26 September 2013 By Marina Christopher
This year, 2013, my 30th year as a nurseryman, I decided to open the nursery only by appointment, a radical change from anything I had done before. The nursery world has changed considerably from when I first started in 1984 as a small wildflower nursery in Oxfordshire.
With the exponential increase in Plant Fairs and online shopping, visitor numbers at the nursery had decreased dramatically to a point where it was questionable whether it was worth opening on a regular basis. So we took a major step and changed the modus operandi at Phoenix Perennial Plants.
I have been incredibly fortunate as a nurseryman and had incredible opportunities as well as being blessed with some amazing helpers and staff who have become great friends. I have evolved through several nurseries, first Wild Flower, then Firecrest Nursery in Southampton, to Green Farm Plants and my last incarnation as Phoenix Perennial Plants. My plant palette has remained loyal to flowers that attract beneficial insects although the species I grow has constantly changed and expanded. Now I can serve world-wide plant cuisine to the hordes of insect visitors to the nursery.
Through my partnership at Green Farm Plants I met and worked with many leading garden designers and the gardens at Bury Court designed by Piet Oudolf (walled garden) and Christopher Bradley-Hole (front garden) attracted and still attract large numbers of visitors. My move to Phoenix coincided with an invitation by Frances Lincoln to write a book on ‘Late Summer Flowers’. Published in 2006, this book has led to a gamut of opportunities. I was dragged kicking and screaming to various book signings where I had to give a talk about the book. To my surprise the response to these talks was very positive and I started to receive requests for talks at garden clubs and societies. I was then invited to teach at a number of plant schools and write a few articles for some national gardening magazines. I run courses at the nursery on propagation, pruning and several other specialist subjects so my initial task as a nurseryman has changed considerably.
So back to the beginning – whatever has happened to Phoenix?
I was so concerned that closing the nursery except by appointment may lead to destitution that I signed up for each and every plant sale, garden opening, village fête, and talk that I could. Consequently I have been running around all year like a headless chicken with a great deal of flapping and my promise to have Open Days at the nursery have failed to come to fruition. We are about to change that...and next year 2014, there will be more regular Open Days throughout the year.
We will be opening the nursery on the following dates:
Cake, nibbles, hot and cold drinks will be available until they run out so first come, first served. Courtesy of my lovely helpers, Jo, Fiona and Sarah and maybe some contribution from me. For photos of cake and events past do see: http://plantheritage.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/myth-busting/
Saturday 19th October (10-3)
Bulb, late summer flowers
Just before the clocks go back (a rather depressing time for me) we have a last stab at bringing some late colour to the garden and the promise of bulbs for the next growing season. Many plants will be reduced by 30% in an End of Season Sale if there are any left by then!
Friday 22nd November (10-2)
Bounty for gardeners
What to give your gardening friends or yourself in the season of goodwill to all gardeners? Last November we tried our first November Open day and had a wonderful time eating and drinking as well as selling a few gardening goodies to those hardy souls who turned up on the day. We had such fun we decided to do it again!
Next year I really should have a website to keep you informed about our activities and our Open days. Meanwhile email communication email@example.com works well, unfortunately I have a poor mobile signal here so the landline 01420 560695 is the best option.
Hope to see you soon.
Marina Christopher (September 2013)
Phoenix Perennial Plants, Paice Lane, Medstead, Nr. Alton, Hampshire, GU34 5PR.