Hortus Loci, already well-known and regarded for its wholesale production facility, goes into gardens at Easter and, at the same time, sets its sights on a brilliant Chelsea. Over the Easter weekend Hortus Loci, one of the ‘go to’ wholesale nurseries in the country, is formally launching its retail arm to the public.
Mark Straver and Robin Wallis, co-owners of award-winning nursery Hortus Loci, are launching The Plant Centre at Hortus Loci (formerly Whitewater) to the public over Easter.
I heard of Hortus Loci in 2012, when co-founders and co-owners Mark Straver and Robin Wallis were preparing for their first Chelsea in business together. Third-generation nurserymen, they are horticultural ‘heavyweights’ with over 55 years of experience of UK horticulture between them.
I met them properly a few weeks ago when they were in the thick of checking and readying thousands of plants for Chelsea gardens. But this Easter weekend, as if they haven’t got enough to think about, they are celebrating the opening of the Plant Centre and offering gardeners access to over a treasure trove of plants.
Mark commented: “The clocks have gone forward, the sun has been shining and it finally feels that spring has sprung! We can’t wait to open our doors to the public on Good Friday and showcase what we’ve got to offer. There’s over 4,000 plants to choose from – from brand new varieties to firm favourites and you can be amongst the first to sign up for our Chelsea Flower Show preview visits – be the first to get a sneak peek of what we think are the real stars of the greatest flower show on earth.”
Back in 2012 what drew my eye was a special rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Whitewater Silver’, which Robin and Mark were bulking up to take to Chelsea. A sport of R. officinalis prostratus, R. officinalis ‘Whitewater Silver’, grows into a trailing, arching clump showing off its silvery leaf undersides, especially in winter. Large mid-blue flowers are borne in spring. It is a culinary variety suited to trailing over walls and edgings or for growing in containers. Now 10p from the sale of each of the plants propagated from that rosemary is raised for the horticultural charity Perennial.
It has taken me many years finally to make the journey to Hook, Hampshire, where Hortus Loci grows thousands and thousands of trees, shrubs, perennial and other plants. Make it I did a couple of weeks ago and was taken on a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the nursery by Jamie Butterworth, one of horticulture’s bright young stars. He is Hortus Loci’s Horticultural Manager and this is his first year running the production facility for a coterie of the country’s finest garden designers.
Jamie is a horticulturist of huge skill, whose confidence and expertise is finely balanced by his ‘just there’ sense of panic. Me… I would be admitting to more than a little panic were I in his shoes… managing the thousands of plants on whose successful production at least six Chelsea designers’ reputations are resting.
What could possibly go wrong? Temperatures too hot or too cold, compost drying out, plants being overwatered, growing too fast, flowering too soon, not growing enough…but cool head, skill and teamwork will prevail and Jamie and his Chelsea team will no doubt deliver impeccable plant stars to their designer clients.
In the ‘Chelsea tunnels’ specially coloured labels denote the plants specified by individual designers. Among their designer clients for RHS Chelsea 2017 are Nigel Dunnett for his RHS exhibit, Greening Grey Britain; Catherine MacDonald for The Seedlip Garden and Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam for their Breaking Ground Garden and many others.
I have my ‘little list’ and I will be fascinated to see how these very special plants, as well as these special designers, fare in the Chelsea popularity stakes. It will also be interesting to see how collections of pots lined out in a production unit come together to become the hot ‘must-have’ garden styles of the year.
Naturally I did a little plant retail of my own when I visited. I came away with the two aforementioned rosemary plants, and new to me, Mukdenia rossii ‘Karasuba’, a herbaceous perennial with stunning red foliage in late summer to autumn.
I didn’t intend to buy a tree, let alone a magnolia, but came away with the irresistible, compact hybrid Magnolia ‘Genie. Bred by New Zealand propagator Vance Hooper, its parents are Magnolia soulangeana x M. liliflora ‘Nigra’. Wine-red, goblet-shaped flowers are its prize assets in spring and I am hoping that mine will show up well against the new black wooden garden room.
Post-retail therapy or pre- and post, there are the artisan coffee house and kitchen delights of the Hobo Co, emanating from a small but perfectly formed aluminium and wooden shed. Sebastian Bonfield is the chef, who with a talented team offers delightful light meals, pastries and drinks, served in a plant- and flower-rich setting. He uses material from the nursery for his ‘installations’ that transform a plain, former potting area into a leafy bower.
During the long weekend there will be launch discounts, Easter Egg hunts and over the next few months there will be a series of pop-up events. Opening times are 9am to 5.30pm. For more information, visit hlplantcentre.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0118 9326 487.