Stillingfleet Lodge Plant Nursery near York celebrates 40 years of trading this summer.

The nursery, founded by Vanessa Cook is noted for supplying unusual herbaceous plants particularly suited to the Yorkshire climate.

Back in the early 1980s Vanessa was made redundant from her job, so she decided to learn something new and attended Askham Bryan Horticultural College.

She started propagating plants and set up a poly tunnel. Thanks to a Government Enterprise Scheme supporting her for a year she was able to open the plant nursery on a commercial basis in 1984.


Today, the plant catalogue lists over 800 varieties, 90% of which are grown in the adjacent garden at Stillingfleet Lodge,in Stewart Lane, Stillingfleet, which is open to the public.

Visitors can see the well-filled stock beds where herbaceous plants are grown-on after splitting from larger plants in the garden.

Vanessa said: “I am so proud of what we have achieved over the years, supplying a huge range of stunning and unusual herbaceous plants to the gardeners of Yorkshire.

“Many of our range of plants are good in shady areas, whereas others are excellent for pollinators. You cannot buy most of our plants in garden centres – and you won’t get our personal touch in terms of plant recommendations either.”

Stillingfleet Lodge was the home of a national collection of pulmonaria for 15 years and the variety Stillingfleet Meg was bred here.

Hardy geraniums are another speciality of the garden and if you visit the nursery in early summer it is virtually impossible not to be tempted by one of Vanessa’s stunning geraniums – the Hardy Plant Society’s favourite flowers!

Two cultivars of Geranium Stillingfleet Ghost and Stillingfleet Kiera were bred in the nursery and named by the geranium national collection holder.

The nursery has always had close affiliation with the Hardy Plant Society and both the Pulmonaria and Hardy Geranium Groups have had their annual meetings at the garden.

Independent plant nurseries are in decline, with the numbers reducing by almost half between 2000 and 2020.

That Stillingfleet Lodge Plant Nursery is still thriving is down to the determination of Vanessa and her team and their loyal green-fingered customers.

Stillingfleet Lodge Garden and plant nursery is open to the public from April 1 to September 30 every Wednesday and Friday from 13:00 – 17:00 and the first and third weekends of the month. (In June 2024 it is the second and third weekend).

There are also additional open days for the National Garden Scheme and Wildlife Day.

Go to the website for details: