When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

when is the best time to plant a tree

When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

I recently met up with Kevin O’Neill from Walcot Organic Nurseries, who are based locally in Drakes Broughton, near Pershore, who specialise in fruit trees and I asked him for some simple advice on planting, varieties and care.

The winter is the best time for planting bare root fruit trees when they are dormant – ideally between end of November and end of March. So now is a good time to be deciding what to plant and ordering. By planting before the winter’s end, the trees will be ready for a good start in the spring.

Alternatively, you can buy pot grown trees, these are usually more expensive than bare roots and the choice of trees may be limited. But they can be planted throughout the year which may be more convenient.

Bare roots are more suitable if you want to train the fruit tree into a fan or espalier or cordon, or some other format, a 1-year bare-root tree is usually the best way to start.

What are the tastiest fruit trees to grow?

This depends on what you want the fruit for ie cooking or eating straight from the tree. Walcot grow around 80 varieties of apple tree, and 30 varieties of plums plus cherries, damsons, pears and many more fruits. They include a mix of traditional and modern such as Lord Lambourne, Egremont Russet, Sunset and Lord Derby. More modern varieties – Red Falstaff, Herefordshire Russet and Rajka. So, there is an apple for every sized garden and taste.

Cherries are the first to ripen with their red fruits that can turn almost black if you can resist picking them! Next to ripen are Plums – Victoria is a superb variety but there are many other excellent plums to choose from that extend the season. Then there are Pears, Damsons, Quinces and Crab Apples.

In my humble opinion Cox apples make great eaters and Bramley apples make a fabulous crumble!

How big will the fruit tree grow?

You may have read about root stocks and seen ‘M’ numbers on plant labels and wondered what it refers to. It’s important to understand this to ensure you buy the right sized tree for your plot. Here’s a chart to explain it easily

tree sizes walcot nursery


Bear in mind that Apples pollinate apples and no other fruit trees species ie Pears. The same goes for Plums, etc. So, for successful pollination if no other fruit trees are in the vicinity select two or more of the same species to ensure fruiting. Also make sure the trees you buy flower at the same time – this will allow bees and other pollinators to move from tree to tree.

Where should you plant fruit trees?

Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light and shelter from prevailing winds. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site and improves pollination (bees don’t like wind and rain), which leads to better growth and fruit production. The ideal soil for fruit trees is a well-drained loam that is slightly acid. Avoid sites susceptible to waterlogging.

How to care for your trees

Ideally stake and tie at planting time, this will stop the tree from rocking in the wind and support the tree whilst growing. Remove all vegetation from around the base of the tree and add mulch to retain water and keep weed free.

Watch out for pests, especially aphids. There are other pests usually around when the tree is fruiting such as Codling Moth (their larvae feeds on fruit rather than leaves) – pheromone traps will help a little. Winter Moth caterpillars can eat early spring growth – wingless female winter moths emerge from pupae in the soil during November to April and crawl up trunks to lay eggs on the branches. To help reduce this happening, apply grease bands around the trunk in the autumn which is a pesticide-free way of keeping winter moth caterpillars away from your pear and apple trees in the spring. Although birds like the aphids and caterpillars and they help feed their babies.


Pruning is really important and essentially there are three stages to pruning:

  • Early hard pruning to develop the shape of the tree
  • Lighter pruning to encourage fruiting
  • Once fruiting, pruning to maintain a balance between growth and fruiting.

It’s best to read the article on pruning on Walcot Nursery’s website for detailed information as it depends on the age and type of tree you have.

More detailed information and a catalogue is available from www.walcotnursery.co.uk 



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RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

Carol Klein on stage RHS Malvern Autumn Show

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

I had the pleasure of meeting the Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019.

As we sat down to talk behind the main stage, one of Carols colleagues shouted over and asked Carol if she had a sewing kit in her handbag, Carol replied “No, but I’ve got a boiled egg, babybel and a piece of chocolate!” So now you know what Carol keeps in her bag… who knew!!! It certainly broke the ice as I found it very funny.

Carol is a regular visitor to the Malvern Shows and loves the people and plants, she says it’s very down to earth and loves mingling with everyone in the floral marquee.

But we all want to know, what’s in Carol’s garden right now that’s looking good?  Here’s what she had to say about some of her favourite Autumnal flowering plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

Rudbeckia yellow daisy

Carol loves this plant as it’s such a ‘sunny’ autumnal flower and grows well in her gardens heavy soil. She went on to say they’re really easy to propagate and it’s best done in the spring.

They are a perennial which grows to around 60cm tall, with dark oval hairy green leaves and bright yellow daisy flowers which bloom from late summer to mid-autumn. Ideal for clay, loam or chalk soils in full sun or part shade.

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’

Molinia Edith Dudszus moor grass

Commonly known as Moor Grass. This grass turns gold in autumn and she loves how it tumbles over in the border and can easily self-seed.

This grass can grow in any moist but well drained soil in full sun or part shade, but prefers neutral soil.  It grows to around 90cm tall so it’s ideal for mid/back of borders. It’s deciduous and its best to remove any dead foliage and old flowered stems in spring.

*TOP TIP* Carol loves Asters and has a top tip of combining similar flowers of different heights to give a tiered effect.

Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’

Aster blue daisy

The word Aster comes from an ancient Greek word meaning star, Carol went on to explain where the variety name came from and it’s an interesting story.  But in a nutshell a Swiss plantsman called Frikart created three new cultivars, naming them after Swiss Mountains: ‘Mönch’, ‘Eiger’ and ‘Jungfrau’.

Monch is a bushy perennial that grows to around 1m tall, likes full sun and is happy in loam, chalk or sandy soil. It has pretty lavender-blue flowers which bloom from August to September. Loved by pollinators too!

Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (cordifolius hybrid) aster


Aster Little Carlow blue daisy

This aster (shown in the back of this photo) is also a bushy perennial that grows to around 90cm tall. It’s happy in most soils – clay, loam, chalk and sandy so long as it’s moist but well drained. It likes full sun or part shade. It may need staking. It’s also easy to propagate in the spring too.  It has pretty violet-blue flowers which bloom from August to October.

What an interesting insight into Carols garden and her advice on propagation is invaluable, she said it’s simple but as asters put all their energies into flowering late in the season, means it’s not until spring that their new roots begin to grow. Chop up an aster in autumn and your divisions may well sulk and possibly die.

We crammed a lot of information into a short space of time, and I would like to thank Carol for sharing her fabulous tips and knowledge with me.

If you would like to see the National Collection of Asters, please visit Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden in Malvern, Worcestershire – it’s a beautiful garden and you can buy Asters too!

Further reading on my blog – https://borderinabox.com/autumnal-asters-add-colour-garden-borders/

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

Aser blue daisy



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RHS Malvern Autumn Show, Worcestershire 2019

orange pumpkin squash in wooden box


RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019

Sadly it’s the last RHS show of the year but what a brilliant show to visit – there really is something for everyone!

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Malvern Hills means the weather can be a mixture all in one day. The showground covers the size of 23 football pitches, so comfy shoes are a must!

This particular show incorporates the Canna UK Giant Vegetable championships and includes 600 giant vegetables with a cumulative weight of 7.45 tonnes, which is the size of an African elephant. You really need to go and see the display for yourself to appreciate the size of the veg and the amount of work that goes into putting on the incredible display.

giant pumpkin

Although as you know my passions are the flowers and gardens – there are no show gardens at this event, but the displays are just as inspiring. I love to see different flower combinations to include colour and texture.

The Floral Art section is an absolute must to visit – the talent on display is impressive and the theme is ‘Autumn Jewels’.  There were various classes to display in, including a festive section such as best dressed door, Christmas table centrepiece and a doormat.  I’m overwhelmed with people’s imagination. This particular floral design uses Amaryllis’, Gerbera and Anthurium – a combination that wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but its so eye catching.

Floral art gerbera amyryllis


Floral Christmas Pudding

The Harvest Pavilion showed off benches of vegetables, soft fruit and flowers. The Bramley Apples reminded me of home as Dad grew them in his garden and Mum used them for baking the best apple crumble. Bramleys are a tart and tangy variety best suited for baking due to keeping their flavour after cooking. In 2017 the UK harvested 70,000 tonnes of Bramley apples, which equates to approximately 333,333 apples. Wow!

Bramley Apple


I met the volunteers from Plant Heritage who told me that some plants are quietly vanishing, and it’s their plan to find them and cultivate them before they get lost for good. They explained that plants fall out of fashion, but its vital to keep the plants going whether that’s for food, medicine, ornament or heritage which will enable future generations to enjoy them too.

If you would like to join the Worcestershire Group, it meets monthly in friendly, informal sessions at Pershore College – for further information www.nccpg.com.

Unfortunately I ran out of time (too busy looking at plants!) to visit the World of Animals, but I visited last year and its fabulous and great for the kids too. There’s a load of things to see – from pets such as Guinea pigs, rabbits and giant tortoises, to the Top Dog arena which shows off the best agility dogs in the country as well as an appearance by former blue Peter presenter Peter Purves.

It really is one of the best shows on the calendar, so check it out for yourself – more information is available from https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/malvern-autumn-show.


Aster Picton Gardens

Frank Mathews trees

And finally…. The lovely Carol Klein hosting a Q&A on the Pottager Stage

Carol Klein on stage




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Picton Nurseries asters


Toyah Willcox and her beloved trees

Toyah Willcox medlar tree

I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.

“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.

At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”

Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.

Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.

I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.

In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.

Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.

But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.

Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.

They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”

I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/

If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:

Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar

Medlar fruit tree

Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart.  They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.

The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.

Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry

mulberry tree fruits

The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.

It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.


Magnolia stellata white flower

There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.

I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.

Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane

This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.

London plane tree

London Plane tree leaf




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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



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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

This was my first ever visit to the show and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but WOW it was amazing. No matter where you looked, everything was immaculate including the trade stands – which all get judged as well as the show gardens.

Here are my highlights:

I love colour and sculptures so the garden by David Harber and Savills Garden was one of my favourites.  It only received a bronze award, which I was very surprised about, but after watching the review on TV it made sense – it was due to planting damp loving plants in a dry setting and also the heights of plants. I bet the designer and team were really disappointed as so much time and hard work will have gone into creating it.

David Harber Chelsea Flower show

David Harber Chelsea Flower Show

The garden by Sarah Price for M&G had fabulous pots and the overall colour scheme was very earthy and warm which I found really relaxing.  Thankfully I was able to see the garden early in the morning before the crowds arrived. It was awarded a gold medal and deservedly so.

M&G garden Sarah Price Chelsea flower show

M&G garden Sarah Price Chelsea Flower show

Artisan garden by The Claims Guys, designed by Janine Crimmins won the People’s Choice Award and a silver gilt medal. It’s a garden you could recreate at home, which made it stand out from the other gardens. The dry stone walling was stunning and Andrew Loudon did an amazing job.

Janine Crimmins The Claims Guys Chelsea Flower Show

After listening to Chris Beardshaws presentation at RHS Malvern about the garden he was building at Chelsea, I was keen to see the end result as the story behind it was really interesting. The garden was sponsored by M&G for the NSPCC and won a gold medal and best show garden. I got shouted at by a photographer as I was under a tree canopy and I didn’t realise automatic flash was on my camera and the flash went off – I looked up and saw Kelly Brook was being filmed on the garden. Whoops! I apologised and left quickly. How embarrassing.

Kelly Brook Chris Beardshaw NSPCC

chris beardshaw NSPCC chelsea flower show

The Welcome to Yorkshire garden was really lovely and won a gold medal, best in show and also the best construction award. Again, it was a very naturalistic garden that made you feel right at home, but no doubt took a great deal of thought and planning to achieve.

Mark Gregory welcome to yorkshire chelsea flower show

welcome to yorkshire chelsea flower show

Here’s a few more photos of the show…

LG eco-city garden chelsea flower show

Myeloma garden chelsea flower show

Seedlip garden chelsea flower show

Tony Woods urban flow garden chelsea flower show

Weston Garden Tom Stuart-smith chelsea flower show

Plant of the year goes to….

Hydrangea 'Runaway Bride' chelsea flower show


I’d like to give a shout-out to my fabulous network of fellow designers and creators – so proud of you all, as it takes hard work, passion, commitment and amazing talent to get to Chelsea (or any RHS show for that matter!)

Robert Barker – garden & landscape designer http://www.robertbarkerdesign.com/

Robert Barker Chelsea Flower Show

Laura Jayne Fisk – fellow #SBS winner and twitter chum who designs and makes fabulous homewares https://www.laurajaynefisk.co.uk/

Laura Jayne Fisk Chelsea Flower Show

My chum Lou has a wonderful herd of alpacas and has turned their poo into an amazing business with a brilliant name of Lou’s Poo which is an organic fertiliser and is brilliant! https://www.thearchersatthelarches.com/products/lou-s-poo

Lous poos alpaca fertiliser

My friend Hilary has an amazing nursery specialising in Eucalyptus trees – I never knew there were so many varieties! http://www.grafton-nursery.co.uk/

Eucalyptus grafton nursery chelsea flower show

and lastly, the whole reason I went to Chelsea was to meet Brad from Solus Decor, who are providing the water feature for my ‘Beautiful Border’ at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in June 2018. My other sponsor is Screen With Envy – and you can see both products in action here

solus screen with envy


I had a brilliant time at Chelsea – and I can recommend it to anyone as the quality of every build and design is exceptional – I was blown away by it all! It’s a very very impressive event.

If you would like to know more about the gardens and the story behind them – have a read over on the RHS website https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens

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Pink floral border

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2018

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2018

Get yourself along to this year’s festival – its theme this year is inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851 where Malvern water flowed through the magnificent crystal ‘Schweppes Fountain’, the centerpiece of the opening ceremony.

There are some stunning gardens and floral exhibits along with a fabulous food hall and plenty of shopping – so there is something for everyone.

As a garden designer my focus is on the gardens and there are some absolutely beautiful and inspiring gardens to see.

Show Gardens

The ‘Best in Show’ award went to the very talented Ruth Gwynn and Alan Williams for their ‘Perfumers Garden’ – and they also received a Gold Award too – very well deserved as the attention to detail is impressive.

The planting included Iris, Rose, Basil, Citrus and Lavender along with pencil cypress.

Alan Williams, Ruth Gwynn

The Perfumers Garden

The Perfumers Garden

Another favourite is the garden by Graduate Gardeners Ltd with eye-catching brightly coloured plants – including purple alliums, dark cow parsley and grasses which all show up against the dramatic black painted boardwalk and water. They were awarded a Silver-Gilt medal.

Urban Oasis show garden RHS Malvern

wild flower garden

Gold medal garden designer Martyn Wilson created ‘Memories of Service’ supporting the RAF100 Appeal, beautifully planted with blue Camassias, purple Pittosporum and topiary balls with a red white and blue colour scheme to represent the RAF. I found it hard to peer over the top of the hedges to view the garden but it was designed to give an intimate feel to the space.

RAF garden by Martyn Wilson

Another favourite was The Dew Pond by Christian Dowle – I love his style of design as it makes me feel at peace and relaxed. The garden was designed to create a natural setting that attracts wildlife and that is sustainable and productive. There are 5 parts to the garden – an orchard, woodland, front garden, meadow & wall and a dew pond. They were awarded a silver medal.

The Dew Pond, Christian Dowle

purple flower

A Gold Medal and Best Construction was awarded to Peter Dowle of Howle Hill Nursery who created ‘Spirit of the Wood’ which was another show-stopping garden with some magnificent sculptures by Simon Gudgeon. Plants included lots of Japanese maple Acers, which were under-planted with lots of ferns and grasses for lots of texture and interest.

Other show gardens include:

‘From Over the Fence’ by Jonathan Bishop. Bronze Medal

‘Bovis Homes Family Garden’ by Design It Landscapes. Silver Medal

‘Royal Porcelain Works Ltd: The Collectors Garden’ by Big Fish Landscapes. Silver Gilt Medal

‘Greenhance: The Garden in the Egg’ by Jonas Egger. Gold Medal

‘Billy’s Cave’ by Villaggio Verde. Gold Medal

Olivia Kirk, Royal Porcelain Works

Green Living Spaces

I was particularly interested in seeing the ‘Green Living Spaces’ gardens as these have been specifically created to bring ‘big gardening inspiration to small spaces’ and help the #generationrent & first-time buyers green up their lives.

There are 4 gardens in this category:

‘The Salad Deck’ by Andy Bending – Silver Gilt Medal.

‘Outside Number 39’ by elaine Portch – Gold Medal & Best Green Living Spaces Award

‘Grow, dine & relax’ by Anne Keenan – Bronze Medal

‘The Urban Escape’ by Sebastian Conrad – Bronze Medal

Elaine Portch show garden RHS Malvern

balcony garden

I had a lovely conversation with Sebastian about his garden. He is currently studying at Pershore Horticultural College and is so passionate about his plants and exhibiting at RHS Malvern. His garden was created to provide a sense of relaxation by using lush green ferns along with white flowers. However, I loved the vibrant colourful section with corals and bright orange flowers.

The Floral Marquee

The Floral Marquee was as fabulous as ever. Master Grower this year is Avon Bulbs, who are a multi gold medal winning nursery specialising in rare and unusual bulbs. Particular interest is the 6 varieties of Camassia including the ‘Stellar Pink’ variety.

Avon Bulbs

As usual local Fibrex Nurseries were exhibiting and won 2 Gold Medals for their Pelargoniums and Ferns & Ivies. They are also celebrating their 60 year anniversary in June! I love visiting their nursery in Pebworth and I’m using their ‘Lady Plymouth’ variety in my show garden border at Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in June. Not only does it smell amazing, but the leaves are variegated with grey/cream colours. Beautiful! They are hosting their Plant Party on the weekend of 16/17th June and have lots of talks and workshops for you to attend – more information click here: https://www.fibrex.co.uk/blogs/news/the-big-show however, this is the same weekend as Gardeners’ World Live, so plan your weekend wisely!!!

I was also impressed by Andy’s Air Plants and Scamp’s Quality Daffodils. Also Pershore based Hayloft Plants had a lovely display where you can buy unusual plants. How could you fail to miss the dazzling lilies by Hart’s Nursery – the size of the blooms was spectacular and the smell was divine! There are so many plants to choose from that there’s no way to pick ‘favourites’ but the Auriculars are so pretty.

air plants



It’s a great place to chat with the growers too and you may even bump into a celebrity gardener or two! Here’s the lovely Carol Klein with award winning Surreal Succulents.

Carol Klein, Gardeners World, Surreal Succulents

The Great Pavilion of Art and Flowers

Even if you’re not into floristry, this is the pavilion you MUST visit as it’s full of spectacular floral artistry. When you walk in the first thing you see is the Morgan Car decorated with outstanding designed flowers. The photographs don’t do it justice as it really is a fantastic piece of art.

Morgan Cars RHS Malvern, Floral art

You can’t fail to be inspired by floral artist Jonathan Moseley who is giving daily talks and demonstrations over the weekend. I’m sure you’ll learn lots of tips and tricks on how to decorate your home with fabulous British grown cut flowers.

Jonathan Moseley florist

School Gardens

I loved the school gardens – hopefully it will inspire the next generation to develop their love of gardens, horticulture and being outside. Here are three gardens which I thought were wonderful as I loved their attention to detail!

Three Counties Home Educators – The Beatrix Potter Garden

Tudor Grange Academy, Worcester – Suspended Innovation

Greenfields Primary School, Kettering – A Very British Tea Party

Beatrix Potter Garden

The Festival Theatre

I got to listen to Chris Beardshaw present his show garden project which he is currently building the Morgan Stanley garden for the NSPCC at the forthcoming RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It was inspiring to hear how an experienced garden designer approaches the project and comes up with an amazing garden to showcase the work of the NSPCC. I can’t wait to see it.

Chris Beardshaw garden designer


I also bumped into Joe Swift & Adam Frost – there will be plenty of celebrity gardeners for you to meet and talk to at the event – check the Festival Theatre agenda.

Jpe Swift, Adam Frost, Gardeners World

There is really so much to do and see at the show that I’ve not even had chance to talk about here, such as the Grow Zone, Food Hall and the Master Craftsmen. It’s a wonderful show to gain ideas, inspiration and ‘how to’ advice – so my top tip is to make sure you have plenty of time and make sure you wear comfy shoes!

The show is open 10th to the 13th May, https://www.rhsmalvern.co.uk/buy-tickets/

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Garden designers adding colour to the world on International Women’s Day 2018

Garden designers International Womens Day 2018

I was genuinely shocked when I read this article in The Telegraph – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/30/women-garden-designers-smash-chelsea-flower-shows-grass-ceiling/ – written by Victoria Ward with the headline of “Women garden designers smash Chelsea Flower Show’s ‘grass ceiling’” – we’re in 2017 so this shouldn’t be unusual and making headlines. But sadly it is.

Thankfully I’ve met some fabulous women in horticulture in the last few years and they have some inspiring stories to share.  We may not be curing cancer but we are adding colour to people’s lives and gardening is great for your mental health and well-being.

So to celebrate International Women’s Day I would like to introduce my inspirational & wonderful friends – Charlie, Pip and Elly who I’ve met through our shared passion of gardens.

Charlie Bloom

Charlie Bloom garden designer

Charlie lives in the south-east and we met at Hampton Court Flower Show in 2015 – I was volunteering on the neighbouring show garden and we got talking and have become good friends.  I asked Charlie how she got into garden design and she told me that after spending 4 years working in a stockbroker with a daily commute she decided to take the plunge and follow her heart and dearest passion… no not gardens, but dressage. After a brief baptism of fire into the competitive dressage world she realised she wanted to be outside in nature and without the dictatorship of a mad boss (we can all relate to that!).

She went on to learn the trade of Head Gardener, achieving The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Advanced Certificate in Horticulture which she studied via an evening course. After her first year of being self-employed she had the mad idea of submitting a design for RHS Hampton Court and was rejected twice and diverted to Gardeners’ World Live. With very little knowledge, no financial sponsorship and a team of non-horticultural friends she managed to pull off two National level Show Gardens and was then accepted to Hampton Court on her 4th attempt.  Charlie’s motto is “if you don’t succeed, try, try again, take a leap of faith and a risk and it will pay off eventually”. She now has 4 RHS medals and is exhibiting another Show Garden at Hampton Court Flower Show this year, made up of a cooperative of trades, instead of corporate sponsorship.

Here’s Charlies’ garden ‘The Colour Box’ at Hampton Court Flower Show 2017


Charlie Bloom Colour Box show garden Hampton Court 2017

You can contact Charlie Bloom – www.charliebloomsgardendesigns.co.uk or Twitter @bloomsblogs. Or meet Charlie at her show garden at Hampton Court 3-8th July – https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-hampton-court-palace-flower-show

Pip Probert

Pip Probert garden designer

I first met Pip Probert when she created her show garden at RHS Malvern in 2015 and is a multi-award winning garden designer with many years of experience in design, build and planting works.

Pip is a natural – she got into design when she was young and thrived on project work, thoroughly enjoying the research and the presentation side and obviously drawing the pictures regardless of the subject matter! Although Pip loves designing she felt that it would be hard to stand out amongst all the other graphic design students so with a love of plants and copying photographs that her dad had taken whilst on family garden days out, she felt there was a connection with Garden Design.

Pip says “Garden design is a passion and something I’m very proud of.  There is always room for improvement and I hope to be constantly learning and improving on my skills for the rest of my career”.

She went on to say “there is so much more involved to designing a garden – you need to be an expert on a lot of different things from materials to practicality in the construction of your ideas.  Garden Design is job for someone willing to learn, put the hours in and be involved in every aspect of a project”.

I love Pip’s style and her planting combinations – here’s some of her work which will hopefully inspire you too.


Pip Probert RHS Tatton

Here’s Pips illustration of her show garden at Ascot Spring Garden Show 13-15th April 2018, sponsored by Yardley – https://www.ascot.co.uk/spring-garden-show/show-gardens

Pip Probert Ascot show garden 2018

You can contact Pip via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pipprobertgardendesigner/ or her website – http://www.outerspacesgardens.com

Eleanor West

Eleanor West garden designer

Elly and I met studying garden design at college together – here’s her story:

“My career as a garden designer began a few years ago, when personal circumstances led to a house move and desire for a job that was flexible and could fit around my two young children. I had a background in horticulture and design, having worked at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine in a previous, pre-children life, plus a passion for plants and planting. Retraining as a garden designer made perfect sense, and has been the ideal job for me in that I can work hours that suit my lifestyle. Anyone can start their own business, and there’s nothing distinctly female about being a garden designer, but on International Women’s Day, I’ll go with the idea that perhaps I do bring a woman’s touch to the job. I’m always sensitive to a clients’ needs and have good attention to detail. I’m also well-organised and conscientious. Chatting to other mums at the school gate, jobs that are school hours with the option to work from home are like gold dust, so I do feel extremely fortunate that this new career has blossomed into something I love, and that still allows me to be there when the children need me”.

Visit http://www.ellyswellies.co.uk to find out more about Elly’s work.

Nikki Hollier (that’s me!)

Nikki Hollier garden designer RHS Malvern 2016

I became a garden designer after suffering from stress a few years ago and the garden was the only place I could gain any peace. I had no clue what I was doing, so I enrolled on a course in horticulture at the local college. I never intended that it would change my life so dramatically – I left my 20 year career in IT and retrained as a garden designer.

I had to move house again which was a ‘new build’ and although I had studied horticulture the course didn’t include much design work so I enrolled on a further garden design course which finished in November 2015. Three weeks later I submitted my application and designs to RHS Malvern Spring Show. I got accepted and built my garden in May 2016 and won a Silver Medal and the People’s Choice Award. Not bad for a newbie!

These events inspired my business Border in a Box.  Living in a new build property with a blank canvas garden I felt there were many people in a similar situation who probably wanted a nice garden but didn’t know where to start and on a tight budget. I’ve created these ‘purse friendly’ kits to help people achieve a gorgeous garden easily and in less than a day. Available from www.borderinabox.com, Not On The High Street and Amazon.

Here’s my illustration for the garden border I will create at Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in June.  https://www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com/visit/ticket-information

Gardener's World Live 2018

So if you’ve been dreaming of another life, whether it’s running your own B&B by the seaside, making the best tasting gin or becoming a garden designer just do it. If you want to stick your toe in the water and shadow an expert in your chosen field check out https://www.viewvo.com/ for advice. There will be many stories about amazing women on International Women’s Day – so lap up the good energies and get inspired to follow your heart.

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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 – https://www.facebook.com/borderinabox/ so feel free to follow me for gardening related posts.



French Lavender

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