Visiting nurseries and gardens are one of the big pleasures of being a garden designer. Somehow there is never enough time to see all of the nurseries or all of the gardens one wants to but in 2015 I’m making a concerted effort to see one or other, possibly both, every month.
Rooting out excellent supplies is the reason for visiting nurseries, building relationships and seeing how things tick on a day to day basis. All vital. I want to know a nursery has good plant selections and stocks but also good hygiene practices, a minimum of weeds and staff who know what they’re talking about when it comes to plants. Why? you may ask
Obviously a wide selection of reliable, beautiful cultivars is helpful when supplying clients and comes into play when designing a garden. Not much point in specifying a rare fuss pot that can only be found in a distant nursery and likely not in any reasonable quantity. There are of course exceptions but I try to make them exactly that, exceptions! This doesn’t apply to rare MTB Iris of course as I can provide those without any trouble at all!
Hygiene is moveable feast and one woman’s hygiene is another OCD, apparently. When we bring plants en masse, or even just one from the garden center, to a garden we bring all kinds of things with them, foliage, flowers, soils and probably bacteria, bugs, potentially viruses and weeds. It’s a risk. One wants to bring as few weeds as possible, one wants to bring NO disease. Bacteria is on the whole a wonderful thing for helping establish thriving ecosystems for plants to grow in. Also consider that a plant that has had to fight with weeds for food and water is weaker and less well nourished than a plant that has had a pot to itself, been fed and watered regularly and appropriately. The later will be raring to go the other gasping for relief.
Knowledgeable staff can help with recommendations for awkward spots and substitutes when your desired cultivar is no where to be seen, advice on plants you have never grown or seen and war stories about the prissy and the thuggish.
Garden visits I will admit are all about borrowing ideas, seeing how planting schemes mature and develop in other peoples borders, being challenged with new modalities, materials hard and soft and reminded on many occasions of how good design is well worth the effort.