There aren’t many of them left; I’m talking about nurseries. Not the ones where you abandon your offspring but the places where you can buy plants that have probably been grown from seeds or cuttings by the person who served you. The family-run Meynell Langley Gardens is one such place. It’s a retail nursery and tea rooms offering a wide range of garden plants, trees and shrubs. Susan and myself visited the nursery on a week-day lunch time.
In our own garden I’d moved a Victorian, crown topped chimney pot from obscurity at the side of the shed to a more prominent position close to the house. We wanted to use it as a planter… but needed a plant. Meynell Langley Gardens is an ideal place to combine lunch, plant shopping and a chat with knowledgeable staff. Pot plants, herbaceous perennials and bedding plants are all grown and sold from the nursery.
The evidence that it’s a working nursery is all around you and to my eyes, a welcome sight. The nursery’s tea room, close to the entrance, is a purpose built summerhouse of generous proportions complete with air conditioning. The first thing you notice as you enter the huge café come summerhouse, is the extensive display of cakes and scones and the lunch menu displayed on the wall.
One of the friendly staff explained that we could sit at any vacant table, make our lunch selection, order at the till and the lunch would be served at our table. And what a selection! There are paninis with a choice of five different filling: bacon and brie, tuna and cheese, Stilton and apple, mozzarella and tomato or good old fashioned cheese and onion. All served with a salad garnish. 3 types of quiche: Cheese and onion, Stilton and broccoli or the classic Lorraine; served with salad, coleslaw and chutney. Two very popular dishes on the menu are the homemade lasagne and a fish platter of salmon, mackerel and prawns dressed with Marie Rose sauce. I chose one of the salads that are on the menu: the ploughman’s. A very filling and tasty lunch.
There were two large wedges of cheese: a mild and tasty red Leicester and a full flavoured crumbly mature cheddar along with a small tub of dark pickle. A small pork pie accompanied by pickled onion and beetroot. To offset the sharpness there was mound of sliced dessert apple. A creamy homemade coleslaw, a fresh salad, potato crisps and a couple of slices of wholemeal bread completed the plate. The other salads are ham, prawn or tuna. Plus a Greek salad with feta, black olives and a balsamic dressing.
Susan selected the jacket potato with prawns in a Marie Rose sauce. The potato skin was crisp and the inside fluffy. A generous portion of prawns, in the classic delicate pink sauce, was served in a separate dish enabling you to top up the jacket as you progressed through lunch. As with the other fillings of cheese, beans and tuna the plate was garnished with coleslaw and salad.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter for lunch there is a selection of sandwiches including ham, tuna and cheese. Plus, for the more chilly days, a fresh soup. And after the hearty lunch if you need a dessert there are three all time favourites to choose from: hot apple pie, chocolate sponge or sticky toffee pudding. Fully fed and watered (we’d ordered a large cafetière to drink with lunch) we decided to take a stroll through the Meynell Langley Trial Garden. It’s attached to the nursery and used as a showcase for their finest, home-grown produce, from bedding plants to fruit trees.
With it’s imaginative planting ideas and a large pond fed by an elevated rill, it’s a garden layout that encourages you to sit and admire the carefully constructed views. Seeing garden ideas like the grass path edged with clipped box and espalier apple trees makes you want to try them in your own garden. The Trials Garden is well worth a visit. There are also regular open days for the National Gardens Scheme charity.
Later in the year there are demonstrations of fruit pruning and interestingly, apple tasting days. Plus autumn bedding ideas followed by their home-made wreaths, poinsettias and cyclamen, so completing the gardening year before they start sowing again for the next year. The nursery is on the outskirts of Derby between Kedleston Hall and Kirk Langley and the tea rooms are open daily from 10 a.m. till mid-afternoon serving delicious homemade cakes and cream teas along with the hot and cold lunches.
Meynell Langley Gardens, Lodge Lane, Kirk Langley, nr Derby DE6 4NT tel. 01332 824358