planted with Tulip ‘Best Sellar’ . .  . . .

 . . and attracted to this group of Verbascum ‘Cherokee Butterscotch’ and Salvia ‘Dinah’

At Marchants Hardy Plants, items are arranged into pleasing compositions . . .

 . .  and there are planted areas within the nursery where the visitor can see how the plants sold perform in the soil. In the spring garden,  Melica uniflora ‘Alba’ (above) looking very attractive flowing out from the base of taller planting. Graham is starting to make strong statements with trees, areas of decorative planting and more natural meadows and watery areas . . .  

 . . and delicious weaving of the willow (it may be Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’) that thrives so well in the clay.

Madrona Nursery has served me well this year. It’s an architectural treat and reminds me of what used to be called The Low Countries . .

 . . this nursery holds a large range of trees, shrubby material, perennials and some exotics that have especially taken my eye and pennies this year . .

At Great Dixter, the nursery area is immaculately ordered – it’s been expanded to provide plenty of plants for all the visitors to the garden and by  mail order  . . .

 . . but at this garden, I like the way that the planting appears very natural, but of course, it is incredibly well managed.  The kitchen garden area . . .

 . . with things left to seed if they are attractive – love it . .

 . . and in the main garden areas . . .

 . . a real sense of nature sits beautifully with the more ornate . . .

 . . so this post is an indulgence! For me to enjoy and no doubt it’ll be updated endlessly. An extra indulgence and sort of connected, is to listen to Endless Pleasure  (Handel Semele –  with a very perky Renee Fleming) – suggest eyes closed and let it waft over you.

2 Responses to “captivating nurseries”


  1. If ever you find yourself in Saint David’s in Pembrokeshire, you must call here:

    http://www.stdavidsgarden.co.uk/

    It’s a delight. We never drop by without finding that a couple of hours have passed and the car is full of plants. Every time!

    Love the look of Madrona. That is the most extraordinary gate-house. Like the entrance to a monastery garden. Is there an explanation lying behind the design? It’s charming, but does seem like a bit of Mittel-Europe come to pay a visit.


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