In the centre of the Holker Garden Festival horticultural marquee, is a stunning naturalistic display of plants from Abi & Toms Garden Plants of Halecat. Unsurprisingly, this creation won no less than three awards.
We spoke to Tom Attwood, partner at Abi & Tom’s Garden Plants about their first show garden and the pair were quite obviously thrilled with their Large Gold, Best in Show (for their class) and The Lady Cavendish Award.
The meadow like display features plants that are grown at their Halecat nursery and this is a nursery in it’s truest sense, where plants start off life as packets of seed.
Like many other specialist nurseries, Abi & Tom’s plants are particularly suited to their area and in this case, a northern climate, with a focus on plants that are not fussy of soil type.
Scabious, foxglove, linaria and large daisies nestle in amongst grasses to create a natural almost ethereal and misty effect. These are plants which you will not find in most garden centres, stressing the importance of specialist local growers who understand their soil and climate.
It soon becomes apparent that the flowers are surrounded by lots of bees and other insects.
“Bringing these plants here from the nursery transported quite a number of bees in the van, there will be a lot of confused wildlife as they have been transported 10 miles
away from the site”.
Tom’s personal favourite on the stand is a beautiful pale pink Linaria, standing about 2ft tall with incredibly delicate silvery green foliage and tiny snapdragon like flowers. It is demure and graceful, sitting well alongside ornamental grasses and stronger colours.
Many other people must have been drawn to it too, as the plant completely sold out within an hour of the show opening.
The display is divided into to squares; an inner one with taller planting which is surrounded by a narrow rhyll of water (ideal for feeding insects), followed by an outer square with softer, billowing plants. These are interspersed with iris, geranium and aquilegia.
Since taking over the nursery at Halecat in South Cumbria, Tom and Abi certainly have had their work cut out. He Says they still have a lot to do on the nursery with a focus on growing more and getting the nursery up to full strength, but also have plans to develop an educational side to the business.
It is quite obvious that they both have a real love for plants and Tom is passionate about passing on what he says is the most wonderful, wonderful lifestyle. “You have got to pinch yourself when you realise that you are paid to do this”.
Foliage for structure
Tom is a Huge fan of plants that rely on their foliage as much as anything else. He said; “flowers are great but in some cases they can be over quite quickly. Get something with a bit of a backbone to it and it will be there throughout the season”. In fact, if he had to choose one plant from the Holker show it would be a Hosta – Tom Schmid. It has glorious colour and margins and can form quite a large structural plant.
We asked Tom how he would encourage those with an interest in gardening; He advised visiting gardens, both large and small, be inspired by NGS gardens which tend to be on a scale similar to our own. Arm yourself with a notebook and camera so that you can record ideas, names of plants, planting combinations and design inspiration.
This is a great way to find something new and meet with other gardeners to share tips and find out what grows well in your area.
Abi & Tom’s Garden Plants -Specialist plant nursery in Halecat, South Cumbria.
Holker Garden Festival – An overview