Good enough for the Queen: Jekka McVicar's herb farm is a firm favourite of the royals


I am not sure just what percentage of you spend mid-week catching up with the latest from Grazia magazine, but just in case any of you missed it, in the last issue they actually name-checked a horticulturalist. Quite exciting, because you may be shocked to learn that it's not all that often that gardeners get discussed in Grazia. But this week was a positive turn-up for the books, because Jekka McVicar, herb grower and expert, got a mention in an article devoted mainly to comparing Kate Middleton's talents as a wife to Kate Moss's. Evidently the Queen gave Kate a copy of Jekka's herb cookbook, it being a royal fave.

And that, in a nutshell, is proper customer satisfaction. One customer likes you, and recommends you to another – though it's a process that isn't always as straightforward as it sounds.

For example, there are plenty of small nurseries in the UK down plenty of small lanes selling intriguing-looking plants. But sometimes you travel a long way to talk to a nursery owner who doesn't seem that interested in actually selling you anything. Who won't sell you the best thing out of their polytunnel, but will fetch selling plants from somewhere else, which don't look quite as good.

Or you order from a tempting-looking catalogue, but receive an order of slightly misshapen, neglected-looking individuals in sizes just beyond "rooted cutting", too delicate to be planted out. In the end they expire on a window sill, a pretty good reminder never to order from that catalogue again.

All gardeners should be passionately interested in rewarding good customer service. For example, is one of the biggest horticultural companies in Britain and doesn't need that much help advertising its wares, but an order from Crocus, in my experience, comes invariably safe, sound and, most importantly, bushy. I have never received a wilty delivery from them. And you always open a gigantically large box to find a satisfactorily large plant inside.

Avon Bulbs is another company whose customer service can be highly recommended. Last time I ordered from them, explaining it was a birthday present and wondering when it would arrive, their packer moved my order to the top of the pile so it would make the crucial date. (And, needless to say, it was quick and all in the best of health. Which isn't always the case with bulb orders.)

I love hearing from other people when service has been good. Let's single out Raymond Evison Clematis for special mention here: one of the greatest breeders of clematis there has ever been, he himself still often answers the firm's telephone. A reader was astonished to get the man himself on the line when she emailed a question about her clematis. "It was like ringing Buckingham Palace and finding out you were talking to the Queen," she said, still bowled over.

I'm not saying nursery owners need to be charming; I don't mind it if they're grumpy, even taciturn. I like a character. But it's even better if they are nice. Drive to Jekka's Herb Farm near Bristol, and you will be sure of a number of things: quality stock, kindly advice and cat chitchat a-plenty. At her open day, it's her husband organising the parking and her daughter selling beautiful prints of herbs. And Jekka is there to give advice. Advice now officially endorsed by Grazia.

Three to rely on

Nursery at Great Dixter

Staff are very helpful at this East Sussex nursery when you're searching out unusual plants – though are sometimes distracted by sheep-herding duties.

Nursery at Beth Chatto

A brilliant nursery in Essex, with incredibly knowledgable staff. If you have queries, ring early, before the day-trippers arrive. Will not despatch plants now until September.

Crûg Farm

A fantastic small Welsh nursery in Carnarfon with a growing reputation. Really helpful, especially with recommendations.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk