A key relationship for any garden designer is that with a trusted and reliable nursery. Plant supply is a dark art, subject to its own seasonal oscillations that are sometimes at odds with what is going on in the garden year, and the advice and support of talented and knowledgeable plantspeople who are also able to supply healthy stock can make the difference between a successful scheme and one which is merely acceptable.
Orchard Dene Nursery near Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire, run by Chris and Toby Marchant is one such. This is not a retail nursery - stock is grown for wholesale supply to designers and landscapers, including those at the top of the field in the UK. Calling in on any particular day you are likely to see plant orders assembled for the likes of Andy Sturgeon, Tom Stuart-Smith and Anthony Paul - a roll call of the notable names in our profession.
It's no surprise that these people come here for their plants - the quality and range is terrific, with every plant on the list 'road-tested' for its garden-worthiness and contribution to a planting. Chris and Toby have built an enviable reputation for quality and regularly supply plants for the most demanding arena of all, the show gardens, putting their wares under the scrutiny of the harshest judges in the horticultural world. The plants I used in my own garden, supplied mainly in 9cm pots, have grown away brilliantly this season - it is hard to believe that the planting was only a few weeks old when I photographed it for my website.
The list is particularly strong on plants and groups popular in the 'New Perennial' school of plant design - large, robust perennials with good form and habit that could easily have come from the wild. Improved forms rarely stray too far from this ideal - overbred plants with their attendant problems don't seem to feature here. There is a good selection of grasses, particularly varieties of Miscanthus, to go with Persicaria, Salvia, Eupatorium, Helenium and Rudbeckia, amongst many others. The catalogue also offers great advice on plant combinations, more than one of which has found its way into my garden.
If you live too far distant to make use of Orchard Dene then hopefully you will have an equivalent nearby - the world of horticulture is full of talented, committed and helpful people, ready and willing to assist.