Tag Archives: specialist plant suppliers

In search of more unusual plants

Back in the heady gardening days of the 1980s and 1990s, there were many specialist nurseries carrying a very wide range of unusual plants, mostly selling by mail-order. I described Peter Cave of Cave’s Tree Nursery, Glyn Church of Woodleigh Nursery and Mark Jury as being like the three musketeers but Mark reminded me of Chris and Linda Ryan at Top Trees and the late Os Blumhardt who led the way. Times changed. I think Top Trees may have closed first, followed by Peter, Glyn sold his business and Mark and I were the last of that quartet to stop selling plants, I think.

Since then, it has become extremely difficult to source many of the less common plants that were available and plant sales have become increasingly concentrated in the big box stores who carry quicker turnover stock in a hugely limited range.

You could have knocked us over with a feather when Peter Cave called in yesterday and said he has set up again, producing less common plants by mail-order (limited to New Zealand customers only). Except it is not mail-order any more, it is internet sales. (How funny to be old enough now to remember the days of real mail and the exciting advent of the fax machine!) This should be exciting news for those who often contact us looking for plants that have not been in commercial production in recent years. Now you can check out Peter and Anetta’s website for plants that you won’t find down at the chain stores. Peter has set up again under the name of Peter Cave Nursery.

I quote from Peter’s site:

When I started, importing plants was reasonable and cheap.  Expecting things to change I imported many plants and lots of seed, especially from Asian countries.  I also collected by travelling to China, Korea, Japan and especially Vietnam.   

The Biosecurity Amendment Act of 2003 completely changed that.  Importing a new species now required a $65,000 risk assessment! Slight changes since have meant that in the last 13 years about 5 new plants have come into NZ.  Fines are horrendous so don’t try to smuggle!  Our job is to locate earlier imports and grow these so we have ‘new’ plants.

I was surprised that recent plant imports numbered as high as five. I only knew of the Wollemi Pine. Peter being one of the real plantsmen of our generation, you can be confident that he knows his material well.

Woodleigh Nursery, formerly Glyn Church’s business, is now owned by Janica and Quinn Amoor. While a large range of hydrangeas remains part of their core business, Janica has been steadily expanding the range of other plants as well. Theirs is another online catalogue worth watching closely if you want different plant material that is not widely available from mainstream retailers. Just by way of example, we have just received Camellia irrawadiensis and Isoplexis canariensis from Janica – these are not plants you would expect to find at Mitre 10 or Bunnings.

This is in the nature of a public service announcement. I have no vested interest in recommending either nursery but isn’t it great that there are specialist growers who can offer you plants that you won’t find in everybody else’s garden? I had thought those days had gone.

Peter Cave is not offering magnolias on his new list but credit where credit is due. In the past, it is he who raised Magnolia Sweetheart to grace our gardens.