Where to buy plants?

A few words from todays post in the Gardener in France blog

It feels a little autumnal today; temperatures have dropped ten degrees to around 20° C and as if to prove the point, plant catalogues have started arriving in the post. I am a cynic when it comes to this end of the gardening market; outrageous claims, dodgy photographs and a lack of Latin names are a feature of these publications. Offers seem too good to be true and generally are, and why do they think price draws and free gifts are a good idea? I guess I am not their ideal customer profile.

In France, Jacques Briant is perhaps the acceptable face of this genre and their autumn catalogue has made interesting reading. An inserted special offer leaflet with four David Austin roses for 28€30 attracted my attention and had me turning pages. I arrived at page 18 very rapidly, but paused to look at Camellia williamsii Anticipation – 9,99€ for a 7cm rooted cutting….I don’t think so! Seven pages later a primrose caught my eye – Zebra Blue has sky blue veins over a white background – very pretty and five times the price of Suttons in the UK, but then, Suttons don’t send plants to France.

Fruit next and yes, they offer both white and red-fleshed Peche de Vigne. There’s a selection of Apples, Pears, Plums and Cherries, including Bigarreau Trompe Geai, with yellow-white fruits, unattractive to birds. Being France, there are also Apricots and other fruits, more or less exotic to the English gardener. They give a half page to the self-fertile Kiwi (Actinidia) Solissimo, which I bought from a rival company in the spring. My plant arrived in a pathetic 7cm pot and finally convinced me I was never going to buy from Willemse again.

Rushing on to page 48 to look at the shrubs. Abelia Kaleidoscope is a lovely looking plant, already growing happily in the front garden, as my reader will be aware. Mahonia ( nitens) Cabaret is doing well in the back garden, as are Daphne odora (Aureomarginata) – full Latin names are not always used – and several others featured here. By pages 52/3 we have moved on to Hydrangeas, including some tempting new varieties. I think I’ll wait until the Coursan plant show to buy a few more, perhaps Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball, with truly massive white flower heads.

Moving on past several interesting climbers, including their own Schizophragma Rose Sensation, which we planted this year, interesting looking Akebia quinata rosea and several attractive Clematis, we finally arrive at the trees, where several plants take my fancy.

I have always felt the front garden needed a tree and considered moving a speciment from the back to the front, but obviously we want to sho off a bit! Three other possibilities leap out from the page: Albizia (julibrissin) Rouge Pompadour a gorgeous Mimosa-like tree of sculptural form with fluffy red flowers, Acacia Casque Rouge (actually Robinia Pseudoacacia Casque Rouge, but I’m sure they know that) a deep pink form of the Robinia that grows wild all around us and, Chitalpa x.taschkentensis Summer Belles. This last tree is really rather interesting. A recent hybrid between Chilopsis and Catalpa, the original breeding work was undertaken at the Uzbek Academy of Science in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the 1960s before being introduced internationally in the mid 1970s. This small hybrid with a rounded form initiates flower bud in June / July, opening to produce an abundant display of frilly pink flowers with yellow throats for the rest of the summer.

Other forms exist but this could be the answer.

The catalogue continues up the order form at page 120 by which time I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand some interesting plants, on the other, French retail prices and irritating marketing methods which do not inspire confidence in this gardener.

I'll let you know how they overwinter, but they were well packed and strong plants. I have repotted them and they are in our unheated and leaky conservatory

Sorry Janet, I missed your comments earlier.

What was the name of your nursery? I wonder if I know it.

The Alkbizzia was said to be too tender when it first came out but now I see it in several catologues. Where are you growing it? I'm in the centre (36210)

let me know what you think of the quality of the plants.

In the post box most mornings are offers of plants from a number of mail order companies, suggestions I can resist without too much difficulty.

On the other hand I have found a French grower on eBay, of all places, who lists a really interesting selection of unusual plants and clearly knows her stuff. I decided to give her a try and have ordered Echium fastuosum, whose towering blue flower spikes are a spectacular feature of the flora of Madera, Kniphofia Dorset Sentry, an acid-yellow variety of Red Hot Poker and Hedychium Tara, a hardy plant related to Ginger featuring luxuriant foliage and delightfully scented, bright orange flowers.

We are looking forward to growing all of these and will report back on their arrival and progress.

I must make effort and get up to Courson - bit of a hike for me - I am in far SW by Biarritz (not far from James and Catharine! who also havent got to see yet!!). Where do you all stay when you go up and do you do car or train?

What a pleasure to read something written by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener - I am all for Latin names - you know exactly what you are getting. I hate the florid Photoshopped catalogues I receive through the post. I currently grow things from seed and would love ultimately to recreate the Rare Plants nursery I had in England.

I do have a variety of Hydrangea Arborescens growing in my front courtyard - here when I bought - which has the faintest mauve colouring in the centre of the flowers. It dies beautifully. I also have a deep rose pink Lagerstromeria in the potager. Interestingly, it has set seed this year. I took a cutting of a chocolate leaved Albizzia earlier in the year - it has rooted and I am waiting with bated breath to see if it remains healthy.

My other wonderful find this year was a mauvy purple Eucalyptus - tag lost - which is very unusual.

Where do you live Colin?

Really enjoyed discovering your website, Nikki. Will try to persuade the family to go and visit you (from SE Toulouse) one weekend. Have a good autumn!

If you are anywhere near, the 11th annual Plant Swap at Bentayou Seree (64) takes place at the Old Presbytery at 2.30pm on 1/10/11. no money changes hands, just swaps. This year will see the innovation of a book swap too (French or English). It’s not that far from Bernard Lacrouts at Sanous (west of Vic en Bigorre) who has a wonderful selection of perennials. And don’t forget the rare plants fair at Ordan Larroque (32) on the 9th Oct

I order quite a lot from jardindupicvert.com…The plants always arrive in on time and in excellent condition.Jardin express is another favorite but I only use the for annuels in plug form although my 35 white cosmos didn’t do well this summer!!

Apropos plants sources, I’m really impressed with what I see here and will almost certainly give them a try and report back. http://stores.ebay.fr/Plantes-exotiques-au-jardin

I too want to introduce the French to the joys of Bramley cooking apples and brought I plant back from the UK last year.

We have Bramleys for sale at our Garden Centre (Kingdom Vegetal), but we’re in Haute Garonne, so a bit far for you to come, sorry. However, just did a quick search on the internet and found The French Chilli Farm and Nursery which is in Chabanas in the Charente and apparently (according to their website) sell Bramley apples trees. I don’t know them, so can’t give a personal recommendation, but maybe worth investigating?

A propos du jardin , as I have already mentioned, sell Bramleys. They are trustsworthy.

Hi Grace, we read the small print thank goodness, because if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t!!

Earlier this year my father-in-law ordered some plants from the Bakker catalogue and thought he was going to get a lovely set of teak furniture if he ordered over 70 euros worth. It was of course too good to be true and all he received were two tiny wooden plant pots plus his plants, most of which were just dead twigs and never grew even though he lovingly planted them and watered them. In the small print it said that only the first customer would receive the free gift of the furniture but of course we hadn’t read that. The quality of the plants was truly awful for 70 euros and the deception involved really upset my elderly parents-in-law. For this reason I would not buy from a mail order plant company ever again.
Anyone know where I could buy a young bramley apple tree in the Charente? thanks

Thanks Colin, the French version of the site is with the web developer and should hopefully be up by the end of the week. I’ll talk to him about the pdf files and see what he can come up with.

Thanks again - always nice to get a bit of support and feedback :slight_smile:

There is a wonderful site called aproposdujardin-direct.com, which is in both french and english, as it is owned by a couple, she is french and he is english. We have ordered our potatoes and raspberries from them. We asked what they could recommend as the nearest to King Edwards and we had those and two other varieties as well. They got lost in the post, localpost poffice being re-organised, but were re-sent with no problem. They also sell David Austen roses.

I’m really excited to see you apparently doing well with your “English” garden centre and impressed by your credentials.

I take it there is also a French web site?

By the way, you have a really nice, clean and tidy web site but I’m not turned on by the pdf downloads of your several plant catologues. I’ll bet your web man could put them on an easily updateable html page and even throw in e-commerse for luck!

Anyway, wishing you much success…cge

For those of you down in our neck of the woods (Boulogne sur Gesse) Dept 31 you could always pop into our English style Garden Centre where you can get lots of friendly help and advise on what grows and what doesn’t in this area and we can order plants for you. We can even deliver and plant them for you if you want. We have some examples of prices on our website - we even sell David Austin Roses :slight_smile: www.kingdomvegetal.com

I also read through the Jacques Briant catalogue. Great to drool over the photos of mature plants. I’ve ordered from them in the past and not been too impressed. I use it now for ideas and go round the local nurseries looking for bargains. I can thoroughly recommend the Albizia. We bought what I call a ‘scratch and dent’ tree. It was a long bent twig but a fraction of the price of the full priced trees. We persuaded it to stand up straight and now it has rewarded us. It is a beautiful shape and has flowered from early July until now.