Arvensis, a new wholesale plant nursery.
If you are an avid garden Instagrammer, you will have no doubt come across the striking crisp images posted by Arvensis, a new wholesale trade plant nursery. Intrigued to find out more, I set off for Bradford-on-Avon, eager to see if the nursery lives up to its online profile.
I was not disappointed – rarely have I been to a more organised immaculate nursery with row after row of plants in the pink. It is a beguiling place, and a great credit to its owners, Gussy and Rob Macdougall.
These days there aren’t many small trade nurseries. Hurrah for Arvensis, who specialise in more than 350 ‘good reliable herbaceous perennials, grasses and ferns’. Why ‘Arvensis’? It means from the fields. Gussy and Rob are great advocates of the current vogue for ‘naturalistic planting‘We do a lot of division and propagating ourselves to build up our stock’.
They both have a lifelong love of plants and gardening and met in London when they were both running their own gardening firms.
Gussy went to Cirencester Agricultural College and Rob, originally from Zimbabwe, did a Foundation Course at Maidstone Art School very nearly becoming a fine art photographer but eventually opted for a horticultural degree at Reading University.
Recently married, and wanting to move out of London, the Macdougall’s got the opportunity to work at Orchard Dene, the well-known trade nursery near Henley, Oxfordshire. ‘We learnt loads’ says Rob, adding ‘it was great experience’.
When it came to an end they found themselves at a loose end. Furthermore Gussy was five months pregnant. Undaunted, they set about making a tour of gardens and nurseries in the South East including Graham Gough’s Marchants Nursery, (see earlier blog on this website) and Marina Christopher’s, Phoenix Plants Nursery, either camping or staying with friends. ‘It was a marvellous opportunity’ says Gussy. As you can tell the couple have an infectious sense of ‘can do’ about them.
The next part of their story is serendipitous. During their tour they visited a nursery owned by an ex-banker, Tom Mitchell, who had followed his dream of starting a nursery. Lo and behold he greeted them by saying ‘Only this week I have decided to sell up’. ‘We spent a couple of weeks deliberating’, recalls Gussy before making the brave decision to buy it. Adding ‘Tom jokes that he set it all up for us’. Arvensis have fine stock beds as Tom had imported vast quantities of top soil.
Weirdly the site is adjacent to a golf course reputedly made with spoil from the construction of the M4. ‘It’s akin to glacial topography’ says Rob. Odd as it is to see golfers taking a putt, the golf course provides invaluable shelter. In time the Macdougall’s plan to plant trees around the perimeter.
Two years on ‘We are really enjoying it. At times it is stressful but it is a great lifestyle’ says Gussy.
It took a year or so for them to get into their stride. ‘We have several small local orders flowing in and have sent plants as far afield as Aberdeen and Penzance’. The on line plant list is beautifully illustrated with superb clear photographs. Wisely they have embraced social media. ‘Instagram is brilliant, we see what other people are doing and it is our only form of advertising’.
Arvensis is a nursery to watch.