Visiting your local DIY superstores or independent garden centres are both great for picking up smaller plants, but if you’ve a reasonable budget and don’t want to wait years for plants and trees to become more established, investing in more substantial specimens is a way to get immediate impact in newly designed gardens or bare corners.
I currently have two garden designs on the go, one here at Moregeous Mansions and the other at our community Baths. Both are healthy sized spaces and have been fairly blank canvases to work with, meaning budgets could all too easily be blown sky high. Although I’m lucky that the perimeter of my garden is fairly established, the two central sections have changed dramatically and are now wide open areas, meaning piddly little plants would be totally lost. Likewise with the Baths, the new seating area at 5m wide and the large white pergola are crying out for plants with some oomph!However, here’s the thing, mature planting can be very costly and on neither do I have an unlimited, spend what you like budget. Spending a fortune on greenery when you still don’t have a kitchen (home) and are working within a limited grant (Baths) means buying smart. Here are my tips, because there are ways of finding high impact beauties at reasonable prices.
- LOCAL NURSERIES
Those in the know will travel a little further afield to pick up something a bit different and it’s well worth seeking out the local nurseries in your town, or counties nearby, which specialise in larger trees and plants. Google ‘mature trees / shrubs’ or ask local garden designers / landscapers for advice on where they go.
Last week we made an hour an a half round trip from Manchester over to StoneCrop Nurseries near Doncaster and I couldn’t be happier with our haul. Small, often family run nurseries tend to be out in the countryside on quite large plots to allow them to grow and store semi-mature trees and large plants, but they don’t often advertise very well and can sometimes be a bit of a local & trade secret.
I’d met Robin from Stonecrop at a trade show and bought a huge 9ft wisteria at half the price it would have been from a garden centre. He said they’d lots of mediterranean style trees and large potted herbs so I hoped it’d be worth the trip, and my every expectation was exceeded. Not only did I find another wisteria, but fabulous fig trees, giant agapanthus, a luscious lemon, seriously large sage & lavenders, towering digitalis and a whole host of other treasures.
Places like Stonecrop spend their days potting and repotting, cultivating growth and looking after their stock, ensuring plants which are almost guaranteed to flourish into life when popped into your garden. The quality of these larger plants is often far higher than the DIY sheds, in my experience.
So, on the hottest day of the year, sweltering in the hothouses, Helen and I were like excited kids in a candy shop, both with that tummy turning feeling only garden lovers will know when faced with a plethora of gorgeous looking greenery at perfect prices!
The only downside to the day? That I hadn’t put dibs on the two huge viburnum quickly enough at the trade show and someone else had snaffled their snowball sweetness!
Just to give you a hint, this is what the new Agapanthus and Agastache look like now they’re planted up in my office garden at the heart of the new setts. Lush huh? 🙂
- GARDEN / FLOWER / TRADE SHOWS
Watch out for RHS or other flower shows local to your area and make a date in your diary to attend. Trade sellers exhibit stunning new plants and flowers, show gardens sometime sell off large plants which they’ve displayed and specialist growers have everything from shade lovers to sun worshippers.
A few years ago at Tatton, I picked up a rather spindly 6ft tree for £20 which the seller swore blind to me was a treasure. I trusted him. It’s now double the size, with elegant waving beaches, deep green leaves and the most stunning white draping orchid flowers come July. You simply don’t get that sort of purchase at chain stores.
I saw StoneCrop at a salvage show, and wasn’t expecting to come across great plants there but it totally made sense that people buying large decorative items, especially for outside, would also be wanting large trees etc. I’ve also seen unusual plants for sale at farms shows and on stately home visits – its always worth keeping your eyes peeled and some plastic bags in the boot of the car.
Got any good tips or great places in the UK for mature planting? Please do pop them in the comments below.
Remember, you don’t have to buy everything big and it’s part of the fun of gardening to allow plants to grow and develop, sometimes it’s even a fabulous surprise, like my orchid tree. Go large for structural areas or where you need decent screening, or to give instant height to a particular design.
Good luck with yours! I’ll post some more pictures as we get our treasure planted x
PS When you do go on your treasure haul, make sure you take a van that works…. this was us ion the M62 on the way home with a van full of plants!!!