Best organic nurseries
Creating a garden that is both beautiful but also ecologically balanced and teeming with wildlife should be every gardener’s aim, but gardening sustainably starts with sourcing the plants and products for our gardens. Here we celebrate those nurseries leading the way
Looking for plants that won't cost the earth? The rise in organic nurseries in this country is heartening. Here is a selection of the best organic nurseries the UK has to offer. While not all are certified organic, they are all already embracing organic and more sustainable practices.
Bluebell Cottage Nursery
Owner Sue Beesley was the winner of BBC Gardener of the Year in 2006 and took on the nursery and garden, located on the Trent & Mersey Canal, the following year. Plants include 700 kinds of perennials from garden favourites to more unusual options. Although not certified organic, the nursery propagates most of its own plants and uses only peat-free compost to pot on plants. For those who are anxious to avoid neonicotinoids, no chemical pesticides are used and customers are welcome to return pots to the nursery for re-use. Alternatively, you can de-pot your plant at the counter and take it home wrapped in paper. Mail order is also plastic free. Bluebell Cottage, Lodge Lane, Dutton, nr Warrington, Cheshire WA4 4HP. Tel 01928 713718, bluebellcottage.co.uk. Mail order available. Nursery open from March to October. Check website for exact opening dates and times.
Working hard to pioneer innovation, Edibleculture is proud to promote itself as a plastic-free champion. Plants are transferred to little cardboard sleeves called POSIpots for customers to take home. Peat-free composts are available in a bag-for-life form, and a selection of seeds and feeds are sold by weight. Sprays and seaweed feeds are sold in returnable glass bottles and you’re encouraged to write your own plastic-free plant label. The nursery offers a wide range of perennials, edibles, fruit trees and house plants, all grown peat-and pesticide-free. The Horticultural Unit, The Abbey School, Faversham, Kent ME13 8RZ. Tel 01795 537662, edibleculture.co.uk. Open Monday to Saturday, 9am-5pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays, 10am-4pm. Note its seasonal schedule detailing what plants and stock is available when – see website or call for information.
Known for its excellent selection of rare plants, and plants for sustainable, edible food growing, Edulis is owned by Paul Barney, who trained in permaculture and organic farming systems and worked at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales before setting up his own design and nursery business. Although Edulis is not certified organic, Paul runs the nursery with an environmental approach to include the re-use of pots, collection of rainwater for irrigation and use of biological controls. The Walled Garden, Tidmarsh Lane, Pangbourne, Berkshire RG8 8HT. Tel 01635 578113/07802 812781, edulis.co.uk. Mail order available. Open Tuesday to Wednesday, 11am-4pm. Or, by appointment. Check website for open days and events/shows Edulis is attending. Closed November to January.
A small nursery located on the west Wales coast, growing perennials and vegetable plants. The nursery holds a National Collection of rosemary. It also specialises in fruit trees – particularly Welsh heritage fruit. Plants are produced on the nursery or sourced in the UK and are grown in peat-free compost using organic methods and the most sustainable pots possible. The nursery has areas actively managed for nature conservation, and many of the plants stocked are beneficial for pollinators and wildlife. Pontgarreg, Llandysul, Ceredigion SA44 6AU. Tel 01239 654151, gwynfor.co.uk. Mail order available. Open Wednesday and Thursday, 10am-6pm.
Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants
An award-winning nursery with a fantastic selection of plants that is now moving towards a more eco-friendly approach by using biodegradable pots and packaging for mail order, plus customers are encouraged to return plastic pots to the nursery for re-use. Priory Lane Nursery, Freefolk Priors, Whitchurch, Hampshire RG28 7FA. Tel 01256 896533, hardysplants.co.uk. Mail order available. Opening times vary through the year, please check before travel.
Nursery Award-winning, including five-times Chelsea Flower Show gold-winning, acer specialist that grows its trees in peat-free soil, using organic principles. Orchard House, East Lound, Haxey, Doncaster South Yorkshire DN9 2LR. Tel 07979 764677, hippopotteringmaples.co.uk. Open by appointment, regular shows exhibitor.
Home to the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK, Jekka McVicar’s herb farm was established more than 30 years ago as a resource for herbs for food, health and well-being. Throughout that time, plants have always been raised using vegan and peat-free composts, and with organic and sustainable principles that promote biodiversity and a natural ecosystem, to encourage as many insect pollinators as possible. Soil is replenished with bio fungus and plants fed with liquid seaweed. Rose Cottage, Shellards Lane, Alveston, Bristol BS35 3SY. Tel 01454 418878, jekkas.com. Herbs available to buy online and then collected from farm – or purchased at open days or masterclasses, see website for calendar of events.
John Cullen Gardens
Based in rural Lincolnshire, this nursery specialises in scented and edible plants, and plants for pollinators, so good to know that the nursery is chemical free with no neonicotinoids used on its plants. It creates its own mulch from food and plant waste and harvests its own rainwater. Black plastic pots are being replaced by recyclable taupe pots and no single-use plastics are used in packaging. As an added touch all the regular clippings from the nursery’s herbs are dried for its own teas and pot pourri mixes. Eagle Lodge, Archers Lane, Algakirk, Lincolnshire PE20 2AG, Tel 01205
460567, johncullengardens.com. Mail order available. Nursery open by appointment Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, or see at garden shows and events.
Peat Free Plants
A small, family-run nursery, certified organic by the Soil Association and offering herbaceous perennials, alpines, bulbs and its own organic compost for sale on site or via mail order. All plants are grown in organic, peat-free compost and many have been raised from the nursery’s own organic stock (any plants that are not organic will not have the SA certificate). No artificial chemicals are used and packaging is re-used or recycled wherever possible, or from plastic-free options. Peat Free Plants, Caves Folly Nurseries, Evendine Lane, Colwall, Worcestershire WR13 6DX. Tel 01684 540631, peatfreeplants.org.uk. Open Thursday to Saturday, 10am-5pm, from March to early October.
Our organic growing methods mean our plant nursery is teeming with wildlife. Newts, frogs and all manner of insects living and thriving in our nursery where the plants are grown.
All the plants from this nursery in west Wales are grown in peat-free soil to organic standards. The nursery specialises in hardy geraniums and ferns, as well as plants for woodland shade and moisture-loving plants, and it also stocks a good selection of cottage garden favourites. Plus, being ‘hard-grown’ outside, all plants are ready for planting out in the garden, and tried and tested as hardy. Landre, Drefach, Llanybydder, Ceredigion SA40 9YD. Tel 01570 480097/07984 880241, penlanperennials.co.uk. Mail order available. Open by appointment Fridays, 1-6pm, Saturday to Sunday, 10am-5pm.
Plants, Shoots and Leaves
This Scottish nursery offers a range of unusual and rare, hardy perennials while specialising in epimediums and hardy geraniums. Most plants are propagated on from its own stock and grown in peat-free or locally produced compost, using recycled plastic pots wherever possible and without the use of artificial chemicals. Dovecot Bungalow, Haddington, East Lothian EH41 4HA. Tel 01620 823536, plantsshootsandleaves.co.uk. Mail order available. Open by appointment April to October and for special open days.
Poyntzfield Herb Nursery
A well-established nursery that is situated on the Black Isle, just north of Inverness, and which has been growing herbs organically and biodynamically since 1976. As well as growing native Scottish herbs, owner Duncan Ross describes himself as a herb hunter, collecting seed from alpine and sub-alpine areas where species are at risk of over harvesting, and cultivating them in the nursery to ensure their survival. The nursery’s extensive species list runs to some 400 varieties and is divided into helpful categories, such as aromatic, medicinal and herbs for various different growing conditions. The nursery aims for a closed system, producing its own compost from garden waste. Black Isle, By Dingwall, Ross & Cromarty EV7 8LX. Tel 01381 610352, poyntzfieldherbs.co.uk. Mail order available. Open Monday to Saturday, 1-5pm, April to September, and Sundays (May to August), 1-5pm.
Waddow Lodge Garden
From his own garden in Lancashire, experienced nurseryman Peter Foley offers a range of perennials for sale and mail order all produced with an environmental approach – all potting compost is peat-free, plant waste is composted for later use on the garden, flower pots are re-used, rainwater is harvested, solar panels are used to generate electricity and the use of chemicals is kept to a minimum. Peter and his wife Liz are also involved in Plant Heritage’s Plant Exchange scheme that works to ensure endangered plants are not lost to cultivation. Waddow Lodge, Waddington, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 3HQ. Tel 01200 429145, gardentalks.co.uk. Mail order available. Open by appointment only – also under the National Gardens Scheme.
Walcot Organic Nursery
Set up in 2000, Walcot has only ever specialised in organic fruit trees, starting out with a selection of cultivars that had been grown in and around the Vale of Evesham for years – long before the use of pesticides. The nursery now offers over 80 apple cultivars and more than 30 plum, gage and damson cultivars along with pears, cherries and quinces. Certified by the Soil Association, Walcot also manages its land on a five-year rotation, leaving land fallow and adding organic matter before re-cropping to ensure the sustainability of the soil. Walcot Lane, Drakes Broughton, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 2AL. Tel 01905 841587, walcotnursery.co.uk. Open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, and Saturdays (October to April), 10am-1pm.
NOTE: To be approved as organic, a nursery must be certified by one of the UK’s nine certification bodies – and only then can display certification.
A long-standing nursery that produces vegetable plug plants for farms, smallholders and allotment associations but also offers smaller quantities for gardeners. The nursery has held a Soil Association certificate for more than 20 years with all its mail-order plants grown in peat-free compost with the help of beneficial insects to control pests. For small orders, plants are removed from their growing trays or whole trays can be posted; boxes and filler are 100 per cent biodegradable. Tel 01354 740553, organicplants.co.uk for small packs for gardeners, delfland.co.uk. for plants by the tray.
Organic Bulbs Ltd
Small but perfectly formed selection chosen by designers Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt. All bulbs have been grown without chemicals or pesticides and have been chosen as suitable for naturalising, and with the aim of extending the flowering season to benefit insects as early in the season as possible and later in the season to provide a seamless transition. Tel 01373 888720, organicbulbs.com.
Organic Gardening Catalogue
Extensive catalogue of organic gardening supplies available to view via printed catalogue or online. The company has been selling seed suitable for organic growing for more than 50 years, offering both organic and non-organic seeds – in this case non-organic means the seeds have come from plants grown by a non-organic grower, but will not have been treated or coated with chemicals. None of its offerings are from genetically modified seed or plant material. Also sells organic composts, pest controls and other gardening supplies. Tel 0344 967 0330, organiccatalogue.com.
Mail order seed suppliers
Organic seeds are becoming more easily available. It’s always worth searching for options with your regular seed company of choice, or here’s a list of companies that are already offering good options:
• Mr Fothergills Seeds Tel 0333 777 3936, mr-fothergills.co.uk – many popular choices.
• Real Seeds Tel 01239 821107, realseeds.co.uk – open pollinated seeds.
• Seed Co-operative Tel 01775 840592, seedcooperative.org.uk – open pollinated varieties adapted to organic growing.
• Suttons Tel 0344 326 2200, suttons.co.uk – 27 new varieties added to its range this year.
• Tamar Organics Tel 01579 371087, tamarorganics.co.uk – vegetables, herbs, flowers, green manures and more.
Sorrel Everton is deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated.