Any keen gardener wanting to find a wide range of plants that have the lowest possible carbon footprint and zero ‘plant miles’ and which have been tended carefully in experienced hands need look no further than Chelston Nurseries.
Just off the A38 Wellington relief road, this is the town’s ‘secret nursery’, perhaps not as instantly recognised as those on the Taunton road because, as owner David Lucas explained, “People who know its history still tend to think of Chelston Nurseries as a wholesale business and therefore not open to the public. Also, despite being on an A road, many local people have no reason to pass by.”
At Chelston, David Lucas is following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather who established the nursery in the early 1950’s. Having worked for the Somerset-based flower and plant supplier, Frank Rowe, David’s father John started out on his own growing chrysanthemums and cut flowers for the market on what was then just a field on the present site.
“When I joined my father in the business we started producing a few bedding plants as a sideline to the chrysanthemums,” David explained. “These gradually took over and the cut flower business disappeared. I was brought up here on the site and went to Wellington School. After that I studied Plant Biology at Plymouth Polytechnic, came back and since then have worked in partnership with my father. In that time we’ve expanded to two fields over 6 acres, with three quarters of an acre under glass.”
In contrast to plants sold in bigger corporate garden centres – many of which come from ‘plant factories’ abroad – over 90% of the plants available at Chelston Nurseries are propagated on site. To manage this David employs two full-time and 4 part-time staff.
The nursery now sells a huge range of bedding, patio and hanging basket plants (and operates a hanging basket planting service), perennials and shrubs as well as gardening essentials, tools and equipment. It is open 7 days a week throughout the year and is already preparing for the autumn season. Customers calling in at any time will always find the greenhouses and outside display areas to be a mass of colour.
Asked about the consequences of the UK’s unstable and unpredictable weather, particularly in the important spring and early summer periods, David said, “The last two years have not been great but this year is better. From mid-April to mid-June we do most of our business, selling plants to mainly local customers from Wellington and this side of Taunton but we do have some regular customers who come from further afield.”
Gardeners who want to be reassured that their plants are healthy, colourful and environmentally friendly will find what they’re looking for at this ‘secret nursery’, a business run by a local family for three generations.