Chris Loder & History of Loder Plants

The Loder family has a history of cultivating ornamental and woodland gardens so it seemed the natural line for me. After leaving school, I worked at Exbury Garden for a year before starting a National Diploma at Hadlow College, Kent. I spent many days clearing the Market Garden.

After over 30 years of little or nothing happening, the ivy hid most things, and an inch of soil had build up (more if the rabbits have been active). Clearing the ivy off the buildings and exposing them for the first time is immensely satisfying.

1981. Robin and Jane, My parents took over the estate from my grandfather Sir Giles Loder. I remember in the school holiday helping my mother clear areas of the market garden for growing vegetables.

1989. Autumn .I set up the nursery called Loder Plants in the walled Market Garden.

The area was cleared and a ground cover of mypex was laid. A second-hand shade house structure of 24 metres square was then erected and covered with second hand parweb shading.

1991. Autumn. I produced an availability list based on the small selection of rhododendrons that I had grown to a large size. I was also helping my mother in her tearoom and my father to run his Plant Sales in the large Robinson Glasshouse within the garden.

1993. Spring, My father encouraged me to take on the running of the plant sales, trading as Leonardslee Plants.

1993/4 Winter I renovated the Plants Sales area in the garden with new raised benches, and a Kiosk/Shed at the car park end. In 1985 my father had started a Nursery down the end of Mill Lane called Leonardslee Garden Nursery run by a gentleman call Alan Clark and in 1994 he left removing those plants he considered to be his. My father ask if I would take over this nursery site but instead I preferred to move what remained to the Market Garden, sorting it out as we went. It also came with a member of staff, Melanie Green. How Alan could have found anything under all that chickweed, and have everything grouped together, amuses us now.

1995. The Plant Sales (Leonardslee Plants) got a Telephone Number, 01403 891042

The shade house was expanded to accommodate the plants from the old nursery, which took up the north side of the present shade house. Also we erected 4 row tunnels in the original area of the shade house. It took until the winter of 95 to clear, clean and sort out.

January 1996. Loder Plants changed its name to Leonardslee Plants and produced its first full catalogue/availability list of plants.

Spring of 96. We started using thermal printed labels and more row tunnels were erected for young plants. We also started using a next day parcel service with Interlink and the Plant Sales got a credit card machine.

Winter of 96. The shade house was further expanded to the south so I could build a collection of azaleas, both deciduous and evergreen. When clearing out the old onion store we found a board with the name of W. Leury Jr, W. Sherlock, H.R. Stacery, B. Stacey, H. Dinnage, H. Wadey, G. Langley, & W Leury, May 24 1927. Whether this was the date this building was built or reinsulated with sawdust, I am not sure. When the little walled-area became available, we cleared the site and erected another shade house inside with a polytunnel in the most south end. When digging the entrance ends of the polytunnel we reached a depth of 3 spits and found a layer of ceramic plant labels about 5 inch thick.

1997. The Nursery name reverts back to Loder Plants, as directory enquiries confuse us with Leonardslee Garden. New roadside sign goes up and Martin Rogers joins the team on the nursery having worked for a season in the Plants Sales. He spends most of his time dealing directly with customers.

1998 David Barrett joins the Plant Sales team and later becomes more involved with the nursery. Nursery purchases a pick-up and large box trailer in order to start delivering specimen plants to mainland UK and Ireland. During the summer I register www.rhododendrons.com and start to build our first website with help from William Wallace.

Winter of 1999. Camellia Grove Nursery was born with its own number (891142) and web site. We had begun to build up a collection of camellias but camellia people don�t go a specialist rhododendron nursery to buy camellias. As camellia people like azaleas, the answer we found was to invent a camellia nursery at Loder Plants.

Spring of 2000. The Camellia Grove multi-span and potting poly tunnel was erected.

Everard Daniel joined the nursery team that summer, having done a few weeks grafting the previous year.

2001. Sarah Harman joins the nursery and a new shade house is built to house the larger camellias. That winter we purchase most of Stonehurst Nursery�s large camellias and all of their non-japonica liners, as they were about to close down. We found we had inherited a large collection of C. sasanqua forms so it was decided to build a collection of Christmas flowering camellias.

In June, Phillipa Rickard joins us on the nursery.

2003. We try a new form of advertising in the form of a mini-card. Which meant you might be able to pick up a card in your local pub.

2004. Our first stand in the R.H.S. halls at Vincent Square, London, In January, trail run before showing again in March, where we were awarded a bronze medal.