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Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries
Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries, Cott Road, Lostwithiel, Cornwall. PL22 0HW.
As much as I would have liked to, I was not able to speak to the 'big boss' of the nursery. His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales was away on important business - as he is indeed for almost all the time. I would have told His Royal Highness that his nursery was high up on my 'favourites' list. It sits on the site of an old slate quarry in the immediate vicinity of Lostwithiel. The setting is full of English charm: it is approached by ancient narrow and shady lanes and the view from it opens out across the rolling hills so typical of Cornwall. It is not a small nursery but it has managed to retain a cosy, almost intimate, atmosphere. It is, a might be expected, in a climatically favoured part of the UK, zone 9a-9b, but nevertheless the winter of 2008-2009 did see temperatures the the Nursery drop to as low as -10° to -9°C.
The assortment of plants is as impressive as the setting. Most striking is the selection of fuchsias but it does not stop there - this is where it starts. The selection of camellias is also remarkable. Looking further I found some interesting magnolias, climbers, a good choice of Cistus, Viburnum, fruit trees, foliage rhododendrons (including R. falconeri, R. maccabeanum, R. sinogrande) and Pseudopanax. For enthusiasts looking for the more 'exotic', climatically challenging or tender and semi-tender plants ('conservatory plants'?) there is plenty to look at, choose from and buy. There is a selection of citrus trees in several sizes, some Aloe, cactus, Aeonium, Banksia but only a few palms. While in some of these areas the selection may not seem extensive there are plants for sale which are very difficult to find elsewhere despite what the RHS Plantfinder may say. For those delighting in something special you can get a clone of the olive tree from the Chelsea Physic Garden - and you do not even have to pay a premium. This clone is propagated on site. Otherwise you might be lucky enough to find an Iochroma cyanea "Narrow Flower Form"; this plant has narrow tubular flowers of the most exquisite purple-blue. A real gem of a plant.
The staff are knowledgeable and helpful: it is clear they like plants and like working with plants. There is a total staff of 21, some of whom work part-time, headed by Jim Stephens, the Horticultural Manager, who has been at the Nursery for 20 years. On the 19-acre site, as well as some 150,000-200,000 potted plants, there is a shop (with a very good selection of gardening and plant books), a very basic catering outlet (serving irresistable pasties and with tables both inside and outside), and a sales area for plant pots and compost; there is none of the paraphanelia associated with garden centres. Although the Nursery buys in almost 50% of the plants it sells it remains firmly and above all else a nursery. And a clear favourite of mine.
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