It is at this time of year, every year, that people say 'I expect it's getting quieter for you now?'
Frankly it couldn't be further from the truth.
I am in the enviable position of being a grower retailer that has control of both the stock I order in and the stock I grow. This has advantages in abundance.
I can grow the crop so know if it is easy or difficult as a young plant, and I can explain why we don't grow things that people think are fabulous. It also means that I get the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. There are more advantages but this is the one that, this year, stuck in my mind as one of the best.
Choosing next year's crop is a long job but one which is very fulfilling. I get to look at the stock we grew this year and in previous years, and a new list of plants; and I get to blend the two to produce a mixture of stunning, understated, practical, ridiculous or simply popular plants for people to enjoy.
What I am trying to explain is that I get to try a little of everyone's pallette and to add some unusal things in 'just because', and all I have to do is convince my staff and the customers who seek my advice that these plants are the best.
Retailers all over the country would groan at the prospect, but to me it is the easiest thing imagineable. I chose it because it was the best of a selection of colours; I grew it because I know it won't struggle and cost the world to get a finished plant; and I put it on a bench for sale because I knew it is worthy of a place in any border or pot. It is not because a model in skimpy pants told you it's good and it's not because a boxer told you it would grow as well as he fights. It is purely and simply that it is a terrific plant.
I recently listened to a talk by Pat Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald Nurseries) about plants and plant use and how it is down to growers and retailers to focus their plant stock at the spaces available. I know it sounds basic common sense, but for years we have ignored it and just grown the same as we did last year.
Landscapers and architects are also to blame for getting too comfortable with the pallette they are using and, because of customer feedback, are frightened to chance a new variety even though the promise is massive. For example: the most likely Geranium to be seen out and about is 'Johnson's Blue'. Don't get me wrong, it is a blinder but as I thumbed through a hundred plus varieties yesterday evening I wondered how it had remained on top for so long.
I still know landscapers whose staple is Cotoneaster horizontalis or Hypericum 'Hidcote'. Grasses must not step out of line either - in that Stipa gigantea and Festuca glauca still list high.
You can't throw caution to the wind and abandon all the favourites but you could try and break out with some crackers. With the new breeding that is available, more of the new varieties should be out there rubbing shoulders with 'Johnsons Blue' and Festuca glauca. Be a bit Victorian - find something new!