Meadow Farm – A Plantsman’s Delight

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On Sunday morning before the downpours really started I popped across Worcestershire to visit the garden and nursery of Rob and Diane Cole – Meadow Farm.

Rob and Diane are serious plants people and growers and I met them through the Hardy Plant Society, we go to the same group.  Their nursery isn’t open as they choose to sell through various Plant Fairs and no doubt this gives them the opportunity to meet other like-minded people and I suspect it is easier to manage than feeling you have to be open every day. However, they open to groups and having a day spare they decided to open for charity and invite people they knew.

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Rob, it turns out, has a bit of a thing about Echinacea and has a special trial bed for them.  He told us at a recent group meeting that he lets the bees do the pollinating, sows the seed and then selects the best plants and so on.  When he gets what he considers good strong plants he includes them in the plants he takes to show to sell. At our July meeting his display of double Echinacea was something to behold although I wonder how popular they are with the bees. Needless to say I came home with a few having had clear advice and guidance from Diane on where best to plant them as in the past I have failed to keep Echinacea flowering from one year to the next.

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Not only are Rob and Diane serious plant growers they are mad keen gardeners and their garden was immaculate – stripey mown lawn and not a weed to be seen.  More interestingly was that all their plants looked to be in excellent health which I found very impressive given the heat we have had for the majority of July which has stressed plants and caused scorching etc.  Talking to Diane it is clear they spend every minute of the day working in the garden or nursery and the results show.

It was interesting visiting this garden two days after visiting Veddw. You couldn’t have two gardens more apart from each other in style and ethos.  Being plantaholics, like me, the idea of mass planting one plant is alien to Rob and Diane.  Their garden is a veritable rainbow of colours but there is also a clever mix of textures, leaf shapes etc.  Some of the colour combinations weren’t to my taste but then I think colour is a very subjective thing and I was interested to note that I found myself drawn to the more subtle combinations and again purples and pinks featured.

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My reactions to the two very different gardens has had me pondering in recent days.  As I said before I understand what Anne is advocating and in some areas of her garden I thought this worked to good effect but in others the mass monoculture was too much for me.  Like the Coles I adore plants, I am fascinated by their diversity, where they come from, how they respond to change environments etc and so I cannot see how I would ever be happy and fulfilled in a garden like Veddw.  Equally, I think I would have to pare down some of the planting at Meadow Farm and possibly introduce more plants for their foliage interest.  I have realised that whilst I love bright colours I don’t like them en mass, preferring instead to enjoy a more reduced colour pallett enhanced by foliage.

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Visiting these two very different gardens in such a short time frame has been an eye opener and has really made me think about my reaction to different planting styles.  I think I am beginning to work out what really appeals to me and the style I want to create in my own garden rather than the mish mash I currently have.  It has helped me to prioritise but most importantly it has shown me that you should just plant what you want, how you plant in your own garden and ignore the critics.

About Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited
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15 Responses to Meadow Farm – A Plantsman’s Delight

  1. Pauline says:

    I think the photo of the echinacea is delightful, such a variety of tones. I think the bees must be in seventh heaven with all those wonderful plants, I wonder why you don’t think so, as they are a super bee plant.
    I started out wanting one of each plant in the garden here, but over the years have decided that it looked bitty and I have changed to drifts of the same when I find a plant that does really well on my heavy clay. I either repeat it now or find more of its cousins that should be happy in the same soil

    • Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Pauline
      I love Echinacea they just have a habit of dying on me but I keep trying!

  2. I’m sorry we didn’t brave the rain now! We had the picnic basket ready but it was raining cats and dogs in Cheltenham all day so we stayed at home. I visited Meadow Farm at the end of January and my lasting memory (without any flowers to see) was how incredibly clean, tidy and organised it was. Rob & Diane are clearly fanatical about their garden and nursery and want it to look it’s very best at all times. I have to say, that sentiment appeals to me, I just wish I could do it too! Sadly, the Echinacea hybrids I bought from them last year did not survive the winter well – too wet according to Diane. Still, my Echinacea purpurea and ‘White Swan’ are looking wonderful this year and covered with bees and butterflies all day long.

  3. fairegarden says:

    Thanks for sharing this garden, Helen and especially for sharing your thoughts about plant likes and dislikes. Veddw looks beautiful but so different than the plant collector’s paradise this post features. In our own gardens, the best way, as you say is to please yourself!
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  4. Skeeter says:

    Beautiful gardens and so full of color for my eyes to enjoy. Being a gardener that picks up a bargain plant and sticks it in the ground with little thought, has me enjoying your honesty with your garden views…

  5. Anna says:

    So much colour leaping out from your photos of Meadow Farm Helen. As you say a very different garden to Veddw but vive la difference. I was almost tempted by echinacea ‘Summer Cocktail’ earlier this week but decided to wait and do some research first. I’ve not had much luck with overwintering them apart from ‘Kim’s Knee High’ which got through a couple of winters before giving up the proverbial ghost. Hope that yours flourish.

    • Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      Rob was talking to Fergus G at our last meeting and he was saying you could sow them in Autumn and treat them as annuals

  6. Cathy says:

    Seems as if over-wintering of echinaceas is a problem for a lot of us! A satisfactory colour palette is very subjective, as you say, and when you are limited for space and want to grow lots of different things it makes things difficult – I have been trying to get away from the ‘mish-mash’ that you too recognise, but it’s hard, isn’t it? It’s good you are getting out and visiting lots of places, Helen – too easy to neglect that and get on with jobs in one’s own garden ;)

  7. Ricki Grady says:

    What I love most about garden visits is the opportunity to become immersed in different styles. As you have noted, it takes a lot of thought to pull a look together. A lot of work, too… I could easily spend “every minute” gardening and still not achieve such perfection.

  8. Sarah says:

    I have spent years searching for the “formula” of a great garden design. I’ve finally realised that it’s completely subjective! Plant what you like and shape your garden to suit yourself. I’m currently looking to move into mass planting. I inherited a large garden 4 years ago and it’s been an uphill struggle but I feel as if I’m getting somewhere! So lovely to get inspiration from other gardens…..

  9. Sounds like my idea of Heaven. :-)

  10. Alison says:

    It’s a difficult balance to strike between colorful flowers and foliage. I love seeing a colorful blooming garden with lots of variety, but then I also love looking up close at wonderful foliage combinations. So I have one or two beds right now with lots of flowers, and a large bed that is lacking in flowers but has lots of foliage. I also love that shot of all the Echinaceas, so in a large garden that can afford the space, a big swath of something like that is very impressive too. I think figuring out your own style and experimenting with different ones is key to being happy with your garden. I hope you have better luck with Echinaceas.

  11. Really enjoyed seeing these gardens as they have some of my fav plants.

  12. Its really interesting reading about your responses to the two very different planting styles Helen. I am completely with you that you need to just plant what and how you like, if it pleases you that is all that really matters. Am also intrigued about the hints you got about how to grow echinacea, I remember a slot on gardener’s world a few years ago where they suggested that a lot of the fancier cultivars are hard to grow well other than as annuals, but that you can get good results from planting them slightly higher in the ground. I’ve simplified things by concentrating on ‘White Swan’ and purpurea, as I love them both, they grow well from seed, and I know they last.

    Look forward to watching the results of all these musings taking shape in your garden!

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