Plantsman with exotic passion

Colin and Karan Ward among the exotic and rare plants at their plant centre. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG170412-06MD
Colin and Karan Ward among the exotic and rare plants at their plant centre. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG170412-06MD
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PIONEERING Victorian botanists travelled the globe to bring exotic plants to this country.

Colin Ward isn’t exactly putting his life at risk as his predecessors did in their pursuit of discovering rare species, but he shares the same passion as those earlier plantsmen and women.

Colin and his wife Karan run Swines Meadow Farm Nursery at Market Deeping where they are building up a stock of exotic and rare plants to propagate and sell on.

“These plants are rare for a reason,” says Colin. “That’s probably because they are hard or slow to propagate, so for most plants we only end up with half a dozen or so per year and demand often outstrips what we produce. Sometimes I’ll deliberately hold some plants back to build up propagation stocks.

“My first passion was the exotics, bamboos, palms and bananas, but now we do an extensive range of rare plants and trees and propagate about 80 per cent of them.”

The couple attend plant fairs in search of stock – and hold plant fairs themselves. They also buy from a nursery in Wales which has a licence to collect plant materials from the wild, as the Victorians did.

The nursery has a number of different and unusual bamboos – a specimen from Chile in their garden is about 20ft high and could grow up to 40ft. Colin manages to get two or three plants off that each year.

Colin points out: “Sometimes rarity is because it can’t be produced in big quantities so big growers aren’t interested in doing it. Small nurseries are the places to go because they are the people who will spend time propagating them. That’s the niche we fit into.”

The centre deals with between 2,000 and 3,000 plants a year, many of them ordinary bedding plants, but Colin hopes to build enough propagation materials to concentrate on the rarities.

Having said that, one of the bedding plants they sell – Euphorbia Diamond Frost – has gone “manic” this year, Colin believes because of the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee.

The nursery has a plant fair on July 8 (10am to 3pm) at its site on Towngate East in Market Deeping.