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Sarah Raven Climbing Borlotti Beans that don't climb

(10 Posts)
Poisonwoodlife Sun 26-Jul-15 09:11:50

Every year I grow a bumper crop of Borlotti beans which give us pleasure all winter. This year I was organised and bought all my seeds from Sarah Raven instead of here and there at garden centres and shows. Big Mistake.

I dutifully dug a two foot deep bean trench, filled it with muck, constructed a hazel frame for them, sowed the beans into root trainers and planted them out when they were large enough. The grew to 18 inches and stopped, because they are a dwarf bush variety. Each has about 10 pods, so that will be it for the harvest, at Wisley they grow the dwarf variety with 3cm spacing, presumably because that is how you get the best crop, these are of course luxuriating in 45 cm spacing . Sarah Raven don't even sell dwarf Borlotti beans. I complained and sent pictures and the limit of their sympathy and acceptance of culpability was to send me a packet of replacement seed it is too late, as it says in their instructions, never mind that every gardener would know, to plant and harvest before the frosts.

AIBU to be fuming as well as sad ?

Anyone else had this happen?

Any suggestions for how I can get better compensation?

Has anyone got any spare Borlotti bean plants?

Don't be fooled by all the glam and matey marketing, Sarah Raven is obviously just like all the other seed companies.

GardenDragon Mon 27-Jul-15 15:32:31

I think this is just one of those things, mistakes happen, things get mis-labelled. They have sent you replacement seeds, what else could they do? Why don't you just plant the seeds, they will probably catch up with the established plants eventually as the ground is now warmer than when you planted the original, they will likely crop before the frosts come. I have planted beans in July before and managed a late crop.Or save them for next year and start again.

shovetheholly Mon 27-Jul-15 16:21:38

Grrrr, that is SO annoying! You have my sympathies.

I don't think nurseries do more than just replace, though. I just had a similar situation but with asparagus crowns. They arrived very dessicated and proceeded not to sprout at all. The nursery has said that they will replace them, but it is annoying because they are one-year crowns and you generally can't crop until the third year. So I am basically down a year.

I guess you just have to chalk these things up to luck of the draw. When you do get proper size borlottis, maybe you can have your revenge by saving seed so you don't have to buy another packet! sad

Poisonwoodlife Tue 28-Jul-15 10:53:31

Thanks for your opinion and I would mostly agree except that Sarah Raven is not some struggling nursery or a huge supplier. They have crafted a brand out of a gardening personality whose fame arises from her skill as a gardener and the famous garden she is associated with. The catalogue sells you her lifestyle, taste and expertise. That brand enables them to charge over the odds. I know I was being naive, especially for someone who is in marketing, but I assumed that with premium prices came premium service, not the same service you would get from Thompson and Morgan or similar. I expected some form of compensation, of the sort you would find from a premium brand that recognised all the work they had caused to be wasted not a letter saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" but hard cheese with no acknowledgement of the problems caused.

Gardendragon Borlotti beans need more heat than ordinary beans. I start them off in the greenhouse or in the ground at the beginning of June when the ground is as warm as it will get and then harvest usually in October, I think there is basically no chance.

So I think people should be aware is that what you are getting is in fact Thompson and Morgan with a nice catelogue. In fact Sarah Raven does not even list dwarf Borlotti beans in her catalogue so clearly she is using a wholesale supplier just like T&M.

In future I will enjoy the catelogue for ideas and go back to using the excellent nurseries whose seeds I have bought at shows which are more serving of my money.

shovetheholly Tue 28-Jul-15 11:01:42

I don't think anywhere offers that kind of service for seeds. Not that I know of, anyway. sad

I would chalk it up as a learning experience to be honest. I think in gardening there are a lot of brands that are basically geared towards a wealthy, middle class market who will literally pay twice as much for the same product because of a pastel-coloured catalogue or a fancy website. I have done it myself with Crocus, so I'm speaking self-reflectively here!!

I heartily recommend Kings Seeds. Their catalogue is rather charmingly workaday and their packaging is most definitely not pastel, but they are cheap and extremely good quality - I've had fewer failures from them than anywhere else. Even better, if you join a local allotment association and order through them you get a HUGE discount - almost half price. This makes them far and away the most inexpensive place from which to purchase seeds if you're not a big wholesaler.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 28-Jul-15 11:24:20

Thanks shovetheholly . I actually started an Asparagus bed this year with crowns from Crocus, having bought some at a garden centre that turned out too dedicated to thrive last year, and all 12 plants have thrived in spite of some negligence with watering and a rampant dog walking over them from time to time I have visited their nurseries in Surrey on their open days on quite a few occasions and got some real bargains, especially the Chelsea sell off. Everything I have seen there has been excellent quality, and well and knowledgable looked after, got lots of good advice too . Everything I have bought thrives once planted. I have also been part of one of their marketing focus groups, which the man who founded it turned up to, and was really anxious to get feed back, why we hadn't repeat ordered etc. and several of our suggestions turned up in the product range. I will continue to use them for plants because they do provide value for money. It seems to me they understand that marketing isn't just window dressing.

I think plants are a bit different, as much as anything I am peed off to have lost over 8 weeks of work and growing time. If they had provided replacement plants I would be more relaxed.

darlingbudsofjuly Tue 28-Jul-15 11:31:08

Thing is, that it's not SR's fault - as you say, they buy from big suppliers, and someone there has messed up. SR just 'curate' a collection - pick nice varieties. But it IS annoying, no doubt about it.

My parents had something much worse - planted a mulberry tree; when it fruited, 10 years later, it was a white mulberry not a black (tastes v different). 10 years!

I like Chiltern Seeds best.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 28-Jul-15 13:13:45

darling that would be very annoying. I have had similar problems with plants coming out differently, including something labelled as a white foxglove that turned out to be a Verbascum with yellow flowers (yes a foxglove with grey furry leaves was too much to hope for) and a lovely white rose currently turning into the Barbie pink one it was developed from. I tend to put those down to experience , after all as a gardener you take the rough with the smooth but this just annoyed me because of all the hard work and the way their response was completely at odds with that and the brand and slick marketing, I assume I was just getting a response from some marketing intern or a new graduate who knew nothing about gardening.

Still as a marketer I can take heart that not backing up your brand with a consistent product and quality of service never works in the long term and that my current negative consumer perception of Sarah Raven is bound to spread to many more people, for every customer who complains there are ten more who keep stum but don't buy from you anymore.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 28-Jul-15 13:15:36

By the way that order of seeds and plug plants was in excess of £200.....

Poisonwoodlife Tue 28-Jul-15 13:16:11

And I know they saw me coming grin

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