Fairly recently, I have moved from the south east of the UK, where I worked in a bedding plant nursery and also made and sold planted succulent containers on the side, to the east of the UK, Peterborough to be exact, for a very exciting employment opportunity. While this move has taken me away from the place I call home, and further away from friends and family, it has brought me closer to one very exciting place – Southfield Nurseries, AKA Cactus Land.
When my new colleagues mentioned this amazing nursery, it stirred a memory, and I realised I had bought a couple of plants from them at RHS Hampton Court Flower show last year. Being a complete succulent and cactus addict, I felt a visit was due. “The time to go is in the Spring,” my colleague told me. “That is when all the cacti are in bloom”.
The idea of seeing a whole nursery of cacti in bloom sounded like an unrealistically exotic prospect for the UK. However I decided to wait until April, and on a gorgeous Saturday morning, when the UK experienced a freak heat wave, I made my way to the little town of Morton, in Bourne, Lincolnshire and turned into the unassuming entrance, my stomach stirring with excitment at what I was about to see.
Being half past ten on a Saturday morning, the nursery felt very peaceful, aside from the riot of colour that greeted me. Everywhere I looked, huge cacti sat proudly in the strong sunshine, flowers shining, colours reminiscent of fruit punch and tropical sunsets. Every turn showed new cacti to admire, babies the size of my thumb nail and larger specimens, bigger than my head. Most were flowering – a fair few weren’t, but were no less intriguing. I did a sweep of the whole nursery, pausing to look closely at particular varieties and say hello to the enormous pet cat basking happily on a sunny bench, before eagerly accepting a basket from the owners.
Southfield nurseries are cacti specialists, so there aren’t a huge amount of other succulents to see. Some established Burro tail succulents and large specimen Jade plants were dotted here and there, but the only other succulents aside from cacti that offered much choice were the echeveria, some of which have been hybridised by the owner of Southfield Nurseries. I had a lot of fun selecting some echeveria to take home. Having seen all sorts of beautiful and interesting echeveria on the likes of Instagram and youtube on offer to American collectors, it felt great to see some new cultivars that weren’t the bog standard ‘Perle von Nurnberg’ and ‘Agavoides’ we so reguarly see in the UK.
I selected and purchased nine succulents, a mixture of echeveria and cacti, although if budget hadn’t been an issue I would have bought way more. All were mini 6cm pots which averaged about £4-5 a pot. They were carefully and snugly popped into a cardboard box for the car ride home. I replanted them as soon as I got home:
It was very hard to pick favourites, but below are a couple of special mentions. I adore the pink flush against the light blue leaves of Echeveria subcorymbosa. It makes a very delicate combination. I also love the intricate patterns and texture of the Rebutia heliosa. I could examine it for hours.