Friday, 15 April 2011

The supermarket gardener

I try very hard not to go to the supermaket hungry, for fear of buying everything sweet and chocolatey the store has to offer. I'm not sure how to avoid the same thing happening with plant shopping. As a retailer I know we put temptation in your way so you can do nothing but buy the shiny sunny-faced beauties we entice you with.
I really don't want anyone to stop buying in the ravenous way I do on an empty stomach, but somehow I feel a duty to help people buy in a way that leads to a beautiful garden all year round and not just for the one sunny day we had in April that year.
It wasn't that long ago that people had to buy in autumn/winter because it was the only way to buy plants. It's a hard way to buy but what it did was make people think about their garden for the whole year and plant for the long term. I love that we can all buy and plant for the whole year but sadly it doesn't make us buy for the year. It makes us all dribbling, plant lusting zombies that cannot control their urge to buy the 'precious'. I have seen two women lock eyes across the plant area in a blood chilling dash to the last Erysimum Bowles Mauve or Choisya Sundance. It is only once the plant is secured that the blood lust subsides and the air is filled with calm once more.
I have, in the past, waited until that moment and then brought out a trolley laden with four different colours of Erysimum just to see what will happen. It's a sad thing but very entertaining.

So what do you do instead of the supermarket sweep? My advice is simple and also just that: advice. I wouldn't dare tell a woman to think more carefully about her shoes or wardrobe and equally I'm not brave enough to do that with plants. What I would say is to apply a more interior approach to outside.

If you want a cool garden then fill it with greens (Hostas) and blues(Nepeta and Festuca glauca) and other cooling shades. If you would like a  garden hotter than the very pits of hell then fill it with Crocosmia Lucifer, Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff and Rudbeckia Goldquelle. In the same way as a Crunchie makes a poor sandwhich filling some plants will not fit your garden no matter how much you want them at the garden centre or nursery. 

I feel guilty telling you all not buy on a whim because, as a plantsman, my garden has very seldomly been manicured or tailored to a colour scheme. I would also say that anyone who has met me would probably pass that comment on my general appearance. In my defence the plants are usually a little out of the ordinary or querky and so would seldomly work well with other plants. As for my wardrobe ther is little I can offer in defence.

I have two very good friends who are extremely adept at choosing plants for schemes and designs but they do work on large scales. I think it is more difficult for small gardens but also tremendous fun. If you have a large garden I would encourage mass plantings with points of interest. Hellebore underplanting with Catalpa or snake bark maple, Digitalis and cherry or crab apple trees. In a large garden individual plants really get lost without a canvas to place them on.

I'm unsure really why I started this blog in particular but I see a lot of shopping trollies filled to the brim with fantastic plants of all sorts of colours. They look amazing.... in the basket and I can see the aim but feel it will never be exactly what the customer was looking for. Our time is really stretched in the nursery at this time of year but all of my staff will always help with the practicalities, and I think it is worth a quick natter with someone before you take home the beginnings of your Capability Brown moment.

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