Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A great insight to how a plant nursery ticks

It's been a while! My final term at KLC has now started and it's full steam ahead to complete the Diploma in Garden Design by December. By the way, some of my work has managed to find its way onto the KLC Diploma website I've linked to, namely hand-drawn visuals I produced for our last project at a primary school in Wimbledon. Scroll through the image slide show on the page and you'll see some of my ideas for the school's proposed new garden. The pictures are only quite small so the detail is tricky to make out but I think the essence is there. These images were presented directly to the kids so I chose a bright, bold and colourful style. Picking the right presentation style for the right project is important and it is the fun part! I love trying out new sketching styles by hand and now combined with 3D computer programs such as Google Sketchup (free to download, easy and fun to use). Also, a quick plug for our final exhibition which will be at KLC in Chelsea Harbour on Tuesday 13th December. So near and yet so far!

To my blog post subject. For most people, their first and only port of call to buy plants will be their local garden centre. Garden designers source their plants from nurseries on behalf of their clients, they don't just pop down to the local garden centre. Nurseries propogate and grow on plants, and good nursery owners are passionate and highly knowledgeable plants people who produce beautiful and healty plants. So, top tip: find a local nursery! Many are open to sell directly to the public as well as trade, and they are significantly cheaper than garden centres. They are often fairly low key and tucked away, try using the RHS Nursery Finder to hunt a local one out.

I knew this summer would be the perfect time to find out a bit more about how a nursery ticks. Some behind the scenes knowledge of how nurseries propogate plants and bring them to market is invaluable to any garden designer. Getting to nurserymen/women with specialist plant knowledge has to be a good thing too!

So with that in mind, I spent six days in August at Pioneer Plants a wonderful nursery near Letchworth in Hertfordshire. I bundled my bike on the train from Finsbury Park and cycled from Letchworth station to the small village of Willian where Pioneer is situated. (I got soaked virtually every day on that cycle ride which is testament to the state of the summer weather!)

Propogate your pinks. These Dianthus cuttings
I took at Pioneer Plants
will hopefully be strong plants by next year
Pioneer Plants - nursery near Letchworth where I spent
several days in August (many of them grey like this!)

Pioneer Plants is run by John Hoyland and Nick Downing and the nursery specialises in growing what they described as a "wide and eclectic" range of plants, mainly perennials both hardy and tender. I learnt so much from them as well as staff Delith, Rachel and Karen who are mines of information and experience. I also ate a lot of very yummy cakes, as the days spent taking cuttings, potting on growing plants and tidying up plants were punctuated by enjoyable breaks for refreshment! It really was a fun experience as well as being a very useful one for my work as a garden designer as well as my skills as a gardener - taking cuttings is actually very easy and it of course means free extra plants for the garden, not that we have any more space in ours at the moment!

Rachel tidying up a Pelargonium stock plant
ready to take cuttings - I was doing the same on the opposite
side of the bench

Delith taking cuttings of Verbena bonariensis (below), her favourite
(I think that's why she's looking so happy about it!)

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