Lavender Loveliness

Lavender Loveliness

Lavender is one of the ‘go-to’ plants for a cottage garden style planting scheme but it has so many uses, from culinary to wellbeing so here’s my quick guide on what to buy and how to use it.

Lavendula is the botanical name and they are easy to grow too which makes them ideal for any border. They look fab with roses and other perennials and shrubs.

There are many varieties to choose from – the English lavender is the hardiest – you may see this as Lavandula angustifolia on plant labels. Another popular variety is French lavender, which has cute ‘ears’ on the top of the flower – sometimes known as butterfly lavender. All of them are loved by pollinators.

This plant is happiest in a sunny garden with well-drained, chalky or sandy soil. They don’t tolerate shade, damp or freezing cold as they originate from sunny climates, so they thrive in Mediterranean environments and are suitable for containers, herb and gravel gardens, and balconies.

Lavender come in a range of colours too – from white to pink, mauves and blues, so there is something for everyone’s colour scheme.

French Lavender

How to grow lavender

They can be easily grown from seed (follow seed packet instructions) but if you buy already grown plants, put them out once the soil has started to warm up, usually from April onwards. Don’t ever plant lavender in the winter when young plants are vulnerable to rotting due to cold and wet soils.

You can also grow in containers – use a multipurpose compost or John Innes No2, add in some grit to improve drainage. Keep watered until established but especially during hot and dry periods as containers dry out quickly.

Propagation / cuttings

Another way to grow lavender is by taking cuttings. If you’ve not done this before, it’s a simple process and can be applied to many perennials and deciduous shrubs. Who doesn’t love a free plant?

In horticultural terms it’s called Softwood Cuttings (just in case you want to research it further). Its called softwood as you are cutting the new growth from the plant in early spring when the tips are young and flexible.

Step 1

Collect material (shoots) early in the day when the plant is full of water (turgid) and healthy. Use non-flowering shoots, as they will root more readily. Remove up to 10cm of shoot, cutting off the material neatly above a bud on the parent plant.

Step 2

Most softwood cuttings are nodal – this is just below the leaf joint. This is where there’s a concentration of hormones to stimulate root production.

  • Using a sharp knife (or scissors) trim below a node to make a cutting about 5-10cm long
  • Remove the lower leaves, pinch out the soft tip and dip the base of the cutting in hormone rooting powder (which is available from any garden retailers)
  • In a pot of compost using a dibber (a clean blunt stick), make a hole and insert the base of the cutting with the first pair of leaves just above the level of the compost. Press gently around it to ensure the compost is firm (but not solid).
  • Label the pot and water it from above to settle the compost
  • Cuttings should be placed in good light but not direct, scorching sunlight.
  • Ensure the compost is moist until the cuttings are well-rooted which takes about 6 to 10 weeks
  • Possibly not all cuttings will root, so remove any dead, rotting, dying or diseased material so it doesn’t infect the other cuttings.

These are Salvia cuttings, but it’s the same process.

Salvia cuttings scissors plant pot

salvia plant cuttings

Salvia cuttings in pots


To stop your plants getting woody and mis-shapen it’s best to prune back in the late summer once all the flowers have stopped. This can be done using shears or secateurs. Cut back all the spent flowers and trim back this year’s growth, leaving around 2-3cm. Don’t cut back to the woody stems as the plant won’t be able to grow the following year. It’s likely you will need to replace the plant in this case. You can always tidy up the plant in the spring.

Drying lavender

It’s easy to dry and preserve so that the seeds can be used in scented sachets or added to sugar for culinary purposes.

Simply harvest the lavender stems before it’s fully in bloom (this retains the scent and colour). Gather the stems into a bunch (approx. 2cm in diameter). Wrap a rubber band around the stem ends to hold in place and hang the bunch upside down in a cool dry and dark place for 2-4 weeks.

You can also use this process for drying other flowers and herbs.

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Border in a Box garden design worcestershire

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Ever wondered what goes into making a product and how it gets to market? It’s something that never crossed my mind until I started my business a couple of years ago. It has been a steep learning curve and the amount of thought, energy and money that goes into all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff was a bit of a shock, so let me share the journey and process with you…

Turning the idea into reality

I had a problem with the garden when I moved into my new-build property – I had no clue where to start! I didn’t know what plants would grow well, I didn’t know what plants would look good together and to make matters worse, I had next to no money.

So when I came up with the idea of a kit with a ready-made planting plan that detailed what plant goes where and a shopping list of what to buy, it was a simple idea that I thought would be easy to create and help everyone else in the same boat as me.

However, the initial designs took over six months and thousands of pounds of money to create and here’s why:

  1. Market assessment – had the product been created by another organisation? If so, was I reinventing the wheel or was it a new idea?
  2. Creating the contents – I had to come up with a list of plants for each design then draw all the plans. Everything had to be designed for someone with zero plant knowledge, skill or desire to research. It had to be a simple to follow plan that could be implemented in a day without a huge price tag.
  3. Sourcing suitable packaging that looked appealing and eco-friendly but also budget friendly – this turned out to be my biggest issue.

Once I had this information, I needed to turn my ‘scribbles’ of ideas into a product. This was beyond my skillset, which meant finding someone to work with who had the talent and expertise to help me.

Brand identity

I needed to find an amazing brand ambassador who could take my ideas and create a gardening gift – I wanted something that the recipient would love to receive and feel excited about creating their own garden.

This involved the creation of a logo, icons, fonts, colours and designing the packaging. I had no idea how much time, effort and money would go into this part of the process.

It was imperative to get this right as it would lead onto the creation of the website and product itself, so it’s a key part of the process and needed time to create. I also had to be mindful that more time spent with other designers, the costs increase. So as a sole trader, you have to be careful with your investments as it’s easy to get carried away and run out of cash in the early stages.

I also invested in protecting my intellectual property by trademarking my logo and joining ACID, which is an organisation who helps protect businesses like mine – they have some amazing lawyers who advise how to protect a brand and product. There are plenty of stories how David has taken on Goliath and won. So it’s worth the membership fees.

Cottage garden border in a Box Border in a Box cottage garden

Original packaging on the left replaced with new eco-style packaging on the right


Coming from an IT background I had no idea where to start with sourcing my packaging – I relied on internet searches and also my network who recommended various suppliers.

I expected to find ‘off the shelf’ suppliers for all my products to keep costs low, but nothing was suitable, so all the packaging has been designed and created to my standards. This all took a vast amount of time and increased the cost of the products due to being bespoke.

Everything I do, has to be good quality and beautiful. I currently create everything from my kitchen  table, so nothing is mass produced.  All of my suppliers are based in the UK and it’s all printed on FSC card and paper.

I also have to pay for everything up-front so juggling stock and sales is tricky – creating a new product means there is no sales history, so you have to guess how much stock you need to purchase. It’s also likely that it will cost more when buying small quantities.

Another area I hadn’t considered was how to post the gift to ensure the product arrives safely. This is one of my largest costs – at first the boxes were deep and cost £3.45 just in Royal Mail postage, which was without packing material costs or the time and expense it took going to the post office. I learned that it helps to create letterbox friendly product as it can reduce costs.

Marketing and PR

When I first started I went down the traditional route of advertising in magazines and I spent hundreds of pounds per advert but received zero orders. This had to change – I had to find a cost effective way to raise awareness.

Eventually I met a PR guru who provided (paid for) advice on how to get my brand out there. It was worth every penny and it enabled my meagre/non-existent budget to go further. Border in a Box has been featured in many glossy magazines, trade journals, national and local papers.

Border in a Box Country Homes and interiors magazine

Border in a Box featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I write a lot – I never expected that I would write articles, blogs or website content, but it’s a large amount of my day-to-day work. It can be time consuming too – for example the regular newsletter I create will take at least a day or two per month. Choosing photographs and getting them re-sized to fit takes enormous amount of time, but I love doing it. It is something I could outsource, but it keeps me in touch with my clients and potential clients, which is important to me. I also write a monthly gardening article for the Pershore Times.

There are many markets and shows to attend – which can cost anything from £600 upwards and that’s before any thought has gone into the design of the stand, stock and promotion – plus travel and accommodation. That is a lot of sales before breaking even!

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

Winning exhibition space at the Autumn Fair, NEC, Birmingham thanks to Theo Paphitis

Selling via marketplaces such as Amazon is a great idea, and depending on which one(s) can cost around 25-30% in commission, plus a joining fee and/or monthly fee.  I must admit, I thought it would be simple to do – but trying to stand out in a crowd is difficult. Anyone can pay to get onto the front page but depending on what page, what day, time etc it can burn a hole in your budget within hours, so it’s imperative to do your homework beforehand.

When working with a market place they all want a particular style of photography to fit with their brand and ethos. This means professional product photography as you need to make the products look fabulous – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression! A half day with a photographer can cost anything from £3-400 upwards. It’s worth the investment but it’s another cost to budget for.

product photography Terry Livesey

Product photography with Terry Livesey

Winning awards is great PR and also a morale boost. Within a few months of launching Border in a Box I won ‘Garden Product of the Year’ with Country Homes & Interiors magazine. Closely followed by #SBS Winner by Theo Paphitis. Then launching on Not On The High Street. A few months later I won the WINN award for innovation with the prize money funding my show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live where I won Platinum and Best Border (and featured on the TV show). I turned this garden into the Wellbeing Border to enable people to recreate a sensory garden at home.


I created my own website at first – I thought it was pretty good considering it was a ‘cheap and cheerful DIY’ company to host my website and I simply added my own text and photos to the template. However, I couldn’t use my font and colours from the branding project, which felt like a waste of money and investment, so I started working with a specific website building company.  It was a huge investment for me, and one I wished I had waited a bit longer for, but I felt it would increase sales but it didn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it all turned out OK in the end. It ended up costing £thousands which created another hole in my budget.

So when you add-up all of these investments, it is eye-wateringly expensive.  You only have to watch TV programs like Dragons’ Den to see how much money the entrepreneurs invest into their dreams to realise it’s not for the feint-hearted!

So if you have an idea for a product or service, do your homework but follow your heart as you never know where the journey will lead!



Sign up to my free newsletter to receive top-tips, offers and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space! Receive your FREE bulb guide for year round colour.

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]


white fence with pink roses, alchemilla mollis and salvia caradonna

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

RHS Chelsea Flower Show lemon lupins

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

WOW the Chelsea Flower Show was fabulous! This year’s theme is definitely about back to nature with woodland style gardens and natural materials used on all the gardens.  Colourwise there was lots of whites, lemons and pale colours with a few gardens having a strong dark purple and burgundy shades – very beautiful colour palates. I arrived early which enabled me to have a good look around at the show gardens and take some great photos, so have a read of my review and how you can apply some of their design styles to your garden without breaking the bank!

The M&G Garden – designed by Andy Sturgeon

Gold Medal & Best Show Garden

This garden was about rejuvenation and how plants colonise a space.  The large and very striking black sculptures made from 50 tonnes of sustainable burnt-oak timber represented a rock formation Andy had seen in Australia. The paths and steps were made from English ironstone which was a neutral earthy tone in colour to offset the lush green plants.

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon plants

Top Tip #1

If your garden is more courtyard than rolling hills, you can take the burnt-oak timber idea and use smaller wooden posts placed through your garden border – as demonstrated in this display by Daisy Roots Nursery in the Great Pavilion.

RHS Chelsea Daisy Roots nursery black posts

The Resilience Garden – designed by Sarah Eberle

Gold Medal & Best Construction Award

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle

Created to celebrate the Forestry Commission’s centenary, and demonstrate the challenges facing forests of the future. It also shows how woodlands can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases.

The silo made a striking focal point, especially as it made a creative home office space, although I don’t think I would want to be inside there during a thunder storm!  The trees used in the design were a mixture of native and exotics such as the Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree.

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle show garden

I loved the planting which included Echium russicum which contrasted beautifully against the lime green Euphorbia’s, blue Linum and pink Ragged Robin.


The Greenfingers Charity Garden – designed by Kate Gould

Silver Gilt Medal

First impression was WOW, I loved the beautifully planted border at the front – gorgeous lemon lupins with white roses and bearded iris. My eyes were then drawn to the back of the garden with the geometric style green and grey striped tiles up the back wall and gorgeous Angelica with lime green flower heads. The trees and shrubs enclosed the seating area to make it feel cool and relaxed on a hot sunny day – and also provided privacy if it was located in an urban environment.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity

Above the whole garden was a balcony which was reached via a lift – all created to make the most of every inch of space available in the garden.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity show garden

Top Tip #2

If you have a small and/or narrow garden, you can make the most of your space with vertical planting. This can be achieved with climbing plants, or create a living wall using ready-made systems like the one used in this garden for the The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden, by Jodi Lidgard, another Gold Medal winning garden.

RHS Chelsea vertical garden

Kampo no Niwa – designed by Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato

Gold Medal.

My photographs don’t do this garden justice – this was one of my favourite ‘Space to Grow’ gardens. It looks effortless and a relaxing place to be.  I loved the green oak pergola and the water feature that simply flowed through a rhyll to a tiny pond. Beautiful.

RHS Chelsea Kampo show garden

This garden was designed for a practitioner of Kampo, which is a traditional Japanese herbal medicine. Each plant used in this garden, such as mint, provides a healing tonic to aid digestion, aches & pains and fevers.

RHS Chelsea Kampo water feature

Top Tip #3

Create your own herb garden in pots and containers and place them by your kitchen door for easy access when you’re cooking.  I love to grow mint in pots as it smells lovely when you walk past – to make a fresh mint tea, place a few sprigs in a mug and pour on boiling water and leave to cool slightly before drinking.

Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden – designed by Mark Gregory

Gold Medal and the People’s Choice Award

RHS Chelsea welcome to Yorkshire

You can’t fail to be impressed by this amazing garden – it looks like it has been dug up and transported to Chelsea.  The attention to detail is mind-blowing.

The garden was demonstrating the history of Yorkshire and how the canals were an intrinsic part to the success of the County and developing the industry in the area.  It included a lock keepers cottage and its garden with beautiful veg and a natural habitat of wild flowers mixed in with some cultivated varieties.

Top Tip #4

I loved how the paint colour around the windows and door were co-ordinated with the Lupins and Delphiniums. This idea could be replicated at home easily with using furniture cushions matching your flowers and painting the garden shed – although you would need to ensure the flowers are in bloom all summer!

pink flowers and cushions

photo: Courtesy Karen Chadwick

Plant of the Year 2019

Every year the RHS chooses a ‘Plant of the Year’ – here is the top three:

In third place – Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’

In second place – Digitalis x valinii Firebird

And in first place – Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’

RHS Chelsea Sedum plant of the year


There were so many beautiful gardens and planting schemes, here’s a few more photos from the Show:

Natural gardens:

Bronze medal – The Savills & David Harber garden

RHS Chelsea David Harber Savills garden

RHS Back to Nature garden designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White. No medal as it was an RHS garden.

RHS Chelse HRH Princess Catherine show garden

Viking Cruises: The Art of Viking Garden designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes. Gold Medal


RHS Chelsea Paul Hervey Brooks

Further Gardens & Installations

This garden commemorates the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and aims to capture the disorientation and terror of the brave young men landing on the Normandy beach in hail of bullets. It was made from steel washers, and was designed by John Everiss. Stunning and thought provoking.

RHS Chelsea D Day sculpture

I also loved this highland cow sculpture from one of the trade stands – how lovely is he?

RHS Chelsea cow sculpture

This planting combination was by designer Chris Beardshaw – another Gold Medal garden.

RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

I loved the water feature of this perspex panel in the Silver Gilt medal winning garden by David Neale called The Silent Pool Gin garden, with lots of plants used in gin making. Lovely!

RHS Chelsea Silent Pool gin garden

There are still many photos I could show you, but if you would like more details about all the gardens, check out the RHS Chelsea website for more inspiration and ideas.



Sign up to my newsletter to receive top-tips, my monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]

salvia astrantia corokia

RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Worcestershire 2019

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019

RHS Malvern floral sign

The opening day of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival was fantastic! As you would expect, the show gardens were my priority and they were all of an exceptionally high standard.

Here’s an overview of my favourites;

The Leaf Creative Garden: A Garden of Quiet Contemplation – Designed by Peter Dowle.

Awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden – understandably so as it was beautiful and definitely created a sense of calm. Being able to gaze across the garden and reflective pool to the sculpture of a dancing ballerina, created by Simon Gudgeon made a stunning focal point.

The planting was a mixture of perennials and semi mature shrubs, such as Japanese maples, Box and Cornus along with Digitalis Purpurea, Anthriscus sylvestris and Thalictrum. It was all set off beautifully against the back drop of the Malvern Hills.

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden Peter Dowle

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden


The Orange Express Garden – Designed by Villaggio Verde.

Awarded a Gold Medal. It tells the story of fruit production in a remote part of Spain, where a cooperative of growers built a small railway to transport their goods to the market.  The attention to detail was outstanding and it all looked like it had been there for many years – from the Spanish newspaper in the latrine, to marks along the wall where the chairs would have naturally left a mark. This level of detail is what the RHS judges love as it all adds to the story of the garden.

The planting included fruit trees – lemon, pomegranate, plus pistachio and Villaggio Verde’s olive trees, as that is their specialisation.

RHS Malvern Orange Express Show garden

Orange Express show garden RHS Malvern 2019


The Habit of Living – A garden in support of Diabetes Uk. Designed by Karen Tatlow and Katherine Hathaway

Awarded Silver Gilt Medal and Best Construction Award. This garden was definitely one of my favourites. The aim of the garden was to raise awareness of the charity and highlight the scale of the condition which affects more people than cancer and dementia combined.

At the start of the garden it has a narrow path surrounded by plum and purple coloured plants such as Heucheras and Sambucas nigra, which flowed past the seating area with a lovely water feature. The path widens as ‘managing the condition’ becomes easier which is demonstrated by the softer and lighter colour scheme of blues and whites flowers such as Iris’s, Geums, grasses and Artemesia.


RHS Malvern show garden Diabetes

Diabetes show garden RHS Malvern


The Green Living Space Gardens

The Green Living Space gardens started out as shipping containers and were adapted by the designers to show with a bit of imagination a small space can be transformed easily into a beautiful outdoor piece of heaven.

Defiance – Designed by Sara Edwards

Awarded Gold and Best Green Living Space.  It’s based upon a London balcony with the owner being plant obsessed and craving green space in the city.

It had a stylish concrete wall to one side with a wooden pergola across the width of the garden. It was filled with lush tropical planting which contrasted beautifully with the pale grey colour of the container and concrete pots.

The planting was architectural palms, Phormiums and ferns which created lots of texture, colour and height. Sara also used trailing plants across the pergola which softened the edges and she also added a small pond with a large concrete planter which added a further sense of calm.

RHS Malvern Defiance show garden

Defiance show garden RHS Malvern pond


An Artists Studio at Home – Designed by Jessica Makins in collaboration with Stephanie Tudor

Awarded a Gold Medal. I loved the colour palette of neutral grey/green planting with highlights of dark purple from the soft Anthriscus and poppies to the almost black centres of the Euphorbias. The wall to the side was made of earthy clay with a seating area and inverted shelves containing white objet d’art.  It created a really relaxed vibe where you would love to sit and draw or read.

Artists garden RHS malvern 2019


RHS Malvern clay wall


Artists show garden RHS Malvern

Congratulations to all the other garden designers:

Gold Medal – The Mindset by Anna Galagan

Gold Medal – What If in support of Rees Foundation by Sebastian Conrad

Silver Gilt Medal – Mediterranean Terrace by Gabriella Pill

Silver Gilt Medal – The Macmillan Legacy by Gary Bristow

Silver Medal – Grace & Dignity by Lucie Giselle Ponsford

Silver Medal – Ikhaya: Home by Stacey Bright

Silver Medal – The Redshift by Julie Bellingham

Silver Medal – Zeta: Memories of Home by Anastasia Yakovleva

There is so much to see and do whilst at the show such as the Floral Marquee which is full to the brim of stunning plants you can buy from unusual pelargoniums by local nursery Fibrex Nursery to air plants and cottage garden favourites – and everything you can possibly think of and more! It really is a plant heaven and you can spend ages browsing and chatting with the nurseries.

The schools gardens are also a treat to see – it’s so nice to see young people getting into gardening and is filled with enthusiasm with their works of art.

There’s also plenty of shopping for everything you need for your garden from machinery, to glasshouses to ornaments and water features. There is so much to see and do which makes this event a real highlight on the calendar and well worth visiting.

cor ten steel sign

Macmillan show garden RHS Malvern 2019


Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

RHS Malvern floral marquee echeveria



Sign up to my free newsletter to receive top-tips, offers and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space! Receive your FREE bulb guide for year round colour.

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]


BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

What’s looking good in the garden this month – August?

Echinacea flower

It’s August and the summer holidays are here, it’s a time when we can be more sociable and have friends round for a barbeque and a drink. The weather is usually warmer and there’s still daylight to enable us to sit outside in our gardens in the evening and enjoy it all.

So what’s looking good right now? Here are some ideas on how to zhoozh up the garden and give it a simple mini-makeover:

The quickest way to brighten up the patio is create pretty pots – you can buy them ready planted but why not have a go yourself and tailor them to your colour scheme and style.  Plants in flower at the moment are:


They’re fabulous perennials as they can flower from early summer to mid-autumn and have a range of gorgeous colours and they’re so easy to take care of too.  They grow from 15cm to 1m in height, depending on the variety and prefer a sunny spot, but can tolerate part shade. They can be grown from seed and you can take cuttings. I love them!

Penstemon red flower


‘Lucifer’ variety has vibrant red flowers on arching stems, which look wonderful in a jewel-coloured border. They grow to around 1m tall and can be grown from corms or purchased in pots from the garden centre. They are clump forming, so will need to be dug up every few years and divided – fabulous extra plants for free! Other varieties are available in shades of yellow and orange coloured flowers.

Crocosmia orange flower


There are many varieties available mainly with beautiful shades of blue flowers, but you can also get white and purple flowers too. They look stunning in pots with their strappy green leaves and intense blue flowers, which grow to around 1m tall, in a sunny spot in well drained, nutritious soil. Remember to keep them well watered.

Agapanthus blue flower

Top Tip:

If you have an empty space in your border, pop in a pot and you have an instant update to your garden.  You can also make pots seasonal, which means you always have gorgeous flowers all year round.

Further ideas to help you create a wow factor in the garden is add some cushions in the same colour as your flowers – you can see this created beautifully in this RHS Chelsea show garden, the yellow cushions pick up the beautiful zesty coloured lupins. It provides a lovely coordinated style and you can create this easily regardless of the size of your garden.

Yellow Lupins Yellow Cushion


Further reading:

Container gardening made simple –



Join my Garden Lovers Club

Sign up to my newsletter to receive top-tips, my monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]

large pot in a flower border


The day I met Alan Titchmarsh changed my life

Alan Titchmarsh RHS Malvern


I remember it vividly, it was the 4th of May 2016 and I was watering my show garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. Alan Titchmarsh was walking hurriedly past me with James Alexander-Sinclair, a fellow TV garden designer and (as I had found out the day before) one of the show garden judges. (I had rather embarrassed myself when I had asked James if he was there filming for TV – he looked horrified – and I realised he was one of the RHS judges and was going to be judging my garden! Oops, as we’re not allowed to talk with the judges until after the awards!). However, all was well with Alan (not one of the judges!) and we exchanged cheeky pleasantries and Alan said he would be back the next day.

So, early the following morning, Alan returned to see my garden and I was completely tongue-tied. There were so many people gathered around, nevertheless he came and sat on my fabulous seating (supplied by Sui Generis) and had a chat. I’ve no idea what he said as I was completely in shock! Fortunately, Alan is just like he is on tv – so down to earth and very easy to talk to. He spotted the wire, life-size sheep sculptures which part of my garden and we talked about these. He seemed to love them as much as I did – in fact, they were featured on Gardeners’ World on TV that week as part of their coverage of the show.

Alan Titchmarsh Border in a Box

Then off Alan went, followed by an entourage of on-lookers and RHS people and I carried on with my day.

Early afternoon came and I was summoned to the RHS office – I was terrified, thinking the worst, and had palpitations wondering what was going to happen. I sat there waiting and then got called to the main auditorium – I was still completely baffled as to what was going on. I could see Alan and James were on stage entertaining the audience with their funny stories.

And then the best thing happened – I got called on stage and presented with the ‘Peoples’ Choice Award’ for my show garden. I was in shock – my garden had been voted for by the public – that was the icing on the cake. I had only completed my garden design course a few months before and here I was getting an award for my first show garden. WOW!

Alan Titchmarsh Nikki Hollier

The show ended a few days later and I was contacted by the sculptor of the sheep. He told me Alan had been in touch and loved the sheep so much he wanted to buy some for his garden. To cut a long story short, Alan purchased the sheep from my show garden which meant I had the opportunity to deliver them to his home and see his own garden. I was so excited to have a look around his garden.

wire sheep sculpture

As you can imagine, Alan’s garden is absolutely stunning – I loved it. It was full of my favourite plants such as Delphiniums and gorgeous pale pink rambling roses.

Alan made me a cuppa, which was surreal, but it gave me the opportunity to talk about my business idea, Border in a Box, and I showed him my prototype. We discussed everything, from the concept (which he loved) to the contents of the box, styling, packaging, pricing etc. It was amazing that an expert like Alan gave his valuable time to a start-up business and offered such insight and support. I am so grateful and thankful.

Our meeting gave me a lot to think about and a few weeks later I met with a branding expert at a PR event I was at. I discussed my ideas and that was the starting point for turning my concept of ‘garden design in a box’, to help garden novices create a beautiful garden without the designer price tag, into reality and for it to become a physical product. The following six months was a complete whirlwind of busy-ness, creating new content for the box, new branding, and new packaging, which enabled me to launch the first 5 Border in a Box products in March 2017, on Amazon and on my website. I was so proud of the whole ‘journey’ and none of it would have happened without that initial meeting with Alan.

Meeting Alan and his time, insight, and encouragement came at just the right time and spurred me on to turn my fledgling idea into a business and a whole new life – I was never to return to my old career of IT. I’m so grateful for the time Alan gave me.

Alan Titchmarsh, Nikki Hollier

And if you don’t already know it, here is Alan’s impressive biography.

Alan Titchmarsh biography:

Alan Titchmarsh was born and brought up on the edge of Ilkley Moor. He left school at fifteen and became an apprentice gardener in the local nursery, following this with full-time training at horticultural college and then at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Alan was the main presenter of Gardeners’ World and the hugely popular, Ground Force. He has also presented How To Be A Gardener, British Isles – A Natural History, The Great British Village Show, The Nature of Britain. His own daytime show on ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, featured a combination of music, the arts and conversation, and ran for eight years. He also presents his own radio show on Classic FM on Saturday mornings. This year we saw Alan’s new show for ITV, Masterpiece, as well as the sixth series of Love Your Garden, ITV.

Alan writes regularly in BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and Country Life, is gardening correspondent of The Daily Express and The Sunday Express, and also writes in The Sunday Telegraph. Alan has written more than 50 gardening books, a Christmas anthology, nine novels, four volumes of memoirs, and a miscellany celebrating England and Englishness.

In 1997, Alan was named ‘Yorkshire Man of the Year’. He was appointed MBE in the 2000 New Year Honours List, and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Hampshire in 2001, when he was also immortalised by Madame Tussaud’s. In 2004, he received the Victoria Medal of Honour, the highest accolade in the British gardening world and, in 2009, he was made a Vice-President of the Royal Horticultural Society. He is patron or president of over 50 charities.

Alan lives in Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, with his wife in an old farmhouse with a four-acre garden.

Here’s the video of my show garden build which was called Hidden Gems of Worcestershire.


Further reading:

I’m creating a show garden border at Gardeners’ World Live in June 2018 – the border design will be available to purchase in June and is called ‘Wellbeing’, which makes a great gift too. Alan will be at Gardeners’ World on Friday 15th June.

If you would like to win a pair of tickets to Gardeners’ World Live 2018, simply sign up to my Garden Lovers Club:

Join my Garden Lovers Club

Sign up to my newsletter to receive top-tips, my monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]


Gardening for Bees

gardening for bees

Gardening for bees

Living in a rural area it’s easy to take for granted our butterflies & bees and other flying insects. However, I was surprised to learn that urban areas are better for bees because of the greater number of nectar-filled flowers available to them from amenity planting, window boxes, hanging baskets, and tubs. Surrounded by fields is a lovely place for us to live but we could improve it for our bees and plant more flowers.

I met with my local bee keeper, Chris Reynard, to talk about his beehives and how he got started.

Chris has several hives and has been keeping bees for many years and it all started from eating honey! He loved honey and started to research keeping bees himself so after a fact-finding meeting with the local British Bee Keepers Association he very quickly had his own hives and it went from there. Here’s what we talked about and how you can help honeybees and other pollinators:

What’s in a hive?

A hive has three types of honey bee: a queen, approximately 50,000 female worker bees and, in the summer, hundreds of male drones. The drone bee’s primary role is to mate with the queen bee, who can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. The eggs are laid within the honeycomb. Fertilized eggs will hatch into female worker bees, while unfertilized eggs will become drones or honey bee males. In order for one colony to survive, the queen must lay fertilized eggs to create worker bees, which forage for food and take care of the colony.

Why we need people to plant more flowers

We need people to plant more flowers and trees as this creates more food (forage) for the honey bees. Greater food sources enable honey bees to be much stronger and healthier to ward off disease. It also ensures our plants get pollinated otherwise our plants will start to die out and, ultimately, we will have no food to eat either!

honeybee white pear blossom

Busy Bees

I always thought the phrase ‘busy bees’ was just a saying, but bees are amazing and can collect around 20kg of pollen every year – that’s 1 million pollen loads at 20mg per trip! No wonder the worker bees keel over and die. Bees will fly around a mile from their hive to collect pollen, water, and nectar.

Honey bees don’t venture outside if it’s below 8 degrees, or if it’s raining. During the winter they congregate together to keep warm and will only leave the hive to get food or toilet breaks.

Bee facts

Bees can fly at incredible speeds – around 15-20mph when leaving the hive and that reduces to 12mph when they are carrying food and water.
They have three pairs of legs, so six legs in total. However, the rear pair is specially designed with stiff hairs to store pollen to take back to the hive.
They have four wings in total. The front and rear wings hook together to form one big pair of wings and unhook for easy folding when not flying.
Here is a great fact for pub quizzers – the honey bee has FIVE eyes, two large compound eyes and three smaller ocelli eyes in the centre of its head. Bees are amazing!

Hellebores pink

What flowers should we plant to help them?

Bees’ don’t hibernate so it’s important to provide year-round food for them. During winter months they love snowdrops, crocus, ivy, and hellebores (honey made from ivy doesn’t taste good apparently!). During spring and summer months bees love open flowers such as sedum, echinacea, and cosmos. I include cosmos in every Border in a Box.

It’s also a good idea to create a water source for them too – keep a shallow dish of water with pebbles in it, this enables the bees to land easily and not drown.

If you would like to know more about bee keeping contact the British Bee keepers Association you can even sponsor a beehive too.

To make life easier, I’ve created a ‘Butterflies & Bees’ version of Border in a Box – all the plants used in this design are RHS approved for pollinators, so no more wondering what plants to buy and what looks good together. This is not a wild flower design. The Box contains an easy-to-follow planting plan, showing you what plants go where. A plant list which details flowering times, a photo and care information. Two packets of seeds to scatter in-between the plants and also tips and ideas on how to make the most of your garden. It also makes a great gift.


[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”BUY NOW” ]


Further blogs to read:


Join The Garden Lovers Club

Sign up to my newsletter and receive my FREE guide on how to achieve year-round colour in your garden along with top-tips, a monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]

Echinacea sunny garden border



Why buy a ready-made garden border kit?

why buy a readymade garden border

Why buy a ready-made garden border kit?

You’ve been thinking about sorting the garden out – it’s a blank canvas, easy, just pop to the garden centre and pick up some plants.  What’s so difficult about that?

I was in the same situation a few years back.  I was working full time and moved into a ‘new build’ property where the garden was a boring patch of turf and surrounded with a wooden fence. I couldn’t afford a garden designer and relied on donations of plants from friends and family. As you can see from the photos it was a complete mish-mash, although I didn’t live at the property long enough to see the plants mature, but it did look better than just having grass.

new build garden lawn


garden border just planted

back garden


The problem:

My neighbours and I were in the same situation.

  • No clue about gardening but wanted a pretty space
  • No time or desire to research plants and gardening ideas on the internet or books
  • Garden centres were overwhelming with too many plants to choose from and no one around to give advice or help
  • Plant names unpronounceable and written on labels that are too small to read & understand
  • No idea what plants would be suitable for our gardens or soil
  • No knowledge about what plants go well together let alone to create the WOW factor
  • No clue as to how to take care of or maintain the plants once they’re in the garden
  • A tight budget

So the proverbial seed was sown and I wanted to know more. So much so that I decided to retrain as a garden designer!  I left my 20 year career in IT and set up my business designing and creating ready-made garden borders for just these situations and to help anyone get their garden sorted with minimum fuss and overcome the problems listed above. I would have loved one of these kits to help me when I moved house.

I feel it’s important for everyone to have a gorgeous garden. It completes the home for a start. It makes you feel good when you’re looking out of the window, or lazing in the garden with friends having a BBQ. It’s a great place to unwind after a busy day.  Plus we need to protect and nurture our birds, butterflies, and bees.

The solution:

Ready-made borders are perfect when you:

  • want to create your own beautiful border(s) and just want a shopping list of what to buy – each kit has a plant list which you can take to the garden centre
  • just want a ready-made garden design kit to follow that can be completed in less than a day – each Border in a Box has a simple diagram to follow showing what plant goes where
  • have had your garden landscaped and the planting is the last job to do – no more wondering which plants look good together and if they will suit your space so that the plants will thrive
  • have moved into a new home and need to refresh your garden borders easily & quickly – no need to pay for expensive landscaping.

Each Border in the Box ready-made garden design kit takes less than a day to complete meaning you’ll save oodles of time and effort by following the easy guides to creating magical garden borders.

Which border to choose?

There are eight border design templates to choose from. Each will give you a professionally designed border that will provide:

  • colour and interest all year round
  • plants that require little maintenance and
  • plants that will survive longer than a few months, as they are the right plant for the right place.

Prices start at a purse-friendly £24.99 for one design.  The eight designs are: Sunny, Shady, Evergreen, Cottage, Clay, Contemporary, Wellbeing and Butterflies & Bees.

Each design measures 3 metres by 1 metre so it’s suitable for the smallest of gardens. If you have a larger garden you can replicate the border around the garden. This will provide continuity in the colour scheme and provide a cohesive look that is also restful on the eye.

The design can also be planted in a raised bed or containers, so each Border in a Box is a very versatile kit.

If you need help, you can upgrade to include VIP support with unlimited email access to an expert.

A Border in a Box also makes the perfect gift for a house-warming, birthdays, or any special event. You can even divide up the plant list so everyone can give a thoughtful gift.

Client testimonial:

This is taken from an email sent to me from a client who lives in Switzerland who found Border in a Box on Amazon.

Wow, Nikki – what a great product.  I have already submitted a review to 

My husband and I found it a very easy and satisfying experience to have the list of plants, which took away all the guess work, and made it so much more fun knowing it was all going to look great in the end.  We are really thrilled that for a minimal outlay we have such a lovely design, so thanks so much!

Pink floral border

Further information and guidance is available via my blogs, or you can always send me a message and I would be delighted to help.

If you want to know which border to choose why not read my blog on styling your garden –

If you want to know how to create a border on a budget here’s my blog –

If you would like more information about what compost is needed here is my blog –

Garden Product of the year


Ready-made garden border design kits

Join The Garden Lovers Club

Sign up to my newsletter and receive my FREE guide on how to achieve year-round colour in your garden along with top-tips, a monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]

flowers in purple raised bed


Designing a show garden border at Gardener’s World Live 2018

Gardener's World Live 2018

I am delighted to let you know that my show garden border design has been accepted by Gardener’s World Live. This is super exciting and I thought I would share with you some insight in to the process and show you a little behind the scenes.

First steps

It all started last year, after visiting Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in Birmingham, when I was inspired to create my own show garden.  I downloaded the application form to find out what designing a show garden would entail. I was pleased to see there was a theme, ‘Every Space Counts’, to help me come up with a plan for the design.

When you’re creating a garden for a client you are led by their preferences and the site itself. However, when you are designing a show garden the parameters are very open, so long as the garden will fit the allocated space and brief.

Such openness all sounds easy but usually there are many other criteria you need to bear in mind. The design has to fit the ‘brief’ set by the show – in this case ,‘Every Space Counts’. What does this mean to me, the designer? How can I interpret this into a design to wow the judges and public? It’s an incredibly intense and demanding project.


Verbena bonariensis

So what’s included in the application?

  • Master layout plan – this is a ‘helicopter’ view of the design
  • Perspective drawing – this gives a pictorial view of how the garden will look when it’s built
  • 50-100 word story about the garden – ie: what’s the garden about, who it’s for & how will it be used.
  • Preliminary planting plan with key structural specimens – a list of the plants to be used along with the ‘show stopper’ key plant(s)

This is something a garden designer will do on a regular basis, however, you have to be mindful it is a show garden, so you need to ensure all the plants in the design will be in flower at the time of the show which means plants have to be available, a level of maturity, top grade and in the best of health. No pressure!

You may be surprised to know that the quantity of plants is considerably more than a client’s garden – as a ball park I use 30 plants per square meter. This means I will need in the region of 150-200 plants to complete my design, which can be an expensive part of the garden.

How will the garden be judged?

My garden will be judged against whatever I write and the drawings I submit in the application. My garden will not be compared/judged against other show garden entries.  Therefore it is essential to be able to deliver what I’ve said I will do to stand a chance of getting a medal.

Penesetum purple grass


What’s my garden about?

Inspired by the ‘Jar of Life’ analogy where every space counts. This is where a jar is filled with rocks to symbolize the most important things in life such as our wellbeing, followed by gravel and sand to signify the next levels of importance which fill the
spaces in between the rocks.

So, I started with wellbeing. The border will be filled with sensory plants which either smell divine, are tactile, taste amazing, or look beautiful –  all contributing to our health and feeling of wellbeing.

I’ve included a stunning water feature, supplied by Solus Décor UK, which makes a restful sound, providing calm and good feelings.

Across the garden a relaxing colour palette of mauves and creams has been used. This is offset by a pretty trellis supplied by Screen With Envy. It will look fabulous in a sunny garden.


Rosa purple flower


Next steps

Now the application has been approved the next step is to source the plants. It’s imperative to find the right nursery to work with to produce the plants that will be needed.  As set out in the design, it is critical to ensure the plants will top quality, at the right maturity and coming into flower to be at their best as the show is built and is open to the public (and the judges!). Having the right plants can make the difference to your medal placing, so it’s critical to get it right.

Nearer to the event it’s sorting out the logistics and getting everything delivered to site on the right day and time. Making sure all the details are taken care of so that tools, safety clothing, PR, advertising, marketing, sponsorship, and tickets are all in place. There’s a lot to think about and obviously this is all in addition to the ‘day job’.

Building the garden

Show build times vary from show to show and are extremely intense. The hours are long and relentless and you live on adrenaline. Everyone is in the same boat and stressed but happy. It is so much fun but exhausting.

Once the garden has been built the emotional rollercoaster continues when you wait for the judges to critique it and decide on the medal(s) you receive. Then you have four days of meeting the public who will all have an opinion on the garden and the medal placing.

It all makes an interesting project. I am really excited and I can’t wait to start the build and see my design come to fruition.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress on Facebook – so feel free to follow me for gardening related posts.


French Lavender

Join my Garden Lovers Club

Sign up to my monthly newsletter to receive top-tips, my monthly offer, and planting ideas to create your perfect outdoor space!

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”” text=”JOIN NOW” ]



Join my Garden Lovers Club for FREE to receive exclusive hints & tips

Nikki HollierFounder of Border in a Box
Join Now
Nikki Hollier Border in a Box


Border in a Box awards


as seen in magazines

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google