Why gardeners should keep buying plants online — and seven of the most trustworthy nurseries

Our nurseries and garden centres are among the many business facing a catastrophic spring and summer, just at the time when they should be busiest. Tiffany Daneff urges all gardeners to keep buying online to help soften the blow, while John Hoyland, gardens advisor at Glydnebourne, names some of his favourite nurseries across the country.

In normal times our local garden centre — closed until further notice — would be packed with baskets of flowering bulbs and tubs of bright primulas in readiness for Easter and I’d be driving over to the lovely garden at Coton Manor in Northamptonshire to stock up on their excellent home raised sweet peas. But none of that’s going to happen, without a miracle.

Today, I received an email telling me that Coton is going be delivering plant orders within a five mile radius (which rules me out) and good on them. I can hardly begin to understand the upset, frustration and repressed rage that growers must be feeling right now. They have put in the hard work and it looks like none of it is going to be rewarded. It makes the heart bleed just thinking of the rows of fresh young perennials whose roots will start curling around inside their plastic pots unless they’re planted out soon.

In an industry that’s perilous at the best of times (being utterly reliant on the weather being good at key times of the year) the loss of Easter – the biggest selling weekend in the year – is more than just a blow. It may well be fatal for some of the smaller garden centres and specialist nurseries where one often finds the best plants and the most helpful advice.

That’s why now, more than ever, I’ve been putting in orders for seeds and young plants. When they rang back to take my payment Kings Seeds (www.kingsseeds.com) told me that they had had a massive upsurge in orders since the lockdown. I heard the same story at Harrod Horticultural (www.harrodhorticultural.com) who have just delivered me a fantastic cloche system that’s keeping out the local rabbit population.

So all is not lost. But they really need our help, and soon, if they are to weather this particular storm.

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Many keen gardeners will already have favourite suppliers, but if you need soem guidance than John Hoyland, gardens advisor at Glydnebourne, names some of his favourite nurseries across the country.

Ashwood Nurseries, West Midlands

Unusually, this modest-looking garden centre appeals to amateurs and leading designers alike. Alongside a range of great garden plants, owner John Massey stocks world-class selections of hellebores, hepaticas, hydrangeas and snowdrops and specialises in winter-flowering shrubs, including Cornus officinalis, the Japanese Cornelian .

Dove Cottage Nursery and Garden, West Yorkshire

Husband-and-wife team Stephen and Kim Rogers established their nursery in 1995, specialising in tried-and-tested herbaceous perennials — such as long-flowering Astrantia Roma — and ornamental grasses hardy enough for the north of England. The couple regularly travel around Europe seeking out new and exciting plants.

Edulis Nursery, Berkshire

Plant hunter Paul Barney initially specialised in unusual edibles, which he collected from around the globe: Berberis empetrifolia came from Patagonia in 2000. His eclectic range now also includes other rare plants, such as wild, hardy herbaceous and shady specimens.

Knoll Gardens, Dorset

Neil Lucas is a world-leading authority on ornamental grasses and, although it’s worth visiting his nursery for those alone, you’ll find a range of top-notch flowering perennials, too. A new introduction last year was Luzula Snow-flake, a native snowy wood rush selection.

Madrona Nursery, Kent

This family-run nursery has a wide range of the finest trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns and grasses, such as Prunus x incam Okame, a flowering cherry. Some are only found at Madrona, so there’s plenty of interest for amateurs and connoisseurs alike.

Special Plants, Wiltshire

Plantaholic Derry Watkins began her nursery about 25 years ago as a way of justifying her obsession and plant-hunting trips to exotic climes. She specialises in tender perennial plants, plus rockery, hardy herbaceous and seeds. She popularised Verbena officianalis Bampton.