Late October saw my latest trip to Evolution Plants, to take stock of the first year and to see what else has changed since May's visit. It was a very busy summer and autumn for us all so the timing was much later than originally planned. **
The visual clue above hints at more changes at the nursery. I usually go though the gate, but now visitors are asked to take the side path on arrival.
But first I needed to take one of the standard photos I've taken for every visit; the view of the nursery from the gate. This time I poked my camera through a gap to get my desired shot. For once my arrival coincided with a beautifully sunny day, during that late unseasonal warmth you may remember we had in late October. A day which meant most of my time there was spent outside - yay!
When Tom and I discussed this series of posts, we agreed it would be good if I got to know the whole team at Evolution Plants. It was great that at last I had the opportunity to talk at length to nursery manager Gemma Neech, and Helen Bailey, who delights in the title of Head of Friendliness (very well deserved).
We were so busy chatting about the nursery, I totally forgot to take their picture, so you'll have to make do with this hefty 'To do' list instead. I'm surprised they found the time to fit me in - it's a very busy place!
Whilst I didn't get to see Tom this time, instead of being disappointed I felt it marked a turning point; there was a sense of a team who've grown in confidence in what they do.
While we were going round the polytunnels, I could see Gemma is bringing a sense of order to the place. Plants aren't just plonked in where there's a space, instead they go in the right spot and that spot has an equivalent place on the nursery's database. They're saying goodbye to plants on the floor too - the ones in the picture will be up on the staging the next time I go there.
The display areas are getting a revamp too. Here is the new display of drought tolerant plants such as agaves and yuccas. There's a Joshua tree amongst that lot, so I suspect this arrangement may change in due course. I've already told Mark and Gaz they might like to check out this part of the nursery's catalogue!
There was also a sense of the nursery winding down for the season, though for me this picture of the sales area represents the major changes made in just one year. When Tom launched the nursery in late 2013, he was quite clear he going to just focus on online sales and any visits would be by appointment in the first year.
Instead, the nursery opened for several days a week over the summer and autumn and there was also an exhausting looking round of exhibits and talks at various plant fairs and specialist sales. Tom has started writing a regular column for The English Garden, where he relates tales of his plant hunting adventures. He picked up a New Talent finalist nod at The Garden Media Guild Awards last month as a result - hurrah!
A further success was the supply of plants for Flowers by Passion's natural meadow themed window display for Bath's Britain in Bloom. Another visit to the nursery resulted in the offer to supply plants to Sissinghurst. Head Gardener Troy Scott-Smith is a renowned plantsman, so this is a real coup.
Other changes afoot include volunteer opportunities. Gemma trained at the renowned Cambridge University Botanic Garden, but even she is amazed at how much she's learned this year. Imagine how much your knowledge could expand, especially with around 5,000 different plants and that specialist library on hand. You'll get your pick of plants to take home too!
Update: Helen tells me they have enough volunteers for now as it's winter. I suspect that might change in the spring, though they're also exploring linking up with Lackham. I'll keep you posted.
Those of you who don't live close enough to volunteer, may like to know there's a 50% off plant sale on the go at the moment, which ends on 31st January 2015.
I'll leave you with my other standard photo of the nursery, taken from the point furthest away from the gate. I'll be catching up with Tom again in January, when he is due to give a talk to the University of Bath Gardening Club.
* = and a tiny bit more
** = as is this post, though it does mean I've managed to shoehorn even more news in ;)
Previous posts about Evolution Plants:
- In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters: Evolution Plants (the nursery's official opening) - October 2013
- Be Mine - a Snowdrop Valentine - February 2014
- VPs VIPs: Tom Mitchell and Evolution Plants - February 2014
- VPs VIPs: Tom Mitchell and Evolution Plants Part II - April 2014
- Evolution Plants Open Day - May 2014
Update August 2015 - sadly Tom has announced Evolution Plants is up for sale. Whether it continues in other hands, or his plants materialise in other nurseries has yet to be seen.