A photograph of a garden

Where garden designers buy their plants

A garden is only as good as its plants. Here four renowned garden designers choose their favourite suppliers.

Charlotte Harris, James Basson, Kate Gould and Matt Keightley reveal their six best-loved nurseries, from tree growers extraordinaire to suppliers of bulbs, perennials, shade-loving and aquatic plants.

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Charlotte Harris

  1. Special Plants
    Derry Watkins’ treasure trove of a nursery is located in a beautiful valley outside Bath. It is packed with eclectic, unusual and – as the name suggests – special plants from all over the world, both hardy and tender, for outside and in. Greenways Lane, Cold Ashton, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN14 8LA. specialplants.net
  2. Phoenix Perennial Plants
    Marina Christopher’s knowledge of interesting and unusual
    perennials is encyclopaedic. She grew many plants from seed for Hugo Bugg’s Royal Bank of Canada garden at the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show. By appointment only. Paice Lane, Medstead, Alton, Hampshire GU34 5PR.
  3. Knoll Gardens
    Neil Lucas’s ornamental gardens
    at Knoll in Dorset are worth a visit in their own right; they are both beautiful and practical, and I always leave full of ideas. The nursery’s online ordering is easy for both grasses and perennials, but I’d recommend a visit to the plant centre, which is full of gems. Stapehill Rd, Hampreston, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7ND. knollgardens.co.uk
  4. Beeches Nursery
    This nursery, which is peat-free, is beautifully arranged, with unusual plants around every corner. Crown Hill, Ashdon, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 2HB. beechesnursery.co.uk
  5. Woottens of Wenhaston
    This nursery in East Anglia specialises in herbaceous hardy perennials, including bearded irises (a breathtaking sight in early June), pelargoniums, hardy geraniums, auriculas and Hemerocallis. It is only open on the first weekend of the month from March to November but has an excellent mail order service. The Iris Field, Hall Road, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 9HF. woottensplants.com
  6. Glendoick Garden Centre
    This Scottish nursery is a third- generation family business that grows and supplies rhododendron and azalea species and hybrids as well as other woodland and acid-loving plants.Glendoick, Glencarse, Perthshire PH2 7NS. glendoick.com

James Basson

  1. Pépinières Daniel Soupe
    Created in 1975, this tree nursery is located near Mâcon, in one of the best wine regions in France, and comprises 1,000 acres of the most sublime, natural trees. They are also experts on phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to clean pollution from the soil. The nursery delivers throughout Europe. Les Lazares, 01400 Châtillon sur Chalaronne, France. pepinieres-soupe.com
  2. Le Monde des Fougères
    Olivier and Pascale Ezavin have over 30 years’ experience of shade plants. They grow several plants for vegetative walls (the French vertical garden master, Patrick Blanc, is a regular client), but are just as happy with large tree ferns. All plants are produced on site and are top quality. 955 Chemin du Puits, 06330 Roquefort-les-pins, France. pepiniereezavin.com
  3. Bulb’Argence
    Dutch born Lauw de Jager created his family-run bulb nursery in the Camargue in 1992 and now produces 2,000 Mediterranean species. The nursery is a delight, as there is always something flowering in the show garden. Mas d’Argence, 30300 Fourques, France. bulbargence.com
  4. Pépinière Filippi
    In their nursery near Montpelier in southern France, Olivier and Clara Filippi have carved a niche in dry garden plants. They have extensive knowledge of Mediterranean plants and their superb experimental garden is well worth a visit.
    RD 613, 34140 Meze, France. jardin-sec.com
  5. Pépinières Lepage
    This family business offers over 2,400 different varieties of
    perennials. The nursery processes and orders quickly and efficiently, and the plants are of fantastic quality. The website is clear, informative and easy to use, and staff are very familiar with online ordering. Chemin du Portu, 49130 Les Ponts-de-Cé, France. lepage-vivaces.com
  6. Ciancavaré
    This nursery in Luguria in Italy specialises in salvias, offering more than 100 cultivars. A visit to the nursery is recommended as much for the ambiance as for the plants. Owners Clémence and Dani grow all their own stock and spend their time walking the hills, gathering seeds and propagating. Villa Viani, 18027, Pontedassio, Italy. vivaiociancavare.it

Kate Gould

  1. Europlants
    Europlants has a wide variety of specimen plants perfect for creating that ‘wow’ factor. It’s a trade-only outfit, but can let you know the location of your nearest stockist. europlants.net
  2. Orchard Dene
    This Oxfordshire nursery grows its herbaceous perennials in peat-free soil. Its 9cm plants may come in tiny pots, but they have an extraordinary amount of vigour. Orchard Dene is a trade-only nursery, but it’s worth looking out for the Marchants at plant fairs and attending one of their talks. Lower Assendon, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire RGL 6AL. orcharddene.co.uk
  3. Todd’s Botanics
    Todd’s specialises in drought-tolerant herbaceous and architectural plants and trees that are either grown on site or hand selected from Europe’s specialist suppliers. Buy online or visit by appointment. West Street, Coggeshall, Colchester, Essex CO6 1NT. toddsbotanics.co.uk
  4. Hare Spring Cottage Plants
    This nursery in North Yorkshire specialises in hardy perennial plants. Nurserywoman Stella Exley holds the National Collection of Camassia as well as growing a range of Sidalcea and Uvularia. Church Orchard, Alne, York, North Yorkshire YO61 1RX. harespringcottageplants.co.uk
  5. Jacques Amand
    Jacques Amand is both a wholesale and retail nursery – and my local bulb specialist. The nursery is running a spring bulb event in February, with a talk by John Armand and sales of dormant bulbs as well as those about to flower or in flower. The Nurseries, Clamp Hill, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 3JS. jacquesamandintl.com
  6. Preston Bissett Nursery
    This nursery offers a wide range of well-grown perennials,
    interesting pots and a great selection of sundries. Such is the enormity of the plant selection – from rows of cottage garden plants through to herbs, fruit, hedging and specimen large trees – that you can create a whole garden in one visit. Bushey Lane, Preston Bissett, Buckinghamshire MK18 4ND. thenurseries.com

Matt Keightley

  1. David Austin Roses
    David Austin never disappoints.
    It all starts with the website. It’s a powerful tool – just enter your requirements (aspect of the
    available space, flower type and colour, flowering habit and so on) and you’re provided with an instant list of fabulous options. The plants always arrive looking well nurtured and ready to go. Bowling Green Lane, Albrighton, Wolverhampton WV7 3HB. davidaustinroses.co.uk
  2. Deepdale Trees
    After a visit here it’s easier to see how you might go about designing a garden around specific trees. The stock level is impressive, and includes hedging and shrubs. The quality of specimen and level of service and support throughout the procurement process are also excellent and staff regularly go beyond the call of duty. Although it’s trade only, the website has lots of useful information about trees. Tithe Farm, Hatley Road, Potton, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DX. deepdale-trees.co.uk
  3. Dorset Water Lily
    The team at Dorset Water Lily are true experts in their field. The nursery has supplied marginal and aquatic plants for a number of our high-profile projects. I love the nursery’s turnkey approach – it will advise on appropriate combinations for your scheme, supply superb plants, prepare and plant your pond/lake, and even provide a follow-up service should you require it. Nursery Office, Yeovil Road, Halstock, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 9RR. dorsetwaterlily.co.uk
  4. The Palm Centre
    Located in an unexpected and beautiful setting full of character, it’s packed with fantastic plants suitable for a wide variety of projects. Most notable are the ferns, tree ferns and bamboos. A real must if you’re planning an exotic or shaded garden. Ham Central Nursery, Ham Street, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7HA. palmcentre.co.uk
  5. Jub
    Pick up Jub’s beautiful catalogue, choose from thousands of combinations of immaculate bulbs and receive a delivery from the Netherlands within a matter of days. Robijnslaan 43, 2211 TG Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands. jubholland.nl/nl
  6. Hortus Loci
    Incredible stock, friendly, knowledgeable staff and fantastic coffee. I get a real buzz whenever I drive through the gates, and Mark Straver and his team can advise on any project. The nursery is trade only, but its new retail Plant Centre offers an impressive range of plants. Hound Green, Hook, Hampshire RG27 8LQ. hortusloci.co.uk
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This article was taken from a longer feature in The Special Edition Plant Issue of Gardens Illustrated (255).
Photo credit: Orchard Dene nursery, Fiona McLeod