Childminder Joyce takes over the nursery

A recent switch in careers saw Joyce Hunt exchange one nursery for another.

A recent switch in careers saw Joyce Hunt exchange one nursery for another.

Joyce worked as a registered childminder and mentor with the National Childminders Association.

But she also had a long-standing interest in plants and gardening. So when the walled garden which had once served Chipchase Castle came on to the market, Joyce and her friend Alison Jones were quick to seize the moment.

The 1.5-acre garden had been transformed over the previous 12 years by local women Suzanne Newell and Janet Beakes from what had become a paddock to a nursery specialising in hardy perennial plants.

Joyce and Alison, who live in the Humshaugh area, took over the garden in November.

"Running a nursery was something I had always loved the idea of doing. I used to visit the garden to buy plants and thought it would be a fantastic place to work," says mother-of-two Alison, who graduated as a landscape architect, worked in the field for 10 years and also took a Masters in environmental management at Sunderland University.

Joyce, who has three children, says: " The idea of running a nursery was always an appealing one and when the opportunity arose on our doorstep it was ideal. We were overjoyed to get the garden.

"It had been run by two local women and has now been taken over by two local women."

The strength of the nursery is in propagating hardy perennials such as geraniums, violas, geums and eryngiums, and a whole lot more.

Joyce says: "We have hundreds of different varieties and we propagate a relatively small number of a large amount of plants. We have unusual plants - not the sort of thing you would pick up at the local garden centre."

Varieties bred at the garden include Geum Chipchase and Polemonium North Tyne.

The garden is leased from Chipchase Castle but run as an independent business, Chipchase Castle Nursery.

This year's Harrogate Spring Show was the first such event for Joyce and Alison, and their Northumbrian garden won a silver medal.

Joyce says: "It is a complete change for us both and we will continue to preserve the specialist nature of the garden and improve it, making it a welcoming place where people tarry as well as buying plants. It is extremely hard work propagating plants and looking after the business side of things but it is also fulfilling and can be heaven - at times. The garden has a wonderful atmosphere."

Alison's previous job was as access officer on a project run by Northumberland County Council, the Forestry Commission and Northumbrian Water to create a multi-user track around Kielder Reservoir.


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