Published: 03 February 2014
Plants with a Purpose - Otter Nurseries
In this new series the editor invites plants people from around the country to choose six plants to share with readers.
Sharon Lovering
The first selection is by Sharon Lovering, Plant Centre Team Leader at Otter Nurseries in Ottery St Mary in East Devon.

Sharon’s selection has a theme in that they will not only look good in a garden border but also perform well in containers whatever the size of garden. Each plant is also noted as good for attracting wildlife through the different times of year.

Vaccinium - Blue Berry

These are deciduous plants that will provide fantastic autumn foliage colours of yellows, oranges and reds in addition to their end of summer fruits. These are considered to be one of the ‘super fruits’ due to the high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C.  
Blue berries prefer an acid soil so if planting in a container use ericaceous compost and irrigate with rain water if living in a hard water region.  
Plants seen = £9.99 in 2L pots

Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’ – Fire Thorn

This evergreen plant may not appear on everyone’s plant shopping list due to the sharp thorns along its stems. However, the thorns can act as a great deterrent to unwanted visitors to your property when strategically planted will form a great physical barrier especially near ground floor windows.  
The key horticultural attractions are the spring or summer flowers followed with a mass display of bright coloured berries.  Pyracantha respond well to regular trimming to create a formal hedge or screen . Where there is sufficient space they will grow into large individual specimen plants with infrequent pruning to remove old woody stems.
Wildlife can benefit all year round with the nectar filled flowers, the plentiful berries and by sheltering amongst its dense foliage during extreme weather conditions.

Plants seen = £9.99 in 3L pots

Otter Nurseries


Lavendula stoechas ‘Helmsdale’ - French Lavenderg

The lavender family are all incredibly useful for attracting beneficial insects throughout their long flowering periods. Being able to tolerate hot, dry conditions these plants are great in containers. However they will not tolerate waterlogged soils, especially when cold and wet during prolonged winter months.  Trimming back after flowering will encourage young growth being produced low down on the plant and stop it becoming straggly with the older woody stems being prone to spitting of at the base.  There is a wide range of Lavender varieties available so select the flower types and colours that you like to create your very own Mediterranean garden feature.
Plants seen = £6.99 in 3L pots

Buddleja ‘Purple Chip’ – Butterfly Bush


Every garden should have a Buddleja growing in it. For those with only a very small garden this may have been difficult in the past due to the rate of growth and size achieved by many older varieties.  This situation has now changed with the introduction of new varieties, namely those with ‘Chip’ in their name.  These new plants will stay small and still produce the delicious displays of bright colours and heavily scented flowers we, and the many species of butterflies, moths and insects so enjoy.  From June until September these plants will continue flowering. If growing in a container it is essential to keep the soil moist to prevent the plants wilting.
Plants seen = £9.99 in 2L pots

Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ - Honeysuckle

This semi-evergreen Honeysuckle is a must have garden plant because of the clusters of beautifully shaped and scented white to pale yellow flowers throughout the summer and into autumn. The heavy fragrance is also evident during the night which makes it so beneficial to many species of moth.
As climbing plants they can provide interest above other lower plants, particularly useful when used as screening in a confined space. The twining stems provide good protection and shelter for many forms of wildlife in the garden.  When grown in a container it is important to have sufficient support and weight at the base for stability to reduce the risk of the plant falling over.  

Plants seen = £8.99 in long pots

Skimmia ‘Rubella’ 

These form evergreen domes of dark green foliage that support a mass of small white flowers followed by red berries through autumn and winter. At each stage the nectar or berries provide a valuable food source for many wildlife species.
Skimmia can make dramatic focal points in a garden border or in a good sized container.
If foliage starts turning yellow check for waterlogged conditions or lack of nutrients, improved drainage or a nitrogen fertiliser feed should help improve the plants health.
Selective pruning may be required to maintain shape or size.
Plants seen = £9.99 in 3L pot
When recommending plants for growing in containers Sharon is keen to ensure the correct compost is used to aid establishment and future growth. For most shrubs she recommends John Innes No.3 compost because it also contains slow release fertilisers. Before potting up soak the root ball in a bucket to ensure the roots wet, this will aid better root establishment into the new compost.  Adequate watering in spring and summer is also essential to maintain growth and flowering.
Otter Nurseries has built up a tremendous following over the past fifty years. The majority of the enormous range of plants on sale is home grown on their Ottery St Mary site or their extensive retail and production site at Lymington in Hampshire. From seasonal bedding to perennial border plants and specimen shrubs to indoor plants the highest quality is achieved and available for customers to purchase. The huge choice of garden products, materials and buildings will satisfy the keenest gardeners whatever their gardening skills and knowledge.
For further details about their opening times and centre locations see the website:
The Editor will be meeting the Otter Gardens team in a few weeks time to find out about their first fifty years in business 
Reported by Chris Allen  

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