‘Hillier in Springtime’

Hillier reveals landmark Chelsea design by Sarah Eberle, as nursery moves from the Monument site for first time in over 20 years.

Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres are embarking on a series of Chelsea firsts in 2016 in an exciting new development for the 152 year-old family-owned nursery. For the first time in over two decades – and only the third or fourth time since Hillier’s Gold medal-winning run began 71 years ago – Hillier has a new home at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The 22m x 12m site has nudged a few metres closer to the Royal Hospital in the Great Pavilion and off the Chilianwalla Monument.

With a new site come new design opportunities, for which Hillier have turned to Sarah Eberle, the acclaimed garden designer and former Design Director of Hillier Landscapes. Considered part of the family by Hillier, Sarah has won Gold in every garden category at Chelsea (Artisan, Fresh and Show Gardens), but has never before exhibited in the Great Pavilion.

Sarah Eberle in garden banner

“I feel honoured to have been asked to design the Hillier exhibit,” says Sarah. “I have a long history with Hillier. The Hillier Manual was the bible when I was training as a landscape architect, and I have known the family and the nursery team at Hillier for a long time.”

In taking on the challenge of designing the Hillier exhibit, how does Sarah feel about the weight of the Hillier Golden Legacy at Chelsea? “It certainly focuses the mind!” says Sarah.

“And it makes me work harder and better.”

Chelsea is a huge Hillier team effort and remains the highlight of the Hillier year for both the family and the staff. Amongst the staging team this year will be George and Jim Hillier from the fifth generation of the Hillier family and the new Hillier management trainees backed by Hillier Chelsea veterans, Ricky Dorlay and John Hillier VMH.

‘Hillier in Springtime’ – The Design by Sarah Eberle

In a stunning departure from the traditional Hillier woodland exhibits of the past, Sarah Eberle has designed a Show Garden for plant-lovers. She has taken the very best trees and shrubs that Hillier has to offer – with the same exacting focus on plant quality for which Hillier is renowned – and presented them in a fresh, exciting, contemporary way.

The theme of ‘Hillier in Springtime’ is a celebration of spring-flowering trees and plants. Water cascades into a central body of water from three copper pipes set into a high grey gabion wall. Boardwalks on two sides extend over the pool, whilst a grey pavilion frames the view over the garden.

Towering semi-mature trees 7-8m tall, such as multi-stemmed amelanchier and carpinus, prunus, Cratageus ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ and Pinus nigra, become key features of the exhibit.

The planting is designed to showcase different plant communities, plants that both grow successfully together and combine beautifully, to both educate and inspire visitors. There are Hillier’s favourite flowering shrubs such as cornus, Viburnum mariesii, philadelphus and mounds of spiraea as well as masses of perennials and drifts of bulbs. Behind the grey stone gabions of the waterfall is a spectacular, vibrant bank of shade-loving rhododendrons and azaleas.

The three thousand trees and plants needed for the Hillier Chelsea exhibit are being grown on Hillier’s nurseries under the watchful, experienced eye of Ricky Dorlay, 75.

New plants

Chelsea Plant Introductions: New to the UK and exclusive to Hillier Nurseries, Hillier will be introducing three new plant varieties at Chelsea: Acer ‘Moonrise’, Lavendula ‘Silver Line’ and Hydrangea ‘Kanmara’®.

First discovered by the acclaimed Japanese Maple specialist, Carl Munn, as a chance seedling on his Oregon nursery back in 1991, Acer shirasawanum ‘Moonrise’ will finally make its UK debut with Hillier Nurseries.

The great strengths of Acer ‘Moonrise’ lie in its spectacular seasonal colour and its resistance to disease and leaf burn. In spring, its new shoots emerge bright red making a beautiful contrast with the fully opened, fresh, chartreuse leaves. In summer, Acer ‘Moonrise’ is totally covered in almost fluorescent chartreuse foliage, which turns vibrant red in autumn.

Carl Munn observed the plant’s growth and habit for 15 years before starting production, and named this variety ‘Moonrise’ as the colour progression reminded him of a moon rising in the night sky.

Acer ‘Moonrise’ loves a spot in sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil and is hardy to -22°C. This variety lends itself equally to planting in a mixed border or in a large container as a specimen plant on the patio or balcony, and will grow to 3m tall by 1m wide. Light pruning can be carried out in spring or summer.

Lavendula ‘Silver Line’: a white lavender in aid of the charity ‘The Silver Line’, the helpline launched by Esther Rantzen providing information, friendship and advice to older people.

Hydrangea ‘Kanmara’® White will adorn the decking of the Hillier pavilion as a spectacular specimen plant in a pot. In fact, these hydrangeas will thrive in pots on the patio, on the terrace or planted within a mixed border.

hydrangea kanmara

The blooms develop their tinted pastel shades for summer before gracefully fading to shades of green and red as autumn approaches. The faded flowerheads retain their charm through the autumn too. They can be left as a feature throughout the winter and removed in spring by cutting just above a new pair of fat buds.

Hydrangea ‘Kanmara’® is best planted in a sheltered spot, away from strong winds and preferably in dapped shade and protected from late frost. Lime-free soil will provide the best blooms, but it tolerates most soils. Feed in early and mid-spring and with a high-potash feed in the flowering season and keep the plant well watered.