AS GALAS and festivals take place across East Lothian this summer, streets and parks are full of vibrant displays of flowers, hanging from baskets and filling beds.

The extraordinary display of plants across the county’s public spaces have been carefully grown and nurtured by a small band of men working behind the scenes in one of East Lothian Council’s best-kept secrets.

The secret nursery where these plants are brought to life is tended daily by just two full-time workers and a small team of volunteers and trainees, who help produce and maintain the county’s reputation as the Garden County.

Led by nursery foreman Gus Campbell, who has been working in the gardens since he joined as a seasonal member of staff nearly 30 years ago, they have produced a staggering 150,000 bedding plants to go out to towns and villages this summer.

And each year they bring in their perennial plants, which include an impressive collection of banana trees, before winter strikes, keeping them in specially maintained greenhouses before sending them back out for the public to enjoy in the summer time.

The work is so impressive that they won the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society Trophy, from Scotland in Bloom last year, recognising their ongoing work to improve the quality of the environment for visitors and residents alike, alongside its support for community groups.

The Courier was given the chance to go behind the scenes at the nursery garden, whose location has to be kept a secret to protect its wares, and equipment, from thieves.

In years gone by, each town in the county would have its own nursery garden producing flowers and plants each year for their community; now there is one, established in its current location in 1992, which serves the whole of East Lothian.

Comprising of six greenhouses, some of which date back to the ‘70s and came second hand from Edinburgh, and six polytunnels, thrift is the key at the remaining garden, where they try and buy in as little as possible.

Andrew Hogarth, area amenity officer with the council’s amenity services, which oversee the garden, said: “We try to buy in as little as possible and bring on new plants from cuttings from more mature ones.

“And we aim to encourage community groups to take ownership of the flowers and plants so that maintenance is carried out by them, watering and so on.

“We reuse everything we can, from containers to trays, and bring our perennials in to protect them from frost. It is a year-round job.”

Community groups and local businesses are able to contact the nursery through the council to request displays or bedding plants.

Musselburgh Racecourse is a regular client, with the baskets and plants for Ladies’ Day looked after in one of the polytunnels.

Mr Campbell, said: “We are kept busy all year round, planning ahead for events that are coming up and ensuring we have the plants needed for the coming months.

“It is important we can meet demand from the communities.”