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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.

“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.

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.

Chelsea Plant Introductions: New to the UK and exclusive to Hillier Nurseries

Hillier will be introducing two new plant varieties at Chelsea:

Acer ‘Moonrise’: a scorch resistant acer; red young leaves opening to yellow; red autumn colour.

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.

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