Coast­ing along

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents -

Plants­man Matthew Reese vis­its Lower Ken­neggy Nurs­eries in Corn­wall, which spe­cialises in un­usual and coastal plants

F or over a decade, I have been mak­ing the long jour­ney to west Corn­wall for the sole purpose of vis­it­ing Lower Ken­neggy Nurs­eries. Si­t­u­ated in rolling coun­try­side, just off the Hel­ston road to Pen­zance, the nurs­ery is half a mile from the coast. It of­fers many won­der­ful, un­usual plants and is man­aged by pro­pri­etor and plants­man, Stephen Mules. Stephen pur­chased four acres of land in the 1980s with the in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing a mar­ket gar­den grow­ing a few or­na­men­tal plants to sup­port his side­line gar­den­ing busi­ness. Veg­etable pro­duc­tion proved to be rather ar­du­ous and poorly paid, how­ever, while the nurs­ery side of the busi­ness pros­pered and even­tu­ally took over.

Stephen re­calls the nurs­ery’s be­gin­nings: “I started grow­ing or­na­men­tals, in­clud­ing a wide range of fuch­sias and bed­ding plants. Grad­u­ally, I’ve de­vel­oped and dis­cov­ered my iden­tity as a nurs­ery­man, and over the past 15 to 20 years we’ve been spe­cial­is­ing in plants for the lo­cal cli­mate of west Corn­wall.” He points out that the lo­cal cli­mate is ex­cel­lent for grow­ing cer­tain types of plants, but is not ideal for oth­ers. “Prairie plants and many roses, for in­stance, do not do well here. We have a se­ri­ously mild, mar­itime cli­mate. We don’t get hugely hot sum­mers, but have mild win­ters and sig­nif­i­cantly greater rain­fall than the more eastern coun­ties of Eng­land. The tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence be­tween the sum­mer and win­ter is nor­mally rel­a­tively small com­pared with most of the UK.” Al­though this mild cli­mate means gar­den­ers here can grow a range of

plants that many of us could not con­sider for gar­dens else­where, the mar­itime fac­tor has its draw­backs. Wher­ever you are in this part of Corn­wall, you tend not to be fur­ther than three miles from the sea, and the salt-laden winds can blow far in­land, hav­ing a pro­found im­pact on plant­ing.

With Bri­tain’s ex­ten­sive coast­line, much of the of­fer­ing at Lower Ken­neggy will thrive else­where in the coun­try. Olearias, for ex­am­ple, are among the best plants for pro­vid­ing shel­ter in a coastal gar­den. Stephen praises Olearia ‘Tal­bot de Malahide’ for its smart fo­liage, large pan­i­cles of white flow­ers and out­stand­ing abil­ity to tol­er­ate salt and wind. Al­though there are sev­eral Olearia cul­ti­vars avail­able at Lower Ken­neggy, Stephen says that many more are in dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing from cul­ti­va­tion as they are be­ing su­per­seded in the nurs­ery trade by newer and of­ten less su­pe­rior se­lec­tions. In an ef­fort to pre­vent such loss, Stephen is al­ways on the look­out for older cul­ti­vars that have stood the test of time to add to the nurs­ery’s port­fo­lio. There is a strong con­tin­gent of plants from the south­ern hemi­sphere – Eu­ca­lyp­tus, Hebe, Cor­rea, Gre­vil­lea, Prostan­thera and Corokia – as well as a range of suc­cu­lents that will thrive in a po­si­tion with good drainage.

Al­though there is an em­pha­sis at Lower Ken­neggy on plants that will thrive lo­cally, there are many that will make ex­cel­lent gar­den plants in most ar­eas of the UK, whether on the coast or fur­ther in­land. There are many rare and un­usual species, such as the won­der­ful Bud­dleja for­restii with its large, wil­low-like leaves and droop­ing spikes of scented, milky-mauve flow­ers, and Griselinia scan­dens, a pe­cu­liar­look­ing, ev­er­green shrub that is some­what rem­i­nis­cent of a cy­cad with its stiff habit and shiny leaves and is suit­able for a

WITH BRI­TAIN’S EX­TEN­SIVE COAST­LINE, MUCH OF THE OF­FER­ING HERE WILL THRIVE ELSE­WHERE IN THE COUN­TRY

STEPHEN IS DIS­CERN­ING WHEN IT COMES TO DE­CID­ING WHICH PLANTS TO OF­FER – IT’S MUCH BET­TER TO GROW FEWER THINGS WELL

shady po­si­tion. More com­mon­place (though no less ex­cel­lent) gar­den plants, such as the long-flow­er­ing Gera­nium ‘Mavis Simp­son’, are also con­sid­ered wor­thy of sell­ing space. The shade area houses var­i­ous ferns, in­clud­ing the stun­ning Dry­opteris wal­lichi­ana, as well as hy­drangeas, camel­lias and rhodo­den­drons, but the se­lec­tion is never too huge or over­whelm­ing. For gar­den­ers with glasshouse space, there are plants such as pelargo­ni­ums and Ti­bouch­ina that re­quire pro­tec­tion.

Stephen is dis­cern­ing when it comes to de­cid­ing which plants to of­fer for sale:“It’s much bet­ter to grow fewer things well than to try to grow ev­ery­thing and not do it prop­erly.” In or­der for a plant to make the cut, Stephen has to like it and see po­ten­tial in it. It is also im­por­tant for that par­tic­u­lar plant to fit in with what else is grown at the nurs­ery. A dwarf conifer, for ex­am­ple, would stick out like a sore thumb.

Lower Ken­neggy is a rather spe­cial nurs­ery that caters in par­tic­u­lar to lo­cal gar­den­ers, but is also able to pro­vide plants (along with hon­est and help­ful ad­vice) for a wider client base. I, for one, have dis­cov­ered many trea­sured plants here, such as the hand­some Fuch­sia hatschbachii, with its el­e­gant flow­ers and smart fo­liage, and Hy­drangea macro­phylla ‘Beauté Vendô­moise’, a lace­cap with ex­cep­tion­ally large flo­rets. Visitors will no doubt find their own favourites.

USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION Ad­dress Lower Ken­neggy Nurs­eries, Ro­sud­geon, Pen­zance, Corn­wall TR20 9AR. Tel 01736 762959 / 07584 838695. Web­site low­erken­negg­y­nurs­eries.co.uk Open March to Novem­ber, Tues­days to Satur­days, 10am-5pm.

Above left Hebe ex­pert Mar­shall Hutchens (left) is bring­ing his ex­pert knowl­edge to stock at Lower Ken­neggy Nurs­eries, work­ing along­side owner Stephen Mules.This im­age Just a small se­lec­tion of the many plants on sale at Lower Ken­neggy Nurs­eries,which spe­cialises in un­usual plants and plants for coastal ar­eas.

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