Helleborus – the Christmas Rose

Helleborus

During the winter months, Helleborus which are commonly known as the Christmas Rose, are a useful and striking addition to any border due to their evergreen leaves and pretty flowers.  They are perennials and are simple to grow.  They flower from December to spring, so are ideal for adding to Christmas containers with some seasonal bulbs and evergreen shrubs such as Pittosporum.

Flowers are predominantly white or cream but they also come in shades of pink, green and dark red, so will fit in with most gardens and are ideal for a woodland setting in dappled shade.  They grow to around 30-50cm, so make excellent front of border plants.

Hellebores pink

If you want a plant that requires little maintenance, then Helleborus are ideal as they really can be left to their own devices and will self-seed too. As they grow, they will create lovely clumps over time. At this point you can divide the clump and create lots of free plants.

Hellebores are fairly tough plants and should survive being divided at all times except when the weather is bad over the winter and/or when they are in full bloom. This means most Hellebores can all be divided in mid to late spring, and if you are not sure what type of Hellebore you have, divide it after flowering later in the spring.

Some people remove the leaves to show off the flowers and new foliage – it’s a personal choice as there is no wrong or right way. However, they can be prone to black spot, so by removing the leaves, it can help the health of the plant. Obviously don’t remove all the leaves, as they are required for photosynthesis.

When choosing a Helleborus I recommend a single flower variety as bees love them (they are an excellent winter food source) and are unable to access the double flowering type.

Problems with Hellebores – Black Leaf Spot

Hellebores are fairly trouble free but they can suffer from leaf blotch which is a common fungal problem. This means the leaves get marked with grey or brown/black marks. The simple solution is to cut off the leaf, or as many leaves as are infected. If the infection is severe cut off all the leaves, the plant should survive.  The plant does not seem to suffer from having many leaves removed and they’re replaced by new ones in the spring. Do not put the leaves in the compost bin as this could spread the fungal infection.

Bear in mind also that Hellebores are a poisonous plant, (humans and pets) and ingestation of root or leaves can cause stomach upsets and for some people it is also a skin irritant.

If you would like a planting plan to help you create year round colour in your garden, use the Evergreen garden design kit.  If you combine it with the seasonal bulbs from the free list and you will have a beautiful garden with year round interest and colour.

Border in a Box Evergreen garden border

Border in a Box Evergreen

 

Further reading: https://borderinabox.com/create-year-round-colour-garden-bulbs/

 

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pink tulips

Japanese Maples – Beautiful trees for small gardens

Japanese Maples

If you’re looking for a tree suitable for a small garden, a Japanese maple is the perfect choice! They are small deciduous trees that are happy in the border or large container. They are one of my favourite trees as the foliage is really pretty and in autumn they turn the most beautiful colours.

The best time to plant them is in the autumn in a sheltered sunny or part sunny spot as they don’t like cold winds or frosts.  You can protect them with horticultural fleece during the winter. The sun can scorch their delicate leaves, so a dappled shaded area is perfect for them.

They prefer slightly acidic, nutritious, sandy, well-drained soil, but will generally grow well in most soils; however, they don’t like water-logged soil, overly dry or very alkaline conditions.

If you’re growing in a container, keep the compost moist and feed with a slow release fertiliser in spring and summer.

Care & maintenance

If your tree needs cutting back, do it when it is dormant – ideally between November to January. When a maple is cut it will bleed sap which could weaken and ultimately kill the tree, so it’s best to keep pruning to a minimum.

If you need to reduce height and/or width, simply cut back to a side branch and also prune crossing shoots which will keep the framework looking good.

Here are some of my favourite Acers that look fabulous:

Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku

Acer palmatum sango-kaku

This can be a shrub or small tree as it can grow upto 6-8m tall and spread 2.5-4m.  It likes a sheltered sunny or part-sunny spot in the garden and is deciduous but suitable for all soil types. I love the gorgeous red stems with contrasting green leaves, which as you can see turn a lovely yellowy-red colour in autumn.

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

This tree is so pretty – the spreading shape and the finely cut leaves are stunning. This variety grows to around 2.5m tall and also likes a sheltered position in a sunny or part sunny garden. It’s happy in all soil types too.

Acer palmatum ‘Tsuma gaki’

Acer palmatum tsuma_gaki

How beautiful is this leaf? It looks so delicate with its reddy/pink-blushed edges surrounding a yellow leaf. The leaf turns lime green as it matures, which in turn becomes a stunning red colour in autumn. It grows to around 2.5m x 2.5m so it’s ideal for adding a bit of height in a container garden.

Acer palmatum ‘Shigitatsu sawa’

Acer palmatum shigitatsu_sawa

This tree grows to around 4.6m tall and 3.7m wide so its better suited to a larger garden. It has fabulous cream leaves with dark green veins and certainly creates the wow factor in any garden. As the leaves mature, they become green and then turn red in autumn.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

acer_palmatum_shishigashira

This is a bushy upright Acer which is happy in all moist but well drained soils in part shade or sunny areas of the garden.  It grows to around 4m tall and 2.5m wide.

If you would like to visit a nursery specialising in Japanese maples, I can recommend Howle Hill Nursery or their new plant centre at Huntley (both not far from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire). Photographs were taken there in the spring and autumn. Further details and opening times www.howlehillnursery.co.uk.

These trees are a perfect addition to any of the Border in a Box designs and I used Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Omatum Fontana’ in my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2018. You can recreate this design with the Wellbeing version of Border in a Box.

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Border in a Box Wellbeing sensory planting plan

 

Border in a Box Wellbeing

 

 

Autumnal Asters – how to add colour to your garden borders

Aster purple flower

If your borders are lacking colour right now, then pop along to the Picton Garden at Colwall, Worcestershire for some inspiration and you will see some stunning Aster’s, commonly known as Michaelmas Daisies which are a vibrant edition for any garden.

I met with owner Helen Picton to find out more about the home of the Plant Heritage National Collection of autumn flowering Asters.  The Picton Garden & Old Court Nursery has been a family business since 1906 and they specialise in breeding and growing Michaelmas Daisies.

There are over 400 varieties to choose from and the peak flowering season is September and October, with Michaelmas day falling on the 29th September. They vary in colours from the palest blues to striking pinks – no matter which one you choose they will all look fabulous especially if you combine them with other plants such as grasses and Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

 

Picton Garden aster grasses

There is lots of inspiration to take away with you such as this combination of Verbena bonariensis with Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Staffa’. This would be great if you have a narrow border as the verbena will give the height and this aster is shorter, so will create interest at a lower level.  Add in some spring flowering bulbs too, and you will have a simple sunny border that flowers from spring through to the autumn.

Picton gardens verbena bonariensis

Other favourites of Helens’ are:

New England Quinton Menzies aster

Aster Novae-angliae ‘Quinton Menzies’

Picton gardens purple aster

It has large deep purple-pink flowers with strong woody stems that need little or no staking, it’s mildew resistant and flowers from late September and grows to around 140 cm.

Rosy Veil aster

Symphyotrichum ericoides‘Rosy Veil’

Picton gardens rosie vale aster

This aster has fine foliage which is smothered in tiny pale purple-pink daisies from late September. I love it and it grows to around 100 cm tall.

 

Helen Picton aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Helen Picton

This plant was raised by Helen’s dad who named it after her.  It has large, rich violet-purple flowers from September into October and grows to around 120 cm tall.

Asters can grow in most soils in a sunny or part sunny border.

If you would like to visit, the garden is open from August until mid-October including many days for the National Gardens Scheme, so check their website to make sure it’s open. Website: http://www.autumnasters.co.uk/

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Theo Paphitis, #SBS, The Autumn Fair and a rebrand

Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier, Nancy Poller, #SBS Autumn Fair

 

I’ve just got back from exhibiting at the Autumn Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. I was incredibly lucky to win a free stand at the event thanks to Theo Paphitis and his brilliant #SBS Team.

What’s #SBS?

Theo created the Small Business Sunday (#SBS) concept in October 2010 on Twitter, inviting small businesses to pitch about their venture.  He then chooses 6 businesses each week and sends a tweet out to his 500k followers about each company which helps raise their profile.  It’s a great boost and twitter goes crazy afterwards – it’s so much fun!

Theo has an annual event for all the #SBS Winners, which is absolutely brilliant – you can read more about my first visit to this event in my blog here https://borderinabox.com/theo-paphitis-shopkeeper-sbs-annual-event-2018/

All the Winners can join the #SBS Facebook group and a couple of months ago we were all invited to apply to win one of 12 exhibition places at the Autumn Fair.  The group went crazy with excitement at the prospect of winning a free space.  There are 2300 winners, so there was a lot of competition and my application had to stand out from the crowd.

I have no idea how they chose the shortlist let alone the final 12 as there are some amazing people and businesses in the group.  However, I was over the moon when I received the call to say I had won.  I was also sworn to secrecy until it was announced, which felt like it took forever.  It was so tricky keeping it from fellow winner Chrissie from the Cuddle Bed Company – we met at the #SBS event in February queuing to meet Theo.  We hit it off and remained in touch ever since and have become good friends.

Thankfully we were both Winners and were able to support each other through the process of getting ready to exhibit.  It was a big deal for both of us and after the initial excitement we both felt the gravitas of the opportunity.

Photo of Chrissie Lowery & Nikki Hollier

Chrissie Lowery, Cuddle Bed Company, Nikki Hollier Border in a Box

What’s the Autumn Fair?

The Autumn Fair is the number one wholesale gift and home trade event and enables retail buyers to connect with new suppliers, especially just before Christmas.

This opportunity was perfectly timed for me as I had started a rebranding and packaging project back in June immediately after creating my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live. It has been an intense 6 months to say the least.

The Rebrand

The work that has gone on behind the scenes to get to this point has been busy, creative, stressful and fun.  If I didn’t enjoy what I do, there is no way I could achieve so much.

The rebrand took place due to feedback over the past year and the general consensus was to make the product look more ‘gardeningy’ with a ‘modern rustic’ vibe. I had a long conversation with Nancy from Aligned Design, who I had worked with from the start – we had started our businesses around the same time and met through a networking group called ‘Women 2 Web’ and I love her work.

It made sense to work together on this project – she knew my product and me and we work together really well.

First decision was the font and colours.  I ran a poll on social media for feedback on the product colours – muted or brights. The brights won hands down – so glad I did this as I preferred the muted colours, but after printing the samples, the brights looked amazing.

We then worked our way through every detail of the products.  The box sleeve was a priority, as this was the first thing people see. There is a story behind every decision, and the box sleeve was down to a chance meeting with a guy called Rob Draper, who was presenting at the WINN Make It Happen showcase event. His story is inspirational and I was blown away by it – so if you get chance to meet him, make sure you do as he is so talented www.robdraper.co.uk.  He kindly gave me ideas for the packaging, ripping the current sleeve into shape, scribbling all over it.  I gave all this information to Nancy and we tweaked it and ta-dah a new sleeve!

Here’s the photo of the old version in a tin, and the new version in a kraft box.

Border in a Box shady Border in a Box shady

Now this was sorted, it was time to work on the contents.  Again after taking feedback from people over the past year, all the comments were put in the melting pot and everything was looked at – from new photos & plant choices to seed packets to stickers – EVERYTHING was tweaked! Border in a Box was created to help people who know nothing about gardening but want a gorgeous garden, so everything in the Box got asked the same question “does this make sense to a non gardener”.

As soon as I knew I would be exhibiting at the Autumn Fair – there was a deadline to meet. That deadline wasn’t the start of the show, but several weeks before, as once the product was created by Nancy; it then had to go into production, and then photographed for my website, social media and brochures. Once photographed, I had to update everything. It’s only at this point that you realise how much work is involved and this is on top of the day job of running a business – there were a couple of gardens to design for new clients and writing my monthly article for the local paper.

It’s been intense, but it all came together in time for the Autumn Show.

The Autumn Fair event

Autumn Fair 2018 Border in a Box

The set-up day was overwhelming and I was thankful for my fellow #SBS businesses around me – I was feeling so far out of my comfort zone.  A few things had gone pear shaped, but it was too late to resolve some of them and I just had to ‘deal with it’ – my stand didn’t look how I wanted it to, but as soon as the doors opened on the Sunday, it didn’t matter as the feedback from visitors was positive. The majority of people thought my baby was beautiful.  More importantly, orders came in and relationships started with some fabulous people.

Tuesday arrived – D Day, or should I say ‘Theo Day’ – Theo was the key note speaker and also coming round to meet all 12 Winners. All the things I wanted to talk to him about all disappeared as soon as we met. Arrghhh what a lost opportunity, however, he was so charming and interested in how the event was for me.  We then had our photos taken at which point I then realised how many people were surrounding us.  It was a surreal moment.

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Photo: Nancy Poller, Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier

What’s next?

Initially it’s to follow up every single person who I had a conversation with and who gave me their contact details. We will have had time to think about how we can work together.

I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my business, talking to my clients and building relationships with my lovely new retailers. I’m looking forward to announcing them on social media -watch this space!

Exciting times ahead and plenty of hard work too. Fabulous!

If you get the opportunity to join #SBS, do it, as it has created a wonderful network and opportunities for me and my business I never expected.

Here’s a photo of everyone – can’t wait to see you all at the next #SBS event in February!

Theo Paphitis #SBS Autumn Fair

Meet the other Winners:

  1. The Butterfly and Toadstool is a botanical jewellery brand created by Scottish designer Dee Leslie. thebutterflyandtoadstool.co.uk
  2. Cally King London is a new perfume brand, for teens and anyone working out what perfume they like. callyking.com
  3. Letterbox Lab is the kids’ science kit reinvented to be more fun, more colourful, more convenient and more educational. letterboxlab.com
  4. MK Kids Interiors is the only London based children’s Child Wellness Interior Designer that creates personalised, colourful and fun bedrooms and playrooms for children. mkkidsinteriors.com
  5. The Edible Museum creates artefacts, from marine life and fossils to anatomy and historical artefacts out of quality chocolate. ediblemuseum.com
  6. Bad Dog Designs Nixie Clocks are makers of unique and bespoke clocks using original 1950’s Nixie tube technology. bad-dog-designs.co.uk
  7. The Cuddle Bed Company design and create sleep solutions for the whole family. cuddlebed.co.uk
  8. The Dimpled Heart creates an eclectic range of handcrafted homeware inspired by our Scottish roots. dimpledheart.co.uk
  9. Z-O-E produces high quality patterned muslin products, baby grows and toddler t-shirt for you and your little one. z-o-e.co.uk
  10. Perch Upholstery, run by Tara Cork specialises in creating on-trend felted pieces. From original stools, to baskets and rugs. perchupholstery.com
  11. The Room Alive creates timeless wallpaper, soft furnishings and stationery designed and made in the UK. theroomalive.com

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