Meet the Grower: Tor Garden Plants

thebristolbotanist
Published on May 8th 2021
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A close up of a flower

Meet the Specialist Water Iris and Aquatics Grower, Tor Garden Plants

Next in line for our Meet the Grower series is Tor Garden Plants, and what better day to shout about of this specialist grower of water irises than National Iris Day!
We chatted to Emma from Tor Garden Plants about her nursery and the amazing range of aquatic plants that they have on offer. She runs the nursery mostly by herself, although her husband helps out when he can, and she has an excellent team of weeding ducks to keep the ponds clean!
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The History of Tor Garden Plants

The site of Tor Garden Plants has been a nursery for over 35 years. Previously called Rowden Gardens, the nursery is famous for the 100 water Iris cultivars bred there, now known as the Rowden Collection. ‘We still have these plants at the nursery’, Emma told us, ‘and will soon hold the National Collection of Rowden Plants, with the idea of conserving them whilst making them available to our customers to enjoy in their own gardens’.
When the original owners retired, Emma managed to acquire the nursery, which she says was a ‘dream come true.’ Before taking on the nursery, Emma worked as a Head Gardener for the National Trust. Although happy in her previous job, when the opportunity to run an Iris nursery rich in the history of breeding presented itself, she jumped at the chance!
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Why pond plants?

‘Ponds are one of the top ways to bring wildlife into your garden, and it doesn’t even need to be a big space’, says Emma. You can create a small pond with as little as a planter filled with water and a few marginal plants, and even something small like this creates space for wildlife. Emma believes they’ve seen a rise in the number of people installing ponds for wildlife in their gardens, which they’re really excited about. The ethos of Tor Garden Plants is to work as naturally as possible. They use ducks and chickens for pest control, grow plants to attract pollinators, and have frogs and newts in their ponds on site.
By supplying bare-root plants, their mail order service is also entirely plastic-free, and all of their packaging is biodegradable. When they do need to use pots in the nursery, they use ones made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and which biodegrade at the end of life. They are one of the only aquatic nurseries using this kind of pot, and their commitment to reducing plastic waste is something they’re really proud of.
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Tor Garden's Top 5 Plants for Establishing a New Pond

This is always our favourite part about chatting to growers; we’ve got the inside scoop on some of the best plants to use to get your pond started. Emma recommends five key plants that will provide interest from spring until autumn, help filter the water and attract wildlife.
  1. Caltha palustris (marsh marigold) is a sunny plant that will brighten up your pond in spring.
  2. Iris versicolor is perfect for small ponds, is free flowering and great for dragonfly larvae emerging from the pond.
  3. Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed) adds a burst of late summer colour and is great for attracting insects.
  4. Nymphaea (water lily) filters the water and provides shade for wildlife.
  5. Typha minima (mini bullrush) is perfect for small ponds and is also very cute!

Shop Emma’s recommendations, including speciality irises and aquatic plants in her online shop.

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