It's Sod's law that, as a blogger, the moment you decide to go "off-duty" and leave your camera at home, you find something you really want to post. (Yes, I know there are phones with cameras. No, I don't want one.)
Leafing through the Garden Design Journal, Husband caught sight of an advert for The Plantation (who says print advertising is dead?) and half an hour later we were on our way to Weybridge, Surrey, to check it out. A ghastly journey put us in the mood to be disappointed. Instead we were wowed.
You know you're in for something special the moment you arrive. Trees in enormous tubs line the drive and exotic foliage tempts you through the nursery gateway.
My favourite spot had to be the shady plant section, covered in green shade netting and warmly humid. We entered through a small forest of fatsias, cooed over hydrangeas, brushed against the lovely Hauttuynia cordata, and admired a plantation of tree ferns.
Leading away was the unshaded area, with ferny Cycas revoluta (the trunks grow to around three feet in a hundred years) and a regiment of huge green and yellow agaves, looking quite evil in their serried ranks.
Elsewhere, acers spread a thick canopy around six feet off the ground, putting to shade the puny little specimens you see in the (common or) garden centre. Topiary is everywhere and include arbutus balls, photinia screens, tall oblong lollipops of bay laurel. (We didn't see them, but they also sell Cupressocyparis leylandii shaped into cylinders with balls on top. Hmm.)
The Plantation belongs to the Gavin Jones Group, the landscaping company which has a string of BALI awards to its name. They also undertook the wildflower meadow in the Olympic Park and hold a Royal Warrant. "So it's been a busy year for us," said one employee.
The specimens here must mostly be destined for corporate landscapes and very expensive builds. When I'm entranced by a £2000 olive tree in a tub the size of my car, I can be pretty sure I'm not the clientele they're aiming at.
Although there were plenty of reasonably priced smaller plants to contemplate, (heuchera, waldsteinia, liriope among them) but it's the trees and shrubs you come for. You're likely to be asking, "What's that?" quite often.
We fell rather heavily for Punica granatum nana gracilis (£63.95 in a 20l pot), which turns out to be a dwarf pomegranate. This has unusual waxy flowers that start out like small red beans and open up into a funnel shape. If I were into pot plants that need heat and experienced handling, I'd be very tempted.
More promising is Rhus Typhina "Tiger Eyes" (£94, 18 litre pot), though I'd have to find a smaller specimen at that price. This is the Stag's Horn Sumach, which gives pause, as I've heard its propensity for suckering bemoaned on Gardener's Question Time. It can be kept in a pot, however.
Something else that comes in a pot is Gavin Jones honey. I'm so cynical. I spotted the jars and just assumed that they'd branded bought-in honey with their own label. Not so. This year is their first harvest from their own hives. I wish I'd realised as I'd have got some.
Such bounty, helpful staff, and a small cafe which served delicious panini with tastily dressed salad, made this a super afternoon out. We came home with plenty of ideas, a rather larger wish list and an admiration for a company that quite clearly is at the top of its game.