How one Yorkshire couple are building a lifelong dream with nursery for rare seedlings - and piglets - on BBC gardener Joe Maiden's old plot
Gardener Ben Preston, well known for his work at York Gate and Goldsborough Hall, is launching a nursery with partner Laura Kennedy to be filled with rare plants and perennials.
And this is almost hallowed land, in the nursery grounds of the late Joe Maiden as one of Yorkshire's best loved gardeners, authors, and radio presenters, who died in 2015.
The couple have spent the past year restoring North Rigton's Cliff Bank near Harrogate, bringing the derelict nursery back to life after almost eight years.
To Mr Preston though, there are no fancy frills. There are piglets in the woodland, and chickens roaming free. This is a proper garden, filled with opportunity.
"For people who have come to expect everything in a garden centre - this isn't that," he said. "It's purely plants. This is taking it back to traditional."
Mr Preston has always wanted his own land, since he was a boy on his grandparents’ smallholding. Originally from Boston Spa, the 35-year-old has worked in some of Yorkshire's great gardens from Great Dixter to Audley End and Goldsborough Hall, and most recently oversaw the expansion of York Gate Garden where he was head gardener for five years.
His dream though has always been to open a nursery. With partner Laura, a part-time NHS mental health nurse, it's nearly true, and they are to reopen today.
"When this opened up - when we came through the gates - we fell in love with it straight away," he said. "Where Joe used to grow his vegetables there were all these teasels, like giant thistles. Laura collected every one. It seemed the right plant, to have as our logo."
In the clear up, they've found watering cans, and "lovely" old collector's pots. Many years ago, this was a rose nursery, and before that, one for shrubs. The couple have found a catalogue, dating back to 1971, and believe its heritage goes back even further than that.
"There's years of horticultural history, just buried under rock," said Mr Preston.
For now, after a year of hard work, they are excited for what's next. To Miss Kennedy, it's been a "monumental journey" to get to this point, and it's taken many friends and family.
The nursery will specialise in rare woodland plants, more unusual perennials like the dog tooth violet Erythronium ‘Joanna’ and ornamental grasses, as well as hardy annuals.
Continuing a thread begun at York Gate, the hope is also to inspire a new generation of young gardeners coming through, while there's long-term ambitions for skills workshops.
"This is so that people can fall in love with gardening," enthused Mr Preston. "Most people do, when they find the time.
"And it's not just about gardening, it's about the community it creates."
Cliff Bank will be open Wednesdays through to Saturdays until October, from May 27.