We visit a traditional nursery in Wiltshire that has been consistently winning gold medals and plaudits for their hard work.
On a recent autumn morning I was driving through some beautiful Wiltshire countryside en route to The Botanic Nursery near Melksham. This scenery along the way was a treat in its self. When I arrived at the nursery gate however, I realised that I was to be on a real journey of discovery.
This traditional family nursery is not for the faint hearted gardener who is after a six pack tray of summer bedding plants displayed on shiny benches. It is more of a destination for those who enjoy finding something new or unusual tucked in amongst a multitude of saleable plants.
I met the nursery owners Terry and Mary Baker who set up the nursery about twenty five years ago on what had been a two hectare commercial glasshouse site growing edible crops. The old timber houses now grow ornamental plants of every shape and size from the propagation stages through to point of sale. Propagation is a major part of the growing regime with approximately 99% grown from either seed or cuttings. The stock plants used for supplying the propagation material are planted all around the site with many large and unusual specimens on show.
Their adjoining garden contains an eclectic range of plants in a wonderfully tranquil setting. Terry Baker commented “We practice what we call Harmony Gardening. Wildlife is encouraged around the whole nursery site and as we are surrounded by a large private estate of two thousand acres, there is a lot of wildlife about.”
Terry has a great philosophy about the range of plants he grows at The Botanic Nursery, ‘We do not grow the Junk Food plants that appear genetically identical and are available at centres everywhere’ he continues ’we like to grow plants for serious gardeners that are not available in many of the larger centres.’
There is certainly much to see when visiting this intriguing nursery. The saleable plants are arranged in the sales beds not in long straight rows, but in groups of those looking good at the time. Stock is always at its best as it is continuously being changed when new material is available from the nursery growing areas. This practice also means visitors need to look harder to find that extra special plant tucked away amongst larger groups. The saleable plant beds also stock those plants that are showing particularly good seasonal interest by highlighting the need to make a visit at particular times of year.
Another reason to visit is to see the National Collection of Foxgloves. There are approximately twenty four Digitalis taxa to see in the collection with approximately forty five varieties listed for sale on the nursery website. There is an annual Foxglove Week held around the end of May / June with foxglove tours each day, the details for the next event will be updated on the website in due course.
Terry Baker is a great believer in passing on the enormous benefits of gardens and gardening, he adds “People who garden are keepers of the natural world.” He is passionate about encouraging people to keep learning more and he uses every opportunity to do so. The nursery was one of the first specialist nurseries to have their own website to spread the word far and wide. This is now a site full of information about the nursery and the huge range of unusual plants they sell.
Autumn colours on display in the garden collection
The Plant Shows
Terry and his team regularly attend the leading European plant events including all the major RHS shows and they received their fourth consecutive gold medal at Hampton Court this year. They also travel to France and other European venues to attend the leading plant fairs. “These plant shows play an important part in our calendar with over half a million people seeing our plants during any one year” says Terry.
Plants are sold all year round in containers with bare root plants available in the autumn and spring planting seasons. Details regarding opening times, directions to the nursery site and the range of plants available as mail order sales can be seen on the website.
The Botanic Nursery is owned by true plants people who are committed to growing plants that will attract serious gardeners from all over Europe. A visit will provide a great horticultural experience and there will be serious temptations for all plantaholics who venture in.
View across to the old timber glasshouses