So much of what we take for granted in today’s perennials market we owe to the pioneering efforts of a globally influential plantsman, Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham. Whether it’s investing in the best plants and rewarding breeders for their efforts, using micropropagation, establishing a retail brand for plants or re-envisioning the landscape, for 35 years, Bloom has been ahead of his time.
The original Blooms of Bressingham nursery was founded 85 years ago by Adrian’s father, Alan Bloom, in Oakington, Cambridge in the United Kingdom. It was moved to Bressingham 20 years later. Together, the Blooms built a worldwide recognition for perennials, which included breeding and selecting more than 200 plants, many of which are still in production today. A few of the most popular include campanula ‘Blue Waterfall,’ crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and geranium ‘Rozanne,’ which launched at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2000 and became the Perennial Plant Association’s 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year.
Adrian and his brother, Robert, became involved in the business in the 1960s, and under their leadership, the nursery grew to include mail-order sales and garden center locations throughout the United Kingdom. Later, agents were licensed to produce the Blooms branded plants internationally. The range of products expanded beyond perennials to include conifers and heathers to create year-round interest in the garden.
Blooms of Bressingham’s North American division was launched in 1995, when perennial grower Gary Doerr of Peppergrove Perennials and Yoder Brothers (now Aris Horticulture) created a production and distribution network. Nine years later, Blooms of Bressingham North America purchased the new plant development division and took over the international management and promotion of the Blooms brand.
Promoting Premium Plants
While many popular perennials were open genetics that didn’t belong to anyone, Adrian became an advocate of plant breeders’ rights and branding to promote premium varieties in the Blooms of Bressingham line and stimulate new product development. Blooms also was the first nursery in the United Kingdom to develop a plant brand 30 years ago.
“My personal focus apart from the business has always been to promote plants and gardening and to encourage the nursery trade, media and the garden public to use good new plants, but more importantly, to consider those that are garden worthy and will give year-round interest,” Bloom says.
Adrian’s garden, Foggy Bottom, became his place to experiment with new gardening techniques and he developed a style that revolutionized how perennials were used in landscapes, focusing on plant associations and creating living rivers with a single variety, such as geranium ‘Rozanne’ or Imperata grass.
“I have been lucky to have had the opportunity at Bressingham and my Foggy Bottom garden to gain experience with a wide range of plants and to spread my ideas to other gardens and to a wider public,” Adrian says. “I am particularly keen to get new gardeners to have success and believe the horticultural industry should be paying more attention to this objective.”
In 1976, Adrian started designing front-yard garden makeovers for private homeowners to show how plants can be used in smaller gardens. This later expanded to philanthropic demonstration gardens planted by industry volunteers who donate plants in addition to their time. These gardens have become a living legacy, which can be seen throughout the United States at Kendall Jackson Wine Center in California, Yew Dell Gardens in Kentucky, Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in New York, the Steven Still Garden at Ohio State University and Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Elm Bank Reservation–the largest Adrian has designed, covering an acre.
Throughout his career, Adrian has educated the public on how to use perennials, conifers and grasses through books he has written with and without his father. Adrian and Alan also are the only father and son to hold the prestigious Victoria Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society at the same time. While his father received it in 1972, Adrian was one of the youngest honorees in 1986. Adrian also spent five years as an international correspondent and presenter for PBS’s “Victory Garden,” bringing a world of gardening into living rooms from South Africa, France, Italy, Holland and The Netherlands.
Adrian remains consultant and designer to Blooms of Bressingham internationally. For more information on varieties and programs, visit BloomsOfBressinghamPlants.com, a comprehensive resource where growers can find sources for starter plants and technical production guidelines. Additional directories help retailers looking for growers and consumers looking for retailers.