Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A little day trip to the local nursery.

 How bad am I??!? I have an apparently wonderful nursery just up the road from me, but because I never drive past it for anything... I never use it.  I always seem to end up at the big 'Blooms' garden centre on the back road to work.  Well this weekend I decided to put that right, I decided I was going to take a trip up to Bridge nursery and see what delights they have to offer.

 Well, I arrived at about 10am, to be confronted by a locked gate.... oh dear, are they closed today I asked myself. Thankfully not, according to the sign at the side of the gate, and after what was seemingly an age of pondering over whether to return later, or wait and see what happens, a van pulled up behind me. Now this could have spelled trouble... maybe it was the local constabulary... had I been reported for loitering around the quiet rural nursery (in my rather scallywag styled van) with a view to relieving them of all of their stock, or could it have been the irate farmer trying to get into his field through the gate that was now situated directly behind my stationary vehicle, or maybe even just the local fashion police.... I didn't exactly dress up to visit the nursery (clothes and hands still covered in half of the garden :)  It turned out to be one of the nursery owners... phew... he was just running late that morning, so I moved the van to the car park, and wandered in.

 I followed the owner around the nursery while he opened up the polytunnels, and directed some seriously technical questions towards him... "do you sell herbaceous plants?" (the rows of perennials in pots gave that one away.... doh) "do you grow your stock yourself?" (this one was answered when I actually opened my eyes and looked around.. the polytunnels were full of young plants and propagating benches... doh x2) and to top off the spanish inquisition... I excelled myself with "are you open today?" ...pure genius Simon... who on earth did I think had unlocked the gate and let me in... some random passer by maybe? or some deviant wishing to steal all the plants in broad daylight, who thought I might be good enough to pass him the pots while he loaded his van??
 Once all the important questions were sorted, (and I had clearly showed myself to be an intellectual) I then proceeded to basically put the horticultural world to right with my new debating partner.. we covered all manner of relevant subjects from watering to weather, polytunnels to propagating, gardens to growing vegetables, and many many more, all while giving me a VIP tour of the nursery. Brilliant!!
 Ok, what can I buy today my good man? I asked.... the answer was apparently nothing. Strange!!!! A nursery owner who doesn't want to sell anything? Does he just want to get rid of me after all my probing questions?? No, it seems as if he is rather honestly just delaying my purchase until more of their stock is ready, so as to give me a better choice of stronger plants!!  Wow, I thought that the idea was to sell plants too early to customers, so the frosts would kill them off, and they would then return to buy more. I didn't for one second suspect it was to actually sell people plants at the right time, and to give good advice to enable people to just buy and grow once. I was advised to leave any purchases for a month, as at that time the nursery beds will be stocked up again with all the plants from the tunnels, so I will be able to choose more of the plants I want, get all the advice on growing them while reclining in the cafe (opens on the 2nd April I think) with a nice mug of tea and a slice of cake, and then know that they should grow on quite happily in my garden. I would recommend any of you checking the link to their website, as it's a nice place to visit if you are ever in the area, they have a great nursery, cafe, wonderful stock gardens and they even do cut flowers.
 So, after all the talk and advice, I actually ended up returning from the nursery with nothing physical to show for my trip, but it's now the first place I shall go for plants in the future, thanks to a really most helpful man who was more than happy to spend some time talking things through with me, and not just trying to sell me plants that he wasn't completely happy with.


  1. I would much rather visit a nursery than a garden centre. You seem to get much better advice from a nursery as well as healthier and cheaper plants.

  2. I totally agree now Jo. I have always been lazy and called in at the garden centre as it's between home and work, but i shall be using the nursery a lot more now!

  3. I think you've made a friend there, Simon, even if you might have seemed a 'bit dim' at first ;)
    Good Nurserymen are hard to find.
    Excellent post, by the way, had me chuckling ;)Mo

  4. A very strange experience indeed! You do have to be careful with the big Garden Centres though. As you said, they have little interest in YOUR garden, they just want to shift their stock, and if it gets frosted and you have to re-purchase, so much the better. The other day I asked at my local centre if they could order me a particular plant. Their answer was "Our gardening expert is not here today, but we could get him to call you tomorrow." I left my details, but he never did call. Pathetic on 2 counts - lack of expertise, and lack of business sense!

  5. What great salesmanship! He might not have done it intentionally, but he did one of the most important things in sales that every company wishes their employees to do: He created an ambassador! Not only will you probably return and perhaps even buy more than you would have done without this great experience, but you are also recommending this place to others and I want to go there now.

    I just wish more retail businesses would realise the value of good advice and good experiences for customers... The ones that deliver it normally do it out of professional pride and that's brilliant, but imagine if huge chain stores like Walmart began realising that there's business sense in "customer experience" and ""creating trust"?

    (Yes, that's a small rant that has little to do with gardening as such, but aren't gardeners consumers, too? And often consumers who do not mind perhaps paying a bit more for quality of goods and service, since we're essentially buying luxury items when we by annuals or perennials or any other non-edible part of a garden?)

  6. Good going, Simon. It is incredibly difficult for small independent nurseries these days.

    My favourite until very recently was Pure Plants just outside Blackboys in Sussex. Really knowledgeable, helpful and friendly and they produced not only healthy product but a different variety from the usual run of the mill stuff. Sadly it is now closed. But when (as I saw yesterday) Morrisons are selling a clematis for £1.49 and 6ft fruit trees for £2 you can begin to realise what they're up against. Use 'em or lose 'em is the bottom line.