The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Notebook -

Sow them early enough and colour­ful half hardy an­nu­als put on a ri­otous late sum­mer show: Cleome, Cos­mos, Nico­tiana, Nas­tur­tium, Rici­nus, Tagetes, Zin­nia was warned to be care­ful.

Fi­nally Ray, who was up to his eyes in work try­ing to raise in­sects and plants, went back to grow­ing plants.

“How­ever, a Dutch­man who started up at the same time as I did, a man called Kop­pert, now has an in­ter­na­tional com­pany,” he re­flects. I sus­pect Ray may have had a hap­pier time grow­ing plants. He’s cer­tainly pleased lots of peo­ple and sup­plied hun­dreds of good plants.

“Com­ing here is a bit like go­ing back 70 years, be­cause we are tra­di­tional. We’ve got the tea room and the gar­den is open to vis­i­tors for noth­ing. You can come in and find a seat and have a cof­fee at the top of the gar­den; lots of peo­ple en­joy the in­for­mal­ity. We sell a lot of bed­ding and veg­etable plants. Once the green­house is empty the large ten­der plants get moved across. Al­though we have lots of rar­i­ties, some of our best sell­ers are very or­di­nary. We sell masses of cat­mint ( Nepeta), and we can’t prop­a­gate enough lau­rel – cus­tomers al­ways seem to want them.”

Ray’s son Matthew came into the busi­ness 15 years ago “to help me”, Ray says. “Now it’s the other way round. I’m help­ing him.” And with that he goes back to his wa­ter­ing – a happy man in hor­ti­cul­ture.

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