Operation: The Med comes to Suffolk
09 May 2019 - by Liz Browne


Operation: The Med comes to Urban Jungle Suffolk


After 2 years here at our Beccles site in Suffolk it really is quite evident how different the Suffolk climate is. The light is more intense, the sky is bluer, the winter is milder, and it's definitely windier! We wanted to create a different feel to the Suffolk site, and the difference in micro-climate, subtle but important, gives us that opportunity. For those of you with zone envy, we're zone 7b in Beccles, whereas it's zone 7a at our Costessey branch. We're hoping that our Mediterranean-style gardens will provide a beautiful backdrop for our Cafe customers, and inspire our gardening customers to effectively use some of these plants in their own gardens.


The Brief...

To create a Mediterranean style garden to inspire our customers, showcase our range of plants and improve the experience for our outdoor diners. We believe our customers should be able to see and enjoy plants growing together in communities at our Nurseries - we don't just set out plants as rows of Nursery stock in pots. We want our cafe customers to feel embraced by a profusion of plants outside, just as they do inside the cafe. 


The Problems...

Here at the Beccles Nursery we have thick heavy clay. The drainage is terrible, and after rain, water often sits on the surface, especially in winter. In summer it becomes like concrete. There are few windows of opportunity in the year to actually get plants in the ground. Mediterranean plants tend to require really good drainage, especially in winter, and most would fail miserably here in a cold wet winter. 


Gardeners are used to shopping in nurseries and garden centres with rows and rows of neatly positioned plants that often provide little to no real inspiration or guidance on planting schemes.


The gardening public have very few opportunities to see Mediterranean-style planting in the UK, with plants that are carefully selected to withstand the UK winters.



The Solution...

To solve these problems at our Suffolk branch, we've created 5 large raised beds with Derbyshire stone, planted with architectural and colourful Mediterranean-style plants, with adjacent Cafe seating. The beds stretch 70m - the whole length of the nursery, and each bed can be viewed from all 4 sides.


But whilst the climate in Beccles and the surrounding area is conducive to growing many Mediterranean plants, the soil here unfortunately isn't - it's heavy clay that's cold and wet all winter and quickly turns to concrete in summer! So to address the soil problem we started with the boring sensible stuff by digging a drainage ditch the whole length of the nursery that will carry away excess water. Next we built the raised rockery beds, filled with well-draining soil mixed with plenty of grit.


We hope that the composition of plants within the borders provides enjoyment and inspiration to our customers. We've planted a range of species including many readily available, best-performing plants for a Suffolk garden, but also choice rarities that we hope to propagate and produce ourselves over the coming years. With Suffolk being one of the driest and sunniest counties in the UK, and the proximity to the coast of our Beccles Nursery,  it's not difficult to achieve a Mediterranean style garden - something that feels a little more exciting and exotic than a typical English garden.  


quarry stone 

The Derbyshire Quarry where we sourced the stone


quarry stone 

Once quarrying has finished the walls are left to nature and become home to a bounty of wildlife 




The Med comes to Suffolk 

Before the borders...





Beccles Landscaping  

Full landscaping plan - see the '5 display beds' just in front of the Cafe






The Med comes to Suffolk

Front Elevation and planting plan of the 5 Mediterranean Beds



Work Begins... 


        Beccles Landscaping 

Owner Liz on-site 'helping' our landscapers


The Med comes to Suffolk 

The stone begins to arrive - 50 tonnes in all


The Med comes to Suffolk 

Hard at it, placing the first stones. Brute strength and ingenuity required.


Borders 

Taking shape...


The Med comes to Suffolk 

Planting getting underway. Trying to stick to the planting plans as much as possible but allowing ourselves a little bit of artistic license.


The Med comes to Suffolk 

Nick and Dick finishing planting one of the gnarly olives.


A bit more background to the concept...


Visitors to our Costessey Nursery will probably have noticed that we've had an aversion to straight lines in the past. The Nursery has evolved over 2 decades, growing organically, with winding pathways, overhanging trees and shady areas, lots of planted areas of course, and an altogether jungly feel. In Beccles, we're ready to try something a little out of our comfort zone!


Costessey Nursery 

'The Labyrinth' at Urban Jungle Norfolk. With winding paths, cool shady areas it feels completely different to the med-style planting at Beccles.




June's Progress! The Med is taking shape...


We're at last planting out our treasures. This beauty in the foreground (below) is Grevillea 'Bronze Rambler'. Now, we're just left to be patient and watch the drama unfold. 


 

Grevillea 'Bronze Rambler' lapping up the sunshine and enjoying it's new home

Beds 3 and 4. Cupressus (pencil trees) frame the pathway, and baskets of Euphorbia myrsinites

waiting to be planted.

The Med comes to Suffolk

This lovely multi-trunked Chamaerops needed to be moved from another part of the nursery but it's settling well into the new bed. We removed lots of the lower leaves to give it a better chance of re-establishing.The Med comes to Suffolk

The Med comes to Suffolk

One of our new treasures - Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset'. One of the hardiest members of the Proteaceae family and infuriatingly difficult to get hold of.



At last we have a permanent home for all the treasures we've been collecting over the years, and will be propagating and producing over the coming years. Plants like Genista aetnensis (Mount Etna broom), 


The beds will take time to establish, but after only a couple of weeks we can see the growth on some of the plants. We're already getting a feel for the amazing impact in years to come. Why not visit the Nursery and see the progress, or join our Mediterranean dining experience on the 26th July - tickets and more information are available HERE. 


Tune into our social media for regular features on some of the plants we've used in our new borders. Next month we'll let you know about another of our current projects - The Jungle Garden.


 
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