We have moved!

As of November 2017 we have moved the Paddock Plants Update to a new site which rejoices in the name of Interesting Plants. Well, it seemed appropriate as we like to think that that’s what we grow.

We will set out with the best of good intentions to update it rather more frequently than we ever managed to do on this site: let’s just hope we are not sauntering down a well-paved road to you know where!

Here’s hoping that you will find your way to Interesting Plants and that you will enjoy keeping up with our latest news.

Rob and Joanna – November 2017

 

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Top Tens for 2016

With a new season tantalisingly just around the corner (though no doubt winter will get a few words in edgeways before that), it’s always nice to sit back with a hot cup of coffee and reflect on the year just past. And what better way of summing up some of 2016’s successes that by compiling our now traditional top tens?

Linaria Peachy

Let’s start with the Top 10 Most Searched For Plants, as recorded by the little elves that work away deep in the basement of the Paddock Plants website. That list looks like this:

1    Linaria Peachy
2    Thalictrum Rochebrunianum
3    Epilobium (Chamerion) Angustifolium Album
4    Drimys (Tasmannia) Lanceolata
5    Echium Russicum
6    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert (generic)
7    Rodgersia Cherry Blush
8    Sidalcea Elsie Heugh
9    Sisyrinchium Palmifolium
10 Summerina (Echibeckia) Orange

Four of those plants featured in last year’s listing, but it’s nice to see some new entries in the shape of the lovely Rodgersia Cherry Blush (nice and very apt varietal name), the delicately charming Sidalcea Elsie Heugh or that vigorous but just about manageable beauty Epilobium Angustifolium Album. But the big surprise has to be Linaria Peachy, going straight to number one, though it is definitely one of our favourites, providing endless flowering and being a magnet for bees. Just outside the top 10, it was intrigiung to note the level of interest in such oddities as Rostrinucula Dependens and Carex Phyllocephala Sparkler.

Linaria Peachy

But on to more important things, the definitive Top Ten Best Selling Plants (in our own little world, at any rate) for the year ending 31st December 2016. And here it is:

1    Summerina (Echibeckia) Orange
2    Hakonechloa All Gold
3    Thalictrum Black Stockings
4    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet
5    Eryngium Jade Frost
6    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Peridot
7    Heuchera Midnight Rose
8    Heuchera Black Taffeta
9    Eryngium x Zabelii Big Blue
10 Eryngium Graham Stuart Thomas

Once again, four plants hang on in there from the 2015 list, but the big change is that the ever popular little Eryngium Graham Stuart Thomas is dislodged from the top slot and unceremoniously demoted to the very fringe of the top ten, to be supplanted by another very sought after perennial Summerina Orange. Interesting to see two more eryngiums break into the top ten: the almost alarmingly cobalt Eryngium Big Blue and one of Rob’s abiding favourites, the variegated Eryngium Jade Frost. The compact golden grass Hakonechloa All Gold unexpectedly stormed the top positions, largely thanks to one customer who must have been planting a prairie of the stuff. And of course, the usual suspects are there: a couple of delospermas and a brace of heucheras, proving the unrelenting poularity of the latter.

Eryngium Big Blue

And there we have it for another year. What’s in store in 2017? We would still put our 50p on Summerina Orange being there or thereabouts again. Only time will tell.

Rob & Joanna – January 2017

Plant List for 2017

We are sure it’s not a phenomenon restricted to the world of horticulture, but around this time of year we are always of the mindset that next year is going to be the best year ever, with the best plants ever, the best everything ever ….. So it is with an air of optimism that we perform the annual ritual of presenting our intended plant list for the coming year.

 

71 deleted items are balanced out by 62 additions to the catalogue, but – if that might seem a reduction in real terms – don’t worry: it probably isn’t, as there are always a few plants lurking around the fringes that never quite make it on the list for various reasons.

We will try to highlight some of the new additions in the coming months, as they get their own page on the website (Rob never quite keeps up as well with this as he ikntends to!), but in the meantime we are looking forward to some new Scottish delphiniums, including Flamenco and Cha Cha from the Highlander series (in truth we have had some ready this season and boy, have they sold well). It is great to be able to say that the lengendary Cordyline Charlie Boy will be available once more in 2017, and that we will have some Mahonia Soft Caress ready for sale, after a few years in the waiting.

Delphinium Flamenco

So keep an eye on the website over the winter as the 62 newbies find their way on to the big world wide web.

Rob & Joanna – December 2016

Updating the website

It has been two years since the last update to the Paddock Plants website, so we felt it was time we did something to bring it more in line with current design trends. (Rob always likes to kid himself he is on the cutting edge of all things IT and Joanna doesn’t like to disillusion him.) The first job was to upgrade our Prestashop installation which turned out to be a little trickier than expected despite calling on the services of a web design student: but, then, when did anything to do with computers ever go as expected? The next step was to install a new template, the basic criteria being that it should be clean and simple in design, look good on mobile devices (very important these days!), be attractive but not over fussy or complicated, and make the business of ordering easy and straightforward. The end result (desktop version) you can see below.

website_nov_2016

We think it does a great job in making the product, ie our plants, the hero through the highly visual style. We are particularly pleased that it it is a fluid design, so avoiding that all too familiar columnar effect, with lots of wasted space on either side of the screen. The lack of a top menu also makes the site a little different from most other online shops, with that being replaced by a static sidebar on the desktop version and a hamburger menu on mobile devices. Rob, bless him, has been having lots of fun fiddling round with bits of code and adapting font sizes and other minor details to pander to his OCD tendencies.

pp-website-front-pageThere has been a Paddock Plants website of some sort for well over a decade now, the first site being Rob’s own clumsy effort using Dreamweaver, and a Prestashop-based site has existed since 2010, we think. A screenshot of that original 2010 version can be seen here, and it is quite interesting to see how taste in websites has changed in a mere half a dozen years. Sites with lots of text, detail and columns have given way to bolder, cleaner affairs, with a much greater emphasis on the use of visual imagery. The recent rise of mobile phones and tablets has reinforced that trend, of course, so we are unlikely to see a revival of the old style in the future.

Anyway, it up, it’s running, we like it, and we hope you do too. Or that, at the very least, it will grow on you.

Rob & Joanna – December 2016

As seen on tv

Andy Warhol once famously said that everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame. Well, we didn’t quite achieve that much fame, but yesterday evening, Tuesday 26th July at 9 pm, Rob enjoyed a fleeting five seconds’ exposure on national television, along with the Paddock Plants van, on an episode of ITV’s Love Your Garden, presented by Alan Titchmarsh. A little later in the programme, one of the plants we supplied, an Eryngium Jade Frost, was given a slightly longer allocation of screen time, with one of the presenters caressing her lovingly and extolling her qualities.

Love_Your_Garden_Unload

How this came about was all rather sudden. Around ten days before the episode was recorded – in nearby Eastleigh, where a cruise-ship themed garden was to be created for a much-loved paediatric nurse – we were contacted by one of the programme’s producer who asked if we would be able to supply some plants. An initial exchange of e-mails led us to feel we probably weren’t in a position to help, but the producer was quite insistent – in the nicest possible way – and we agreed that we would deliver some suitably nautical plants in the form of some sea hollies, including Eryngium Agavifolium, Eryngium Big Blue and Eryngium Jade Frost, along with some graceful Luzula Nivea and some Incarvillea Delavayi, which were doing their full trumpety thing at the time.

Love_Your_Garden_Ery_JFWhen Rob turned up with the plants on the appointed day, the person he was due to meet was attending to some off site emergency and the planned filming of Rob unloading plants from the undeniably photogenic PP van looked to be in jeopardy. Rob stood his ground, however, and did quite a lot of waiting until a cameraman became free to capture the great unloading. Apparently in the tv world  the mantra is ‘Hurry up and wait’. Good job he was stubborn, as his cameo did eventually make the final cut.

And, after a few weeks of eager anticipation, we watched the episode last night and were pleased to see the moments described. Quite surprised, in fact, as Rob fully expected that his unloading scene was destined for the cutting room floor. But we were glad to have had an involvement, however small, in creating what was a rather lovely garden for  a clearly very special lady.

Postscript. The best bit, however, has to be the moment earlier today when Rob was giving his e-mail address to someone over the phone, who suddenly exclaimed ‘Oh, I saw you on television last night!’ Fame at last.

April is the cruellest month

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Well, spring rain there has been in abundance, but the dull roots haven’t been doing a lot of stirring as of yet. It’s just been too cold for the poor little things. Our show calendar, however, cares naught for such poetic fancies or meteorological realities, and so we have been out and about over the past month or so, despite struggling to find much that is looking good and in defiance of the weather’s best attempts to encourage the gardening public to stay at home in the warm.

Our first outing this season was over the Easter weekend, our usual three-day visit to Somerley Park for the Craft & Garden held there each year. Easter being early, the weather was less than kind: cold (though not as cold as a few years ago when the plants froze in their pots) and very windy. Storm Katy hit the south of England on the Sunday night and, come Monday morning, two exhibitors had to retrieve their mangled gazebos from two fields away! We were not that surprised, all things considered, that sales were modest, but we were impressed  by the resilience displayed by our own gazebo, which took the worst of the elements in its stride.

MARLBOROUGH_SPRING_FAIR_April_16

The following Saturday saw us – or, rather, Rob, as Deb was otherwise engaged – in the familiar surroundings of West Street, Fareham, for a farmers’ market which was graced by some decent weather and enough interested passers by to make the sortie a worthwhile one for us. Conditions were not quite as kind the next Sunday when we set up our stand in the quadrangle at Marlborough College for the Spring Fair: it didn’t rain, as it did – horizontally – last year, but it was pretty damn cold and an icy breeze discouraged much in the way of loitering to admire the plants. But it was certainly better than last year, and for that we can be thankful.

Another market on Sunday the 17th, one of the regular Andover Farmers & Craft Markets, was our next port of call on an actually quite pleasant day (though the temperature never got high enough for Rob to take his padded gilet off). There was a good turnout of traders and the atmosphere was a lively one, but we continue to get the impression that the events aren’t as well known as they should be among the residents of Andover. A pity, as we like them and the setting by the Guildhall.

RDA_Plant_Fair_April_16

The final Sunday of April saw us head back up to Marlborough, and then beyond, climbing up on to the top of the downs to Barbury for the RDA Plant Fair, which is held in what must be one of the most spectacular settings we go to during the season. Despite its remoteness, enough hardy souls find their way to the fair to make it a highly worthwhile day for the various stallholders, and we drove back down into civilisation with a fairly empty van. The weather is remaining resolutely wintry despite the fact that May is but round the corner, but we cling on to hope that our big May bank holiday weekend events will prove sufficiently successful to offset some of the big early season bills that blight this part of the year. We will see.

Top Tens for 2015

We are perhaps a little late this time in compiling and publishing our top ten lists for the year recently ended, but if you have been avidly following us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (you must have a lot of time on your hands if you do!), you will already be well clued up on these matters, as we have been releasing the exciting news on those sites over the past week or so. It is quite interesting that the top ten best sellers and the top ten most searched for plants are two very distinct lists, with only one plant in common, the recent introduction Summerina Orange, also known as Echibeckia (it’s a genetic cross, so work it out). So here are the lists:

Firstly, the top ten most searched for plants on our website are:

1   Drimys (syn. Tasmannia) LanceolataCampanula_Pink_Octopus_PP1
2   Campanula Pink Octopus
3   Echium Russicum
4   Thalictrum Rochebrunianum
5   Cordyline Charlie Boy
6   Summerina (syn. Echibeckia) Orange
7   Geum Tequila Sunrise
8   Lobelia Tania
9   Sphaeralcea Childerley
10 Tetrapanax Rex

Drimys, the pretty evergreen shrub from down under which tops the rankings seems to make this list every year, but is up eight places from last year. The other plants with staying power are Echium Russicum, last year’s number one, Geum Tequila Sunrise (must be something in the name) and Sphaeralcea Childerley with its gorgeous apricot flowers. Of the rest, it is interesting to note that, despite all the fancy new varieties that abound,  old favourite Thalictrum Rochebrunianum is the one that is up there.

But the more important list has to be the best sellers and here it is in all its glory:

Summerina_Orange_PP11   Erygium Graham Stuart Thomas
2   Actaea Black Negligée
3   Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet
4   Delosperma Wheels of Wonder Orange
5   Summerina (syn. Echibeckia) Orange
6   Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Peridot
7   Geum Mai Tai
8   Geum Cosmopolitan
9   Dicentra King of Hearts
10 Primula Francisca

The thing that is striking here is the preponderance of delospermas and geums, making up half of the top ten, no less. We can understand why, though, as they are all vibrant long-term bloomers. Delospermas Garnet and Peridot are back again this year, but the WoW Orange we won’t be growing, as we felt that its growth habit was a bit too floppy for our taste. No surprise in finding Geums Mai Tai and Cosmopolitan here (the latter is Rob’s all-time favourite geum), nor, indeed, Primula Francisca which always sells well, despite its rather marmite-like reputation. Actaea Black Negligée is simply gorgeous, so deserves its high ranking, and we are pleased that the hugely reliable Dicentra King of Hearts creeps into the top ten (it just goes on flowering from spring to autumn!). And there, at the top of the charts, sits the charming little Eryngium Graham Stuart Thomas, delicate but undemanding and a worthy winner. We guessed it might be up there, as it accompanies us to virtually every show we do from March to September and always proves popular with the buying public.

And there we have it. With lots of new plants coming on to our catalogue for 2016, it will be interesting to see, in 12 months’ time, if any of them can shake up these lists.

Rob & Joanna – February 2016