Blok Planting Garden Design: A Naturalistic Nursery Dream
Preface: Here at Simple Leaf, Alicia and I have been treating this very unusual year as a time to reach out online and meet other like-minded horticulturalists. A while back I came across some spectacular pictures on instagram. blok_planting_garden_design (do yourself a favour and follow them) has everything that we love including a diversity of plant material that sings with an abundance of texture, colour and structure. Not to mention an obvious connection to wildlife and the Naturalistic perennial planting style that also speaks to us. So, we began a dialog, asking Eva and Robin if they would consider writing something for our blog. Something that allowed us to see more of what they do and how they do it. The following is what Eva sent us, it's a little peak into the business that they've built and it's been really inspiring for us to see, I hope you'll love it too. Enjoy!
Hi everyone, it's really special to connect with you all through our shared passion for plants and design.
We are a husband and wife team Robin and Eva, who run a small, independent, building contracting company based in the city of Bath, UK called Blok Building.
The idea for Blok Planting has literally grown from our personal love of propagation and planting. We suddenly saw how we could combine this with the building company and offer it as an additional service to our clients.
Our journey with plants started about fifteen years ago. At the time we were both working in Architectural practices, which is what our background training is in.
We were given the opportunity to take over an allotment space in our village and it gave us the space to really start trying to grow things.
For a long time we’d been reading the books by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury (among many others) and soon the allotment space was taken over by ornamental grasses, echinaceas & lots of others we’d dreamed of growing.
Our nursery site is located on the Mendip Hills in Somerset, a few miles outside of Bath. It's quite an exposed site and we get gales and strong winds in winter so our polytunnels have to be storm proof. We also get a lot of rainfall and most of the perennials we grow need good drainage all year round and will not tolerate winter wet. We decided to use a series of raised beds as a solution to these conditions.
Large raised beds work really well for us here. They are stock beds for propagation from mature plants and also large enough to experiment with planting combinations for gardens.
The topsoil generated from the roadstone areas around the polytunnels is reused to fill the beds. A thick mulch of peat free compost is needed to supress the field weeds and stop them taking over (we learnt this the hard way!)
A lot of the perennial plants we grow so far at the nursery come true from seed. The main echinaceas we grow for this reason, are e. Pallida, White Swan and purpurea.
We have three types of veronicastrum so far, V. virginicum Lavendelturn, v. Fascination and v. album. These we propagate by basal stem cuttings and division. The veronicastrums in the photos have been lifted, moved & divided from the original plants over fifteen years ago on the allotment. The same applies to the long lived (and indispensable) grasses such as Calamagrostis Karl Foerster and Stipa gigantia. Two more fantastic garden plants we grow and root well from cuttings, are Salvia nemorosa Caradonna and Agastache Blackadder.
As the last three beds were planted up this year, we will be adding some bulb combinations this autumn for some added spring and early summer interest. Over the next few weeks, we will also be working on finishing the large polytunnel to overwinter all young plants grown this year.
A huge thank you to Eva and Robin for taking the time to put this together for us! We've been so lucky to meet so many great entrepreneurs and creative producers through social media and it's amazing hort community this year. If you want to join in and share your business and passion for plant life with us and our readers please get in touch with us at Simple Leaf Design or on instagram at, simpleleafdesign2 we would love to feature you too.
And if you live in the Vancouver, Canada area and want to create some plant magic with us please contact us, we'd love to hear from you.
Sara-Jane & Alicia