The plants are growing, the weather has been glorious, the evenings are getting longer so there was only one thing left for it to truly be the start of summer and that was a get together with some plant friends. I mentioned in one of my early posts how my obsession has been helped a lot over the years by people I met on plant forums, something if I am honest I still find a strange to say out loud. I have made some good friends over the years and every year we get together to visit garden centers and public gardens. This Sunday a few of us did the rounds of some of our favourite exotic nurseries.
The weather could not have been better and driving through Oxfordshire was as beautiful as ever. The first destination was Cotswold Garden Flowers which has to be one of the best in the country. Worth visiting for the labels alone, although others like the large parts of the nursery which have been planted so you can see how your purchases will look in the future. For me this is very dangerous; I dread to think how many plants I walked passed without a second look in the actual nursery, only to have spotted them in the planted sections and gone back to buy. Sadly like the rest of us, the succulents were really badly hit this winter and stocks were very low. For the first time ever I came away without a single succulent! It was not all bad though as they had a lot of podophyllums in stock and I was also on a shopping trip for a garden at work, so spending someone elses money I bought a few of these my favourite has to be podophyllum delavayi:
I loved the shape of this one, although I also got spotty dotty and kaleidoscope which probably have more colour.
Next was onto Vale Exotics and it was here I was hoping to do some serious damage to my work plant budget. No garden in the UK can solely contain succulents, lack or sun, or the need to fill space means that inevitably you end up with beds full of other plants, even if these are just as exotic. In my case one side of the garden is in shade most of the day and has a little, or should that be tiny, fernery. I love tree ferns and would have more if I had space, so it has always been a dream to buy a couple of very large ones. The work garden finally allowed me to do this and I bought a 7foot and 5foot plant. You will have to forgive the lack of photo, I managed to save it in black and white by accident, and while some photos look atmospheric this one just looked bad.
Sadly again the nursery had been badly hit this winter and they were waiting for most of their stock to come in, so no new spikies their either, so off to the last stop Akamba. This is one of the most unusual nurseries you will ever visit, the layout is chaotic and you can feel like you are getting lost, there are little jungle huts with tables everywhere for food and drink among the plants and everywhere there are pieces of African art and giant metal animals, including life size giraffes and elephants! Take a look at their website for the full effect. Finally a spikie, at last I hear you say, the new yucca of the moment yucca aloifolia purpurea.
It is going to be interesting to see how this one develops, although there are reports it is not as hardy as most which is a same. Kel from Akamba was on-hand to welcome us and explained that they were getting more plants in every week and that the succulents would be arriving next week (not exactly want you wanted to hear when you had just driven 2 hours to visit them). It didn't spoil the visit though and my OH was thrilled by the lack of plants for me to purchase.
Finally it was into the car park to hand over plants we had been saving for each other or wanted to swap. Whenever a group get together from one of the forums there is also a swaps session in one of the nursery car parks. It is a bit like a spontaneous car boot sale and the owners of the nursery come out to have a nosy, see what plants we are interested in and often leave with one or two plants themselves. As this was more a gathering of friends most of the plants were reserved for specific people and I handed over all the agave utahensis I had bought for people and in return got a few plants myself. One of the best is this agave franzosinii pup from D&D.
They had been looking after it for me over winter, which is something I hate doing as it is bad enough worrying about your own plants without worrying about a plant you are holding for someone else! I also collected a new aloe suprafoliata. As you can see it is going to take some time before it starts to spiral and gets to the stature of the plant I lost, but it is good to have it in my collection again.
Of course this was not all I picked up, I was given many other lovely plants and the generosity of the people at these get togethers is one of the things that make them so enjoyable. New plants, a day spent with friends and all in glorious sun shine what more could you ask for.