In some ways, it’s apt that the road to Pan-Global Plants should be somewhat unnerving. A turning through imposing gates leads quickly into a winding, narrow track through trees. There’s a sense of exploration that’s fitting for the route to a nursery founded on unusual plants from across the world.
Pan-Global Plants was started by Nick Macer in 1997 and moved to its current site in a one-acre 19th century walled garden in Frampton-on-Severn 16 years ago.
“It was literally a pigsty,” he recalls. “It had Gloucester Old Spots here.”
Today, it’s a thriving nursery with rows of tempting plants, polytunnels stuffed with even more and paths, partly obscured by huge clumps of bamboo or tall perennials, leading out into permanent planting.
“I don’t have time to garden so it’s a little like a wilderness area with a few interesting bits in it,” Nick says with a smile.
He describes his ethos as providing the “beautiful, unusual and interesting in equal measures” and admits he gets “stressed” by the fact people can be put off by the term rare.
“I get a number of people who come in saying ‘We couldn’t grow it, we’d need specialist knowledge’. People think rare and unusual means difficult to grow.
“There are literally thousands of rare plants that are hardy and easy to grow, as well as many more that are more of a challenge.”
The nursery covers everything from herbaceous, shrubs and trees to ferns, hardy exotics and bamboo with annuals and alpines among the few things not covered.
His stock is constantly changing with around 200 to 300 new things every year. In the past, he collected some of that in the wild but complex legislation means he now limits himself to what he calls plant exploring.
“There’s still stuff to be discovered, looked at, photographed and documented.”
So, what did I discover? Well, the first thing to catch my eye was a beautiful range of hydrangeas, a mass of soft pinks and dusky reds. In particular, H. macrophylla ‘Merveille Sanguine’, which grows in a pot by the suitably colonial-style office. It has stunning rich flowers in red and purple hues against leaves that were taking on dark tints.
It’s only drawback, Nick tells me, is that the flowers fade to an unattractive brown.
I’ve always loved the quirky fruits of the spindle tree and those on Euonymus phellomanus were stunning – a combination of pink and red rather than the pink and orange more commonly seen.
And how about Desmodium elegans for some late summer colour?
The range of tulbaghia are also worth a closer look with flowers in shades of lavender and purple.
Nick believes gardeners should be more adventurous when it comes to choosing plants and came up with some ideas for interesting varieties to add something different to a border.
Hydrangea aspera ‘Bellevue’ is a new form that he thinks deserves to be grown more widely. It makes a large shrub up to 4m tall with hairy leaves and a lacecap bloom of white flowers around the central rich mauve-blue.
Unusual philadelphus are another suggestion. One is a new cultivar that he has named ‘Casa Azul’, which was found as a seedling at Pan-Global Plants.
“I dug it up and grew it on as I thought it had to be something interesting as the only philadelphus I had were interesting Mexican species.”
The resulting plant has a weeping form, dainty foliage and cup-like white flowers with a soft purple basal blotch that give off a particularly sweet scent.
And for something exotic, why not try Hedychium, or ginger lily? With their colourful blooms and large leaves, they look as though they will need TLC but are actually tough.
“People don’t think they’re hardy whereas some are totally bone hardy, even in the worst winters” explains Nick, adding that four different types in the nursery garden came through the harsh winter of 2010 completely unscathed.
He recommends planting them with contrasting foliage, such as ferns, or using them as statement plants on their own.
“They add a really exotic touch to a garden.”
• Pan-Global Plants is open from February 1 to October 31 and from November 1 to January 31 by appointment. The nursery also runs a mail order service. For more information, visit the website.
• Nick Macer is the guest speaker at Cheltenham Horticultural Society’s 75th anniversary lecture on Friday October 6, 2017. He will talk about plant-hunting in ‘Plants From Around the World’ at Balcarras School, Cheltenham. Tickets cost £6 and are available on the door or in advance: contact Yvonne Gregory on firstname.lastname@example.org
• Read my conversation with Nick about design, Gardeners’ World and why gardeners get a raw deal here.