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.