One day, whilst skulking in the nether regions of the horticultural retail world, I witness a disturbing event.  A customer approached a young woman who, with the verve of a comatose sloth, was pricing a Dutch trolley of assorted pots.  The brave punter was not put off by this blatant lethargy “Excuse me” she said to the bored looking lass “could you tell me if this plant would be suitable for next to my pond?”  With an accompaniment of distain Ms Dynamite replied “I dunno, I don’t know about plants”.   The non-the-wiser shopper slunk off in embarrassment.  The indolent assistant was quite oblivious, uncaring.

First I was amused, I may have snorted from my vantage point behind the glittered heathers.  This soon turned to horror and outrage.  Of course the fact I was actually in this den of mediocrity is a little awkward, let us just say I was there undercover.  Shall we move on?

Now where were we, oh yes!  Dear friends there is no need to suffer such humiliation and frustration.   The solution is quite simple – relinquish the average and embrace the outstanding.  Visit one of the many fine independent nurseries listed on this website.  So many to choose from, so little time, so you better get started.

To help you on your way I am going to tell you about one of my favourite places.  A nursery very close to my heart, although not particularly close to my house, Sampford Shrubs.

If you expecting celebration of ignorance in this mid Devon oasis, prepare to be disappointed.  If you are looking for Christmas decorations or dog chews you will also be left wanting.  However, if it is a myriad of keenly priced treasures, served up with honest informed advice from seasoned professionals, you have found yourself in the right place.

The nursery is owned by Martin Hughes-Jones and Sue Proud who, since arriving at this blank 2.2 acre site in 1982, have developed the site into the Aladdin’s Cave it is today.  They are situated close to the village of Sampford Peverell, not far from Tiverton, and also boast a fine garden that is open to the public, Holbrook Garden. Tucked behind high hedges, approached through a tunnel of trees, it has the aura of being far from civilisation whilst actually being only a couple of miles from Junction 27 of the M5.  Martin and Sue are both staunch protectors of their environment.  They garden with nature, not against it; doing their best to make as little negative impact as possible.  And they are very nice people.  Which always helps.

It might benefit the cause if I talk you through a typical visit.

As we drive up the hill towards the nursery I can feel the excitement mounting and I begin to feel a little faint with anticipation.  On arrival I quickly recover, giving myself time to leap out of the car and shove any companion out of the way to get first dibs on the plants.  After all this is no time for sentiment.  Only joking.  Of course there is plenty for everyone, there is no need to squabble.  I don’t really elbow anyone out of the way, not very hard anyway.  To calm my unsightly fervour, we have a wander around the wild and wonderful garden.  By the time I have marvelled at the stone garden, the wild areas, the special trees, the hot borders, I have reached a relatively tranquil state of mild hysteria.  A much more attractive sight in a woman of a certain age.  Then the shopping begins.

I have brought many plants from these fine folk.  Perhaps it is best not to know exactly how many.  Salvias, dahlias, primulas, heleniums, geraniums, pulmonarias and many more have been crammed into my bijou car.  On occasion they are jammed into the car of the companion I had previously pushed into the hedge.  “Of course we can fit another one in!” Is my motto.

If you are a beginner, consider yourself an expert or any increment between the two, you will be welcomed at Sampford Shrubs.   Love herbaceous?  Then this is the place for you!  Adore an unusual shrub?  Get there quick! Need a little help with choice and cultivation?  Look no further!

Before I finish may I give you a little advice, based on years of training and hard fought experience.  Meander through this horticultural sweetie shop, look once, maybe take some notes, then start all over and look again.  Then apologise to your friend about the little accident earlier and get the trolley out.

By the way Martin, this salvia, will it be OK next to my pond ……?


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