Until I became a designer, I would look at plants in garden centres and occasionally whistle at some of the prices. In particular, I had a vision of drifts of the wonderful Russian sage, Perovskia Blue Spire, serpentining elegantly through my borders but when I calculated what it would cost to bring this to reality, I rapidly concluded that if I wanted them in such generous quantities, I would have to grow the plants for myself.
Acquisition of seed was simple, but germination was slow and growing on has been positively snail-like. This has made me realise that one of the reasons for the high cost of certain plants is that in some cases they can take years to reach a size where they can be planted out with a reasonable certainty of survival. Factor in the costs of pots, compost, labour, transportation and VAT and it is hardly surprising that such desirable plants carry a hefty price tag. My sympathies with nurseries grow ever stronger as they deal with the vagaries of springs and summers, economic challenges and increased prices.
I try to support local growers wherever I work by choosing my plants from them. This has the advantage that with little transportation stress and being accustomed to local conditions, the plants have a much stronger chance of flourishing, and the nursery will continue to do business.
All being well, my own Perovskia will be ready to plant out next spring and I can finally enjoy those silvery stems and smokey blue flowers waving. But not every gardener has space or time to nurse such tardy treasures and it is well worth checking out your local nurseries to see what is there – you may be pleasantly surprised to find reasonably priced plants stocked which aren’t in the superstore top 100, and much more interesting for all that.