When I first starting thinking about running my own nursery I didn’t know anyone in the industry and would have loved to have the chance to volunteer on a plant nursery to learn the ropes.
Thinking back to those days and how much I could have learned from others, I would like to offer aspiring gardeners and horticulturalists the chance to volunteer at Hare Spring Cottage Plants this year.
Perhaps you are studying horticulture or are just keen to learn more so that you can put it into practice in your own garden. Whatever the reason, I can promise plenty of fresh air, fun, variety and knowledge. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I love sharing everything I know and have learned about hardy plants.
Every day is different on the nursery and there are always plenty of jobs to be done. You might even find yourself getting prized show plants ready for RHS Chelsea Flower Show!
Hare Spring Cottage Plants is based in the beautiful Village of Alne in the Hambleton District of North Yorkshire.
Oh – and we pay our volunteers in plants!
Nowhere are we closer to nature than when we are in our gardens and at Hare Spring Cottage Plants we are mindful of our impact on the environment in everything we do. By caring for our land and wildlife we can maintain a healthy ecosystem which is good for us and our gardens.
It was wonderful to read comments by RHS Director General Sue Biggs in the Telegraph recently praising Britain’s nurseries for embracing the challenges of climate change.
Sue said: "Our growers are impacted by climate change and have to find new ways to grow. Thankfully, our nurseries are amazing in this country. A growing number of nurseries exhibiting in the Great Pavilion at Chelsea have made positive changes to their growing practices in an attempt to lessen their impact on the environment by for example going peat-free, using biodegradable posts and harvesting rainwater for irrigation."
This is a subject that we are passionate about at Hare Spring Cottage Plants. We are certainly no stranger to climate change and extreme weather, having overcome the effects of the 2018 spring floods on the nursery which damaged 90% of our hardy plants. Luckily, their hardiness (and ours!) meant we were able to rescue most of them in time for the peak show season.
Another big challenge is reducing plastic on the nursery. We have already removed it from our packaging when sending our plant and bulb orders and we will no longer have plastic bags on our stands this year when we exhibit at shows. Instead we will be offering new eco friendly Juco bags for sale and encouraging visitors to bring their own bags.
We are looking forward to sharing some of the steps we are taking here on the nursery with show visitors this year – and hearing their own tips for greener gardening.
I feel very fortunate to be the custodian of two important collections of hardy plants and have huge admiration for the work being carried out by Plant Heritage to secure the future of over 100,000 British plants.
Plant Heritage is the world's leading garden plant conservation and research charity. Their mission is conservation of cultivated plants in the British Isles and a key part of their conservation work is National Plant Collections looked after by their members.
Hare Spring Cottage Plants is the proud owner of the National Collections of Camassia & Sidalcea which means we have the honour and privilege of documenting, nurturing researching and protecting these plants for future generations of gardeners to enjoy.
All gardeners are becoming more aware of the impact of climate change on their own plots, which is why the work of Plant Heritage is more important now than ever before. The climate, new pests and diseases and a lack of knowledge all threaten some of our favourite species of garden plants. Plant Heritage has identified more than 500 plants which are under threat and, with the help of volunteers and plant guardians like me, is working hard to make sure they don’t disappear forever.
Two-thirds of our cultivated plants are under threat of extinction and I am pleased to be able to use my knowledge and skills to propagate and promote Camassia and Sidalcea, playing my part in the protection of these two valuable genus. Across the country, National Collection Holders and thousands of volunteers support Plant Heritage’s conservation work.
I am a member of the Yorkshire Group of Plant Heritage. We organise events throughout the year, two popular ones being our annual Plant Fairs at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. For forthcoming dates please click on our EVENTS PAGE.
To find out more about the work of Plant Heritage and how you can support their work visit www.plantheritage.org.uk
As in everyday life, plastic products for a working nursery are common place and have been for decades. These take the form of pots, labels, packaging, carrier bags, storage crates & sacks for compost to name but a few! A daunting list that we feel needs tackling.
Our first success has been to remove all plastic from our packaging when we despatch orders. Those of you who have recently received plants & your Camassia bulb orders from us will have noticed that plastic was not used. We have cardboard boxes that are compostable/recyclable & we recycle paper by shredding it to pack the inside of boxes. Also perfect for layers in your compost heap! We occasionally use recycled egg trays which create a super layer at the bottom of our boxes that takes impact during transit. Again these can be composted or recycled in your usual way.
Our next two targets are the plant pots we use on the nursery and carrier bags we use at shows when selling plants.
You may have seen or read in the press that kerbside recyclable plant pots are now becoming available & will hopefully, in time, replace black plastic pots that are widely used in the horticultural industry. These are a beige/taupe colour. Some Local Authorities, as I write this, do not yet accept kerbside recycling of these new pots & it is up to individuals to check if where they live & recycle they are free to do so.
As a small independent plant nursery it appears I cannot yet purchase these new pots. I am informed that minimum order quantities are so vast that only much larger organisations than my own are gaining access to them for now. The wheels of industry can turn painfully slow at times & although feeling frustrated I cannot stop using black plastic pots right now I am having to reluctantly accept that I am still ‘working towards’ this improvement at Hare Spring Cottage Plants.
PLASTIC CARRIER BAGS
The use of plastic carrier bags in our industry is also vast. A few years ago we were able to move to biodegradable plastic carrier bags, which we felt was a step in the right direction to become single-use plastic free. We now understand that a lot of these so called biodegradable bags actually leave micro plastic residue which is harmful to the environment. So we are once again looking at alternatives.
An obvious issue is selling plants at events when the weather is wet & when the plants in pots have been recently watered. We have trialled paper bags at shows but these have proved to be too flimsy to cope with excessive moisture.
We are now in the process of gathering samples of plastic free alternatives in the hope of finding a lasting solution to this issue. Our preferred choice would be to create a reusable shopping bag. Our research to date is slow but enlightening. We love the new sturdy paper bags that both Boots & Morrisons are now using, but once again minimum order quantities for a small business such as ours makes these unattainable. There is also still the issue of moisture in our plant pots sitting in paper bags – see comments above.
We have noticed a slight increase in visitors to events bringing their own reusable shopping bags & we applaud you for doing this & actively encourage more people to make this the new normal, as it is rapidly becoming when food shopping.
We will continue to look for positive alternatives. Who knows, someone out there might read this & be able to offer up immediate solutions!
We have now sourced a reusuable shopping bag & have created bespoke graphics on it. These will be available at all shows & events we will be attending from now on. They are also available to purchase via our website. CLICK ON Bespoke Cards & Bags.
It is a really positive feeling knowing we will no longer be using plastic carrier bags.
Hare Spring Cottage Plants
Nursery Open Weekends Fundraising Total
A huge thank you to everyone who supported our charity of the year, AfAAB – Action for Autism and Asperger’s Barnsley - at this year’s Nursery Open Weekends.
This amazing charity runs a social and creative group for adults on the Autistic spectrum and those with Asperger’s, providing a safe, fun and supportive place for them to meet regularly.
The activities include visual art, music and film making and creative writing, providing an excellent opportunity to try new things and learn new skills.
Held every Monday, the group is also a place to play games, socialise and arrange outings.
We are delighted that with your help we have been able to raise £290 this year through the sale of refreshments and from specific individual donations at our open weekends.
Your kindness is much appreciated.
HARE SPRING COTTAGE PLANTS
Those who follow me on social media will know that I took a bit of a tumble as I was setting up my exhibit at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and landed myself in hospital. I fell hard onto my hands, breaking bones in one wrist and seriously injuring the other.
A very emotional few days followed as it started to sink in that nursery work and exhibiting were going to be something of a challenge with both wrists strapped up.
Meanwhile, back at Chelsea, my stand was being finished off by some big-hearted exhibitors in the Grand Pavilion. Even Carol Klein stopped by to help put together the Hare Spring Cottage Plants display I had been planning for more than a year. I must say a huge thank you to all the warm and generous folk who made sure my stand was there at Chelsea in all its glory, even if I wasn’t. A particular thank you must go to Richard and Vicky Fox from Plantagogo who really did go the extra mile for me and Georgia, a Kew Gardens Student. Thank you also to Helen Boem of the RHS and for Plant Heritage Volunteers for sorting out some logistical difficulties on the showground.
As thousands of visitors flocked to the Chelsea Flower Show, I left hospital in London and returned to Yorkshire to recuperate feeling exhausted, sore and heartbroken. Whoever heard of a Nurserywoman without the use of her hands? What about all those RHS shows I had lined up and all those Camassia and hardy plants yearning for my attention out on the nursery?
It’s at times like this that the support of wonderful friends and family really makes a difference. With everyone rallying round to help I’ve been able to pick myself up and dust myself off and get on with things, which is just how I like to be. Special thanks must go to my husband Malcolm for his unfailing support and encouragement as well as Joanne who works with me on the nursery.
Incredibly – and thanks to all the help and encouragement around me - I’m heading off to RHS Chatsworth this weekend. The fact that both my hands are still strapped up isn’t going to stop me getting out there and doing what I love best, which is talking to fellow gardeners about their own gardens and sharing my passion for hardy plants.
If you’re there this weekend please come and say hello!
You’ll find us at Stand 109A in the Floral Marquee.
HARE SPRING COTTAGE PLANTS
Hardy Plants Grown In North Yorkshire
CAMASSIA NATIONAL COLLECTION HOLDER
The Spring Plant Fair at RHS Wisley, which this year runs from 22nd to 24th March, is a lovely way to launch the show season and celebrate the start of Spring.
Wisley’s Spring show takes place in a marquee within the gardens and is very relaxed and friendly so I always have lots of opportunities to chat to gardeners and share my tips on growing hardy plants. I love to hear other people’s experiences and ideas and I like to find out about their growing conditions so that I can help them choose the right plant for the right place.
This show happens just ahead of the peak season for Camassia and Uvularia which are in full bloom in April and May so it’s a chance for gardeners to buy some potted up ready to plant in their pots and borders for an almost instant display over the weeks that follow. I can promise plenty of spring and early summer inspiration and a good selection of hardy plants from my nursery which will be available to buy, including some of my favourite varieties of Convallaria with their characteristic English country garden scent which are always a joy in springtime.
If you can’t get to Wisley, I am happy to arrange private nursery visits and April is a lovely month to come for a look round and see the Camassia and Uvularia in bloom. We are not a retail nursery so are not open to the public but we do take bookings for pre-arranged visits. Book early for April and May as these are our busiest months. We also have open days, which are in May, August and September. We’re in the pretty village of Alne near York in North Yorkshire.
Wisley is the first of a busy schedule of RHS shows for Hare Spring Cottage Plants. To find out where we’ll be in 2019 visit our events page.
I’m always full of anticipation at this time of year as the first tiny shoots of life push through the soil to remind us how much there is to look forward to.
This year will be my third full season of RHS shows and I’m going to be celebrating the wonderful resilience of hardy plants as I think back to the Easter floods of 2018 which nearly scuppered my grand plans for Chelsea.
On Easter Monday night flood water descended on the nursery and my polytunnels ended up beneath three feet of river water just weeks before I was due to supply Chris Beardshaw with significant numbers of Camassia for his Chelsea Flower Show garden.
I can’t remember how many hours I spent rescuing plants and painstakingly cleaning every little bit of silt off each individual leaf and bud, but the task seemed endless at the time. Thanks to my obsessive plant cleaning, Camassia’s love of water and the remarkable toughness of hardy plants they didn’t just survive – they sparkled - and Chris won Best in Show with my Camassia stars sparkling in his garden. This year I’m not taking any chances and the plants are all on raised platforms just in case.
The planning for RHS Chelsea and the other shows starts a good 18 months in advance so by this time of year I know exactly what needs doing and which plant combinations I’m going to have on my stands. Malvern and Chelsea are perfectly timed for my Camassia which will be in full bloom and displayed alongside complementary hardy plants. One of my favourites to plant alongside Camassia is Veronica gentianoides ‘Tissington White’ with its crisp white flowers which look stunning with blue Camassia.
I’ll be sharing plenty more planting ideas and updates from the nursery as the seasons unfold.
Hare Spring Cottage Plants