Plants bought this weekend: 24. (This included a tray of 12 annuals so it's not as bad as it sounds)
This Saturday, I visited Dark Star Plants in North Yorkshire during a visit to my parents. I was prompted to visit by an article in The English Garden Magazine (yes, still buying magazines) which described the nursery as specialising in plants in dark, dramatic colours and raised to be hardy in the cold climate of Yorkshire.
Dark Star Plants have created their nursery within the old walled garden of Rounton Grange, home of the Bell family who were wealthy 19th century industrialists. The Grange itself has been demolished but the extensive walls of the garden remain, replete with the 100 year old vine-eyes still in place. Overcast weather darkened my initial impressions, however glimpses of sun reflected a glow from the red brick onto purple-black violas and the burgundy foliage of heucheras casting a spell of warmth over the place. The plant range is extensive, laid out in neat rows: the darkest, most velvety irises, aquilegia 'Barlow Black' and astrantias in all ranges of claret. It was a relief to browse a real nursery with plants in the state that they should be at this time of year. Nothing had been forced into flower in a Dutch hot-house with the aim of making a quick sale. It seems like a long time since I had visited this kind of place and I found it a haven of peace, even though I worried for the owners with the lack of crowds queuing up to buy candles and thermal socks or whatever else garden centres are flogging these days.
|The walled garden. That's my dad in the flat cap on the right.|
The nurseryman was a true northerner, slow and thoughtful in his words, greying hair spilling out underneath a countryman's hat. Once warmed up, he idled for twenty minutes telling us the history behind the garden. The daughter of the Bell family, Gertrude (described by various sources as a traveller, politician, writer, archaeologist and spy), loved the garden and its staff, writing of the very walls in her books and sending seeds back home from where she eventually settled in Baghdad. None of the original plants remain now but the new owners have recreated a working garden as well as a nursery, cultivating cut flowers as well as fruit and vegetables which they sell to the farm shop next door.
|Typical dark and cloudy Yorkshire weather guaranteed to blow cobwebs away.|
It seemed like the idyllic life to a plantaholic like me, tending the nursery within the shelter of the walls, the moors just a nod away on the horizon. The reality is probably harder: pressure to compete against large commercial outfits and the gardener's perennial affliction of back problems. Still, it was a treat to browse an unusual collection of plants that cannot be found elsewhere. If you like your plants hardy and true to life and don't need photoshopped pictures or flowers forced out under UV lamps, plus a bit of history thrown in then it is well worth a visit.
PS My dad pronounced the range of plants 'impressive' - not praise that is given away in a lighthearted manner.