Meet: Planter's Patch23 August 2017 Robin Powell
Meet Sonja Cameron Perennial enthusiast
Frustrated that you can’t source the plants you see in magazines and books? Sonja Cameron feels your pain – and she has an answer!
Robin Powell interviews Sonja Cameron from Planter's Patch nursery
Meet Sonja Cameron, Perennial enthusiast from Planter's Patch. Photo - Robin Powell
You launched Planters Patch last year. Why?
I’d become frustrated by the number of wonderful plants no longer available in retail nurseries. It’s become like it has with apples, where anything with a blemish, anything that is not perfect, doesn’t make it into the supermarkets. Perennials often don’t look good in small 6” pots so they don’t get a look-in at commercial garden centres. The diversity has shrunk so much that gardeners are missing out on hundreds of good-performing perennial plants.
So what are you doing about it?
We import or buy plants and trial them here and in my garden at home for their resilience to the heat and humidity of Sydney conditions and to make sure that they are not weedy. Then we tell people about them!
‘Titoki Point’ dahlia. Photo - Sonja Cameron
Having good plants is only half the battle– you have to get them to people.
Having a good website that was easy to use was very important in setting up Planters Patch. So I turned myself into a photographer as well as a grower, so that we have good images of all the plants. We have made it easy to find the plant you need, whether you know what it is, or just know you need something with a blue flower, or that does well in shade, or is a ground cover, or attracts birds or will fit a vacant spot in your green wall.
What are your best sellers at the moment?
A the moment people seem to be drawn to Geranium ‘Rozanne’, which won the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Centenary award back in 2013. It has larger flowers than most of the geraniums and looks stunning in a hanging basket, with flower for months and months. People are also loving the new Buddleia Buzz range, which hasn’t been seen in Australia before. These are compact buddleias to about 1.5m high and a metre wide and the flowers are sterile so don’t cause any problems. There’s a pure white and a few different purples and burgundies.
Most of your sales are mail order, but you were also at Collectors’ Plant Fair this year. How did that go?
Famously well! We didn’t have a second to ourselves. ‘Rozanne’ smashed it and people also loved the Keith Hammett dahlias. Keith is a New Zealand breeder who focuses on just a few genera and has developed more compact, shrub-like dahlias that don’t need staking. Most popular on the day were ‘Home Run’, ‘Love Affair’ and the lovely sunrise-toned ‘Titoki Point’.
The big happy flowers of Geranium ‘Rozanne’. Photo - Sonja Cameron