Gems from Holker Hall Garden Festival…..

by Kat Weatherill

Early June for the past 20 years Holker Hall in Cumbria hosts a Garden Festival. This year I visited the Festival on a day of glorious sunshine, unsure of what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not on the same scale as the RHS garden shows, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s a lovely family day out (children under 16 get in for free) free fairground rides for the kids, great marquee of Cumbrian crafts and food, a bandstand, food festival, even a herding demonstration with a difference, not sheep but Indian running ducks!

Holker Hall & Gardens – Cumbria – image credit

The joy for me was the horticultural marquee’s filled with independent and specialist nurseries and the show gardens. There were only 8 show gardens these year, but they had something to please everyone, from traditional to contemporary, small town gardens to country cottage planting. My personal favourite was created by Green Belt Landscapes and designed by Paul Richards Garden Design, who created a contemporary Lake District garden…..

I love the simple yet striking symmetrical design of the garden, with the angular lines of the hard landscaping softened by block planting in a muted colour palette, to the reflective quality of the inky water.

The design is clever, it incorporates many textures from the rough stone wall mixed with a vertical planting of a fresh green living wall, combined with the crisp paving and floating steps over the central rill. So if you are considering a redesign try to think beyond the lawn, do you prefer soft and curvaceous, angular and formal, don’t just think two dimensionally, use the vertical space, and mix textures for an even more sensory stimulating outdoor space.

Living Wall and Pergola

After spending time admiring the show gardens I began wandering through the rest of the show ground, and was drawn to a beautiful cottage garden planting scheme. I began chatting to Tom, a young man who knew his plants and I become even more enchanted, when I discovered that not only had he supplied these beautiful specimens, but grows and propagates the plants in the nursery he owns and runs with his partner Abi. They become proud owners of “Abi and Toms Garden Plants” in Halecat, near Grange Over Sands just over three years ago…..

Hardy cottage garden plants, grown with love by Abi and Tom in Cumbria

Abi and Tom shared more about their horticultural business journey so far…..

In February 2009 we received the news that set the course for our future working lives that, we become tenants of one of Cumbria’s most loved plant nurseries at Halecat in Witherslack.
Although the nursery had been popular in the past, it had fallen into disrepair and nature had reclaimed much of the growing & display areas. This led to us deciding to keep the nursery closed and carry out a two-year renovation ready for the nursery to reopen in spring 2011.
This two-year time frame allowed us to continue working to help fund the project and to carry out our main horticultural passion, growing plants. We could have opened earlier and fill the site with bought in factory grown plants, but what we really want to offer customers is an interesting range of well-grown, home-grown plants that we know will survive in gardens all over the country.
During the autumn and winter of 2011 we expanded the sales area of the nursery and began to open up the old stock beds providing a greater insight into how we grow our plants.
We are always on hand to offer advice on choosing the right plant or just to explain the basics, later this year we will be launching a border design service.
All our herbaceous perennials and young shrubs are grown here on site and the vast majority are propagated in our polytunnels.
We pride ourselves on the quality of our plants, how we grow them and the fact that they will thrive in the Cumbrian climate.
Having spent 8 years in the horticulture industry, I can’t stress how hard the industry is, at times it feels like everything is against you as your dealing with so many variables, the weather, living plants, pests/diseases and Mother Nature! So to met people like Tom and Abi who are passionate about plants and gardens, is a joy, but not only is it their lives but its their livelihood. So (as I step back off my bushel crate/make shift soap box!) all I would ask is if you’re in the Lake District any time, and you love to find beautiful, hardy, quality plants why not call in to Abi and Toms nursery at Halecat (LL11 6RT) they are open 7 days a week (now that’s dedication!) or visit their website or call 015395 52946 to order a new gorgeous herbaceous border?

Baptisa australis – one of the many yummy herbaceous perennials available from Abi and Toms Nursery in Halecat.

Prumula Vialli – Abi and Toms Garden Plants

Salvia nemorosa – Abi and Toms Garden Plants


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