Gardeners’ Holy Grail: Nursery Open Day

Safaris

With the dogus in tow, one very determined gardener hustled down the motorway to attend the last open day of the year, at the renowned Crocus nursery. As Crocus is not open to the public, with sole access to their wares available online, the open days are normally a prominent fixture in my calendar.

Our garden is simply chock-full of delightful Crocus horticultural offspring, and offspring thereof. Consequently, being able to visit the mothership itself, is a real treat. There is nothing quite like wading through aisle after aisle, brimming with fantastic plants. Subsequently, the purchase of excessive quantities of plants, including plants one never heard of, nor ever expected to purchase, is very much on the cards here. Unstinting wallet in hand, emptied car, here we go…

It is difficult to recall where shopping is as easy and relaxed, as it is here. On arrival, one is presented with a number printed on a set of stickers. As you make your way around the nursery, find a plant of choice, you simply mark the desired specimen with your number and the rest, as they say is history.

Crocus Open Day
Handsome Sedums touting for a new home
Crocus nursery open day
Stunning array of plants for purchase
Crocus nursery open day
Crocus' finest for purchase
Crocus Nursery Open Day
Extensive selection of plants & varieties
Crocus Nursery Open Day 2011
Crocus employees picking selected wares for collection
Crocus nursery
Plants on their way to new owners
Panicum Virgatum Rehbraun
Proud new addition to the garden; Panicum Virgatum Rehbraun
Crocus Nursery Open Day
Crocus employees picking selected wares for collection

A team of friendly, orange clad Crocus employees, swiftly collect all numbered plants and bring them to the payment area. Once there, the plants are carefully placed in corresponding numbered trays, ready for payment & collection. Genius. No need to push around trolleys, or carry anything during your visit. I wish airports could work as efficiently as this. Mind, with this system, purchases are very easily made, as there is no physical contact with one’s mountain of plants, steadily swelling at the exit.

The attraction to come to one of these open days is not just in the friendlier pricing, but very much the layout and organisation of the plants in the nursery grounds. One is met with stunning, praire-like, sways of flowering plants, in the respective blocks of colour, all beautifully arranged. Indeed, one can always go to a garden to see this, but like yours truly, there is usually a strong itch to purchase the new (or revived) favourite. That is joy of this exercise; you can actually buy the display! Very much in the style of the last day of the Chelsea Flower Show, but without the throbbing crowds or the tedium of having to carry anything.

Like many I am sure, it is inspirational to see collections of plants and respective varieties clumped together in such numbers. The effect is stunning. For most of us, difficult to emulate through lack of space, but some elements can be incorporated, be it on a smaller scale. The rows of flowering sedums seen at last years visit have subsequently led to a very popular Sedum hedge in our kitchen garden.

At home, our bookshelves are bulging with books on plants, but there really is no better introduction to plants than to see them in the flesh, so to speak. There are always new plants and varieties to admire at the open days. Now that need not mean, that yours truly heads to Crocus simply for a mindless plant binge. On the contrary, a list of plants is a prerequisite, but one keeps an open mind. For instance, for some time, I have been toying with idea of grasses in the border, but never quite found one that I liked or one that would ‘fit’ the Greenhouse Borders. Until yesterday, that is.

Meet my new addition; Panicum Virgatum Rehbraun, commonly known as Panic Grass. Simply stunning plant, with deep purple and green spikes, which will provide structural interest and great autumn colour in the border. According to the gospel ‘Dream Plants for the Natural Garden’, by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen, the Panicum Virgatum is a robust plant, good in any garden soil given full sun, late season grower, and the leaves of which start to turn red/purple in summer. Quite a tall plant, growing to 1.25-1.5m, so will probably find itself somewhere in the back end of the border. I’m delighted to have it. Dudley (dog) certainly approved as he was all too happily nibbling at them, over the back seat of the car, on our way home.

Now, it would be untrue to say that the Panicum (x3) were the only purchase. I am proud to say that some restraint was successfully exercised, so fewer plants came home than usual, but still a fairly good haul; Veronicastrum Virgicum Album (x1), Lysimachia ephemerum (x2), Echinacea Purpurea Magnus (x1), Aster Umbellatus (x1) and Eryngium yuccifolium (x1).

Now all I need to do is plant them…