I am not someone who enjoys shopping, in general the thought of going to a shopping centre or even a high street feels like a waste of my time I could otherwise be spending doing something I enjoy.  If you want to lure me out shopping then ask me to go plant shopping, then I will step forward quite happily.

My first experiences of plant buying was visiting the then large, now huge, garden centre just on the edge of the town where I grew up.  This was where my family went to buy plants, most often it was annual bedding time when we visited.  When I left home and started gardening for myself, it was still to this garden centre I would go as I did not know where-else to get plants.  As time passed and I started to buy gardening magazines with their many articles and advertisements, my knowledge and interest grew and a whole new world of independent nurseries opened up in front of me.

I started to look at certain plants with ‘that’ look in my eye, you know that look, the plant-lust ‘I really want that plant’ look.  I have always been a great lover of mail-order so I researched well and tracked down some ‘must have’ plants and waited for the postman to deliver.  Technology and the growth of internet buying opened up this opportunity even more.

Whilst I am a great believer in plants by post, I also love visiting nurseries.  There are various reasons for this.  Overwhelmingly it is about the plants, they are usually extremely well grown and healthy plants.  I plant them in the garden and they grow.  If they don’t grow it’s mainly my fault not the plants.  There is also the choice.  No a nursery does not sell everything, it is not a place to go and buy anything and everything, you choose the nursery you are to visit based on what it is you want to buy.  I quite often seek out nurseries when I am on my travels around the country, I have visited some really interesting places through this and met some lovely people.  I also have plants that I look at and remember that visit with fondness.

If you want a really nice day out you can go to the various plant fairs that occur around the country.  These are often based in interesting gardens and are made up of various independent nurseries.  The choice you get at these fairs is magnificent; you get a nice day out and usually there will be refreshments too (by which I mean a tea and cake opportunity).

There is another very important reason to buy from an independent nursery, you will have access to the expertise of the nursery owners.  They know their plants and love their plants.  They will tell you how to grow them and where.  They will share with you this knowledge freely and generously and, this is very important, if they tell you that the plant you are lusting after will not grow happily where you have said you want to plant it, I guarantee you that they will be right.

I am going to say that they might not sell the cheapest plants you will ever find, there is a reason for this.  Their plants are grown properly and this takes time.  The larger the plant the more time you are paying for.  If you spent three years working on something wouldn’t you want some recompense for that?  If you buy cheap you get cheap and cheap frequently is half-dead before you have even bought it.  As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  I cannot afford to waste money buying plants that will need rebuying, I want to invest well and have a plant that will make me smile every time I look at it.

Finally and very importantly, nursery owners are usually also some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  I am a great believer in buying from nice people.

Alison Levey


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