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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.

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