Last week I invited myself to Meadow Farm in Feckenham, nr Droitwich in Worcestershire, to see Rob and Diane Cole’s trial beds of Echinaceas. What a pleasure and a privilege! Rob was formerly a Landscape Architect and his attention to detail is evident in everything he does. Their nursery beds and display gardens are immaculate and I am always impressed when I visit. I just wish I had taken my DSLR camera, I only had my phone camera with me so apologies for the grainy low res images.
If you have never seen Echinaceas en masse, they are an uplifting sight. Rob Cole specialises in selecting open pollinated varieties which could produce the next “Pom Pom Wow Berry” or “Tomato Soup”. The bees do all the breeding work for him and with his well trained eye and years of experience he selects possibles from the thousands produced every year. These are then grown on for a second year and re-assessed to see if they have the right characteristics to make them a distinct variety good enough for the trade. Rob confided that despite assessing literally thousands of plants over several years, he has produced very few that look really outstanding. Rob is a perfectionist and if and when his progeny reach the trade, you can be sure they will be superb.
The gardens at Meadow Farm are a wonderful way of seeing plants in context and learning how and where to plant certain species to great effect. Diane’s talent for combining colour and form have made this a garden as good as any you will see. Having also seen the garden in early spring when it was full of bulbs and spring flowers, I was struck by the dramatic difference just a few months can make using herbaceous perennials and sheer exuberance of the planting. Rob and Diane have used the contours and slopes of the land to great effect and have produced interesting ‘rooms’ and beds of all kinds which would appeal to gardeners of all persuasions.
Considering they have created everything themselves with little or no outside help,carry out all the maintenance themselves, run a highly successful nursery, sow millions of seeds and divide thousands of plants every year, organise group visits several times a year, conduct talks and demonstrations to gardening clubs almost every week of the year, contribute time and expertise to the Hardy Plant Society at national and local level and still have time to see me..I think they are very special people.
I have learned a lot from my chats with Rob. He is very knowledgeable and a highly accomplished and respected speaker on the gardening club circuit. He has that wonderful ability to make a subject interesting, funny and memorable. I look forward to my next visit with eager anticipation.