Friday, 24 December 2010

Season's Plantings

I know it's been a while since I posted just for the fun of it (as opposed to trying to sell you something), I think it's about time though, and an opportunity to wish all my customers A Great Christmas and an Excellent New Year.
The main nursery news is that I'm on the look out for a patch of land to rent to expand the nursery onto. Already I've outgrown the space I have (basically a suburban garden). The greenhouse bench has over fifty new pots of seeds already and if even only a small fraction germinate I have no idea where I'll put all the babies. Of course, I'm hoping that a large fraction will live so that's even more of a problem. At the moment much of my stock is protected in a polytunnel at Stonepit nurseries near here in Henfield (thanks Neil). He grows mostly summer bedding so his tunnels are largely empty at the moment, but come the spring....
Perhaps you could help me find a place. It'll need to be very close to home so I can get over there regularly, and since most of you are not local you won't be able to help with that - but do any of you know how one might go about locating local landowners who might be interested? I have a few in mind that I'll visit in the new year. I reckon I'll need not more than an acre, at least initially, somewhere reasonably easy to find and pleasant for customers to visit. It needs to be open and sunny (more so than here) and suitable for building display beds and benches (plus of course the poly tunnel and a potting shed), and it needs to be for at least five years. Anyway, any advice would be very gratefully received.
So 'What's in the pots?' is what you really want to know. What's new for 2011? Well hopefully a whole lot of stuff you won't have heard of. The internet is a wonderful thing for locating obscure items that no one else is offering. I've had seed sent from all over the world, but mostly the USA, including from a couple of botanically minded friends I met on Flickr who've sent me exciting things from California. There is of course something of a risk in that the plants are not thoroughly tried and tested in the UK, but that's half the fun. Gardeners all over the UK have been very adventurous of late - trying out all manner of 'hardy exotics' and succeeding with a surprising number even through the last three winters. I'm a huge fan of the Correas - an Australian group that flowers at this time of year and has proven remarkably tough. On the left there is C.Marian's Marvel. This and others should be available later on in the year. Another Australian, Grevillea victoriae is also flowering well in it's pot in the open at the moment, and has been since October despite snow and frost. I hope to be able to offer some later in the year.
Most of the new things will be spring and summer flowering though. I'm trying out a whole lot of species from the mid-western USA at the moment - in particular the wild species of Penstemon - a hugely neglected genus of over 250 species varying from tiny cushion forming alpine and desert plants to some quite substantial shrubs. Most are very cold tolerant (unlike the well known bedding hybrids) and in a stunning array of exciting flower colour and form including clear azure and lapis lazuli (always sought-after colours in the garden.) Most need a very sunny, freely drained site which makes them ideal for gardens on chalk or sand or gravel and especially in the south and east. It's been something of a fashion of late for nurseries to specialise in plants for cool, moist, shady conditions - Tricyrtis, Deinanthe, Anemonopsis - to name but a few - all excellent plants, but sometimes difficult to grow well in this part of the country. If you don't have a dry sunny garden, species Penstemon are excellent in raised beds and pots, but for people with a parched impoverished border where 'nothing much will grow' they should definitely be considered. Anybody who's into the hardier American Salvia or Agave should have no trouble.
In a similar vein I've also been working with Asclepias - another little-grown North American group, often from the same habitats. The appeal is less obvious perhaps but for those who appreciate something a little different they are well worth a look.
Besides these I'll be offering an increasing range of choice shrubs, climbers and perennials, almost all chosen because hardly anyone else offers them, and I'll be revealing them in this blog as they become available through the year.
Anyway folks - thanks for your custom and hope to hear from you again.
Take care on the ice and have a very merry time.