Behind the scenes at Eden's plant nursery
Ever wondered where all our weird and wonderful plants come from? Take a look behind the scenes at Eden’s plant nursery...
Our nursery is where every single one of the plants in our vast, 20-acre gardens start their life with us, whether tiny seeds planted from scratch or giant trees sourced from other continents.
Just a few miles down the road from Eden itself, Watering Lane Nursery, as it’s known, is a myriad of greenhouses, plots and polytunnels, where some 30,000 plants each year are propagated, cultivated and quarantined before going on show in our gardens.
With over 6,000 varieties of plants growing at Eden in three wildly different climates, including the world’s largest rainforest in captivity, we certainly keep the nursery team on their toes! They’ve become experts in cultivating plants from habitats as diverse as South Africa's fynbos, Peru's Andean mountains and Southeast Asia's mangrove swamps.
They also grow some of the fruit, herbs, salads and vegetables served up in our onsite cafes. This year, the team are following a new growing programme which will mean Edens's eateries will soon be filled with black, blue and orange tomatoes, cucamelons, tomatillos (also sometimes known as the Mexican husk tomato) and inca berries! The team hope to supply two tonnes of produce to Eden this year, double what was supplied last year.
Cultivating plants for such a large, manmade and varied garden means we have to do things a bit differently in our nursery. Here are just a few examples…
Our giant titan arums start life in the nursery. Nursery supervisor Tim Grigg is best known as ‘Titan Tim’, for his magic touch in cultivating the rare and stinking ‘corpse flower’, over 20 of which have now bloomed in our Rainforest Biome.
The nursery gives our trees a helping hand with their roots. Because the trees in our Biomes are growing in a manmade landscape, with a relatively thin layer of soil and no wind to help cultivate strength, we’ve had to find a way to encourage them to grow thick, fibrous roots, rather than spiralling around like they would do in conventional pots. So, we use triangular-shaped ‘air pots’ with holes in the side, which train roots to grow sideways.
We invented our own soil from scratch there. Before we opened Eden, our team at Watering Lane Nursery was busy working out how to make soil that would turn the former clay pit into a landscape capable of sustaining plants from all over the world. Using a mixture of local mining waste, composted bark and domestic green waste we made 83,000 tonnes of the stuff!
The nursery team sources plants from all over the world. We've had plants come in from as far afield as the Seychelles and Syria. Once a plant arrives at the nursery, it’s kept in a ‘quarantine tent’ at our nursery for at least three months before it’s taken to our gardens, to make sure it’s disease-free.
Key for conservation
The nursery is also home to some important conservation work…
We've been cultivating a rare subspecies of Juniper (Juniper communis subsp. Hemisphaerica) – which is notoriously difficult to germinate – to help bolster the fragile population on Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula, in partnership with Natural England.
We’ve germinated 10,000 devil's bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) from wild-collected seed, for Natural England and the Highways Agency to plant in road verges and fields around Cornwall as a habitat for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.
A centre for social change
Our nursery is home to a unique therapy and support scheme run by and for people whose lives have been affected by disability. Working with Eden’s own skilled horticulturalists, People and Gardens participants are able to learn different aspects of growing and selling vegetables, from sowing seeds and potting on, to planting and harvesting, to weighing and packing.