First Hillier trees in place at new Maggie’s Centre Southampton

The first of more than 100 British-grown trees supplied by Hillier Trees have been delivered to their final destination at the new Maggie’s Centre in Southampton. The Centre and surrounding grounds, which will be the first for Maggie’s in the South of England, is designed to create a tranquil oasis for visitors.

Hillier is supporting charity partner Maggie’s as they create a brand-new Maggie’s Centre in Southampton, adjacent to the hospital. The centre will have cutting edge architectural design and beautifully landscaped surrounding gardens. Having viewed plans, Hillier saw how they could use their horticultural expertise to offer support through the supply of trees. They’re providing more than 100 British-grown trees from the company’s nurseries in Hampshire at no profit to the company, the first of which have now arrived at the centre.

The Centre is being created in partnership between award-wining architects AL_A, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and Sarah Price, one of the country’s most sought-after landscape designers. The design will create an oasis in the grounds of the hospital’s suburban campus. Almost three quarters of the 1,470m2 site is being given over to four distinct gardens that are inspired by the ecology of the nearby New Forest. The intention is for the garden to look as if it has always been there, providing seclusion from the outside world.

In keeping with Sarah Price’s design ethos, the tree selection includes species that will create a natural, woodland look and feel; offer a colour palette that blends with the striking architectural design and provide year-round interest.

Following a number of visits to Hillier Trees field and container tree nurseries in Hampshire, individual container and root-ball trees were selected by Sarah. The timing of the national lockdown in late March, as a result of COVID-19, inevitably created a delay to the originally planned planting schedule. This meant that the season for planting root-balled trees had passed. Fortunately, this didn’t create an obstacle, thanks to Hillier having a container as well as field tree nursery. Trees growing on the container tree nursery can be planted all year around, which meant it was possible to simply substitute some of the planned root-ball trees for container grown ones.

“Sarah is a very visual, creative designer,” said Caroline Swann, Account Manager at Hillier Trees. “With us unable to conduct an in-person tour of container trees due to Coronavirus restrictions, we had video calls instead to re-select trees. This allowed us to give a 360° walk around each one to make sure it was perfect!”

Tree species selected for the new Centre include Betula pendula (silver birch), Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine), Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain ash), Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry) and Prunus avium (wild cherry). Many of these have been specified as multi-stem or more naturalistic forms, as opposed to a more traditional neat clipped form, fitting with the design ethos.

The trees are all being delivered from Hillier Trees container tree nursery and planted over the space of a few weeks in January; an almost military operation requiring the brief closure of roads around the grounds to facilitate delivery.

The official opening of the new Centre is planned for early February 2021.

“Maggie’s are delighted to be working closely with Hillier to realise Sarah Price’s landscape at University Hospital Southampton,” said Siobhan Wyatt, Property Projects Lead at Maggie’s. “Our New Forest oasis will be a haven for anyone living with cancer, and their loved ones, while they receive support from our staff.”

“We are delighted that trees are now being delivered and we look forward to seeing them all in their final position,” comments George Hillier, Director of Property at Hillier Nurseries. “This Centre is going to bring a huge benefit to the community and we are proud to have been able to lend our support.”