Six of the best online plant shops

From giant fennel at Great Dixter to chamomile seeds from Somerset florist Grace Alexander

Florist Grace Alexander
Florist Grace Alexander | Image: Roger Bool

In times of turmoil, nurturing a plant from seed or planning a flower border for summer suddenly seems to have a profound resonance. Perhaps even more compelling – given the worsening daily news – is to make a vegetable or salad garden that will provide produce by midsummer. These nurseries and seed suppliers have everything needed to get started in a patch of bare earth or a collection of pots – and available to buy online. 

Grace Alexander Flowers

This Somerset-based seed grower – who is a clinical psychologist by day – has turned packets of seeds into objects of beauty in their own right. Her letterpress-printed, Indian khadi-paper envelopes of seeds can be bought in single packs or in themed collections. The newest addition is the Dye Hard mix of woad, chamomile and marigolds, which can double up as natural dyes. gracealexanderflowers.co.uk

The late Beth Chatto’s Dry Garden
The late Beth Chatto’s Dry Garden

Beth Chatto

The late Beth Chatto was a formidable plantsperson, and the plants she chose to sell always reflected what is grown in her wonderful Essex gardens. Her schemes are famed for their “right plant, right place” philosophy, and the online catalogue is helpfully arranged in categories for dry, shady and damp conditions, making it perfect for novices unsure of what might suit their garden. Plants are always fantastic quality and arrive carefully packed. bethchatto.co.uk

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Sarah Raven

This is the perfect destination for anyone unsure about putting plants together in containers or in borders. Raven has a great eye for harmonious combinations; her Scented Purple Pot collection with pelargoniums, buddleia and heliotrope will look (and smell) great all summer long. You can buy annuals and perennials, as well as shrubs, climbers and edibles – a complete garden, in fact. Raven also gives great advice and information, with very useful instructional videos online. At the time of writing, she was about to launch new weekly films featuring step-by-step guides and inspiration. sarahraven.com

The Scented Purple Pot collection by Sarah Raven
The Scented Purple Pot collection by Sarah Raven | Image: Jonathan Buckley

Chiltern Seeds

If Chiltern Seeds’ seductive, colour-themed biannual catalogues don’t make you want to grow something from seed, then nothing will. This family business has a dizzying range of plants to grow, from whatever the latest vogueish flower may be (this summer, it’s a stunning pale-grey poppy – Papaver rhoeas Amazing Grey) to easy-to-grow garden stalwarts such as apricot foxgloves, ethereal Ammi majus, campanulas and catmint. There’s a very broad edibles list too. chilternseeds.co.uk

Grace Alexander Flowers creates letterpress-printed, Indian khadi-paper envelopes of seeds
Grace Alexander Flowers creates letterpress-printed, Indian khadi-paper envelopes of seeds

Great Dixter Nursery

Legendary garden writer Christopher Lloyd started the nursery at the Edwin Lutyens-designed Sussex house Great Dixter in 1954. Since then, it has stocked a choice selection of plants, including many of the world-class garden’s signature plants. You’ll find giant towering yellow mullein; giant fennel, which looks phenomenal planted with a sea of purple alliums in spring; and delicate pink cow parsley. Plants are grown in loam-based soil, making them much more garden-ready than plants nurtured en masse in peat-based compost. Seeds harvested from the plants onsite are also available online, alongside Sneeboer tools and other accessories. greatdixter.co.uk

The gardens at Great Dixter, in Sussex
The gardens at Great Dixter, in Sussex

Vital Seeds

It’s still surprisingly hard to find organic plants, bulbs and seeds, but this relatively new Devon-based supplier is changing this with a great selection of organic vegetable seeds. If you’re new to growing, you could start out with summer crops such as radishes, lettuce, peas, leafy greens and baby carrots that could be ready to harvest in just one or two months. vitalseeds.co.uk

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