Small in size but with a big reputation, Marchants is one of the UK’s best loved independent Garden and Nurseries. Grasses and herbaceous perennials are its forte, selected for their garden worthiness and appropriate to contemporary and traditional gardens alike. The varied range of plants offered are virtually all propagated on site, a rare thing nowadays and most can be seen growing in the Gardens at Marchants.
In April 2022 founders Graham Gough and Lucy Goffin handed over the day-to-day running of the Marchants to Hannah, Jean and Henry – with of course the occasional helping hand from Graham, as well as from a brilliant team of staff and volunteers.
Graham and Lucy still own the site – and both will be lovingly overseeing and guiding this new partnership. No significant changes at Marchants are planned. Over the years Marchants has built a fantastic horticultural reputation and its skilled horticultural team aim to enhance this reputation further by developing Marchants as a home of learning, skill-sharing and plant knowledge.
Known for its quality, home-propagated plants, and an artistic garden of craft and beauty, the ‘magic of Marchants’ carries on. Image left: Hannah at work in the ‘potting palace’.
The creative partnership of Graham Gough and textile artist Lucy Goffin began in 1997. Here at Marchants Hardy Plants and with Lucy’s artistic support, Graham devoted himself to designing and developing the beautiful garden at Marchants and the Nursery, while also breeding and raising plants and selecting new varieties.
Following an early career in classical music Graham was deeply inspired by a trip to Sissinghurst Castle. His career change was swift and by a stroke of luck he gained a job at Washfield Nursery working with renowned nurserywoman Elizabeth Strangman. Here Graham bloomed as a nurseryman and propagator, and gained his formidable knowledge of plants.
Graham’s horticultural experience has been further enriched by consultations, garden design, photography, international talks and writing. A favourite pastime has been travelling to many countries to observe plant communities in the wild.
Marchants philosophy is one of artisanal appreciation. ‘Slow horticulture’ if you like. There is no mass production here, all propagation is done by hand, by Hannah and Jean, one plant at a time.
Creative thinking threads its way through every process, whether planting a new bed, deciding on a new combination of plants – even deciding which plants to propagate and how many. Certain plant types rapidly become ‘in vogue’ following exposure at the major UK garden design and flower shows, and it is important that we track such trends as much as instigate new trends.
Working with and listening to creative people in horticulture is also key. Marchants is visited by many renowned garden designers, who buy their plants here, exchange news and views, and bring their teams to experience the Marchants way of working. Image left: Henry with renowned plantsman and designer Piet Oudolph in the Marchants Garden in 2022.
Graham’s most recent project is Well-Handled. Inspired by the classic kitchen knives of Sabatier and Roselli, but always hankering for something more individual, Graham started whittling handles using native hardwoods: Apple, Ash, Alder, Cherry, Laburnum, London Plane, Medlar, Pear, Oak, Walnut, Yew and many more.
Getting to know their individual grains and characteristics is a fascinating and continuing process. Matching the handle to high grade carbon steel blades (including his own small bladed Santoku style knife forged in Sussex), Graham creates artisanal knives suitable for a number of kitchen and garden tasks.
An axe, a strong whittling knife, rasps/Japanese files, sandpaper and a power drill are his only tools.
Graham sells his knives from the Nursery, and has been invited to exhibit at various fairs including Beautiful & Useful: Craft at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, London.