Hellyer's Garden Plants was not the original name for my nursery: but when my first order of plastic plant pots disappeared to a nursery of a similar name ten miles from me I made the decision to alter the name. Our first choice was Orchards Nursery, after the garden. It was laid out near the garden gate in 1992 and opened that August when I had enough stock to fill the 'beds' that Philip had constructed from old railway sleepers. In the heat of the summer sun, the tar exuded from the sleeper as a dark, sticky liquid. Very quickly these were replaced. Rabbits and deer enjoyed this feast laid out ready for their consumption, and the deer carried their most prized morsels up the orchard and left them littered like confetti. Then Arthur became ill and needed constant care, so the nursery was closed until further notice.
|Rowan our Sussex Spaniel|
We re-opened the following March, having lost Arthur at the end of January 1993. Philip worked hard on a new layout, fencing the surround with chicken wire and building larch posts to keep out the deer, and constructing a wooden garden gate. He laid one path of paving slabs, the rest of the pathways separating the 'beds' were laid with fresh wood chipping. These were not ideal in the summer months when customers wore sandals, so it was soon replaced with pea shingle.
|The Nursery 2004|
During the winter of 2002/3, Philip transformed the nursery once more. More staging was introduced
to save me bending or lifting from the ground. A network of wood covered the area, which could if the sun was too strong have taken shading. A bench was built outside the nursery area for customers to place their purchases and Philip made small wooden 'trugs' for customers to place the smaller plants.
Frequent treks were made to two nurseries in particular, to purchase stock plants, both of which are now closed. Axletree run by David Hibberd and Washfields by Elizabeth Strangman. Both very knowledgeable and reliable proprietors. Any purchases made could be safely propagated and sold on, safe in the knowledge that the labelling was correct. David in particular was very helpful with my purchases of Hardy Geraniums, a genre in which he was an expert. The late Rosemary Verey had advised me to specialise in Hardy Geraniums; but I think I might have done anyway because they - for the most part - were ideal for a garden like Orchards. Their nurseries were exactly the kind of nursery that I wanted to run too. Small but stocked with a multitude of different varieties. David had a delightful (small) garden attached to his nursery, which you were free to walk around.
Hellyer's Garden Plants continued to trade until 2004, they were in many ways the most rewarding years of my life. And a way of life I still miss.