|Tom Mitchell with Boophone distichum the plant everyone wanted!|
As you know I do love a Press Launch and whilst the Sea of Immeasurable Gravy offices are invariably inundated with requests for my presence I only take up the very special ones. Tom Mitchell's new venture 'Evolution Plants' sounded intriguingly special to me.
Driving through Somerset in torrential rain was not a good start to the day - it's a county as badly signposted as rural France. Luckily the lovely Jane Southcott, PR extraordinaire had sent easy to follow instructions on negotiating the maze of country lanes to the Evolution Plants nursery near Bradford-on-Avon. Even so, and despite arriving at an enormous sign for the Nursery, I still foolishly followed a taxi (believing they must know what they were doing) further down the slightly pot-holed lane and into somebody's front garden. My fellow 'Ladies who Launch' will remember from our last road trip that I have form for organising a quick drive round innocent people's gardens.
Finally joining the gathering in one of the posh poly tunnels, we were treated to coffee and home made biscuits (the ones with ginger in were the best for those who like such detail) and an interesting and engaging talk from Tom Mitchell. Tom has spent the last five years travelling the world as a modern day plant-hunter, collecting seeds, propagating, cultivating and trialling them - the result being Evolution Plants nursery. I won't go into all the detail as Veg Plotting has written informatively about it here and Enduring Gardener here. For me the interest was in the incredible passion Tom feels for his work. I thought about how much I have enjoyed photographing dragonflies this year and how easily it slipped from being an interest to an obsession, the excitement of seeing a different dragonfly new to me and the heart stopping moment when I capture a good photograph of it. I can only imagine how Tom feels when he first finds a rare plant species and even more so when he has managed to propagate it.
|I don't know what this little beauty is but I need one!|
This last year I have finally stopped visiting the chain garden centres to buy plants - the dreary displays of same old, same old, surrounded by acres of household tat and Christmas grottoes six months out of season, just drained me of the will to spend money. Their loss has been the smaller and specialist nurseries gain, I've bought either directly from them, at garden shows or online. Searching out the nurseries is my version of modern day planting hunting! I used to be against buying plants online, wanting to view, inspect and be tempted by some bright-leaved healthy beauty at a plant centre - but this needs to be weighed against the pleasures of perusing a good website at my leisure, reading about the plants and their habits and being given a great deal of CHOICE!
So what a joy it was to wander around poly tunnels filled with different and exciting plants. The nursery is only open to visitors by appointment at the moment but Tom also wisely appreciates the value of drawing people in with the website. His is peppered with amusing and informative descriptions of the plants, written by Tom himself.
After the talk, lunch - and what an excellent lunch it was too - a buffet of delights which made me wish I had performed the 'OldMaSock' trick of taking a tupperware to the table to fill with goodies for later. I was sorry to only have one slice of cake as there were several different types. Tom gave us all a free plant and I was rather pleased it was a Trautvetteria similar to a thalictrum with clusters of white flowers in summer like little bursts of fireworks. These are the only ones in cultivation outside of Tennessee so I hope y'all feel very jealous.
Leaving the nursery I retired with VP and Victoria to the rather lovely Castle Inn in Bradford-on-Avon to catch up on garden news and gossip which I have been sadly deprived of this year - what better way to end an interesting day?