Our writing is a labour of love, a way to share the fascinating world of horticulture with others through blogs, articles and ebooks.

The Virens blog is all about the best in modern gardening culture. Presented free of charge, as a way to build and foster gardening magic both in Vancouver, Canada, and further afield.

If you are interested in having your work published on the site, hiring us to write for other publications or re-print our articles, please get in touch. We love a good collaboration.

Sara-Jane & Alica at Virens Studio

ps You can also find us on Substack at virensstudio.substack.com

Blok Planting Garden Design: A Naturalistic Nursery Dream

Nov 10, 2020

 A while back I came across some spectacular pictures on instagram @blok_planting_garden_design . They have 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. Eva and Robin have been kind enough to share some of their story with us in a guest blog. So, please enjoy...

sanguisorba tanna dierama
Sanguisorba tanna and Dierama

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.

salvia patensis blue angel pennisetum
Salvia patensis 'blue angel' and Pennisetum.

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.

cold frames raised wooden beds blok
Raised wooden beds as cold frames
Perennial plant display bed
Display bed at Blok Planting Garden Design

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.

Dianthus carthusianorum aster
Dianthus carthusianorum, mixed grasses, Veronicastrum and Aster

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!)

cold frame perennial test plot at blok
Perennial test plot

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.

 

Eva & Robin at Blok Building UK , blok_planting_garden_design

perovskia atriplicifolia blok planting
Echinacea 'white swan' and Pervoksia

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 Virens Studio or on instagram @virensstudio we would love to feature you too.

Virens is a studio located in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in ecological planting design, urban greening consultation and hort writing.   Please get in touch so that we can help you bring some green into your city! and don't forget to follow us @virensstudio on Instagram.

Sara-Jane & Alicia

verbascum rose glow rudbeckia calamagrostis
Echinacea and Veronicastrum

© Virens Studio 2023 (all photos are used for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily belong to us.)

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