I now think that the days of independent nurseries are over. Possibly not so 15 years ago when we decided to sell up in the UK and come to France. Buying an old farm house and an acre of land then seemed ‘a piece of cake’. Restore the house and cultivate a wilderness, not a problem. 15 years on and we are almost there. Well, the house needs redecorating and the garden is slowing turning back to a wilderness, but the greenhouses and poly tunnel are full of plant species and new hybrids.
It wasn’t easy at first, as there were no commercial garden centres. You couldn’t buy seed trays, plastic labels or compost. Now, of course you can, along with artificial christmas trees and barbecues.
My partner and I have specialised in 4 rather exotic plant species. Passiflora, Hemerocalis, Brugmansias and Iris. It has taken a long time to establish the collection, and now it is more of a hobby than a business.
John Clegg. I started collecting butterflies and breeding them over half a century ago. I soon realised that I needed to be able to recognise and grow plants. College and teaching gives you little time for pastimes, but as a lecture I decided to do a three year part time course in gardening. I absolutely loved it. The passion has never left me.
Ian Bentley. Perhaps his six years at Asprey’s were not wasted, as his knowledge of precious and semi precious stones is impressive. Colour, shape and form. That came in very handy when he attended a two year part time garden design course. He designed a number of gardens in London before leaving for France.
Together we designed, built and planted numerous gardens here in the Languedoc; just one hour north of the Spanish border. Thankfully, those days have now gone. Planting, growing and hybridising takes up more than enough of our time. Time left, however for that glass of local vino.