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Shropshire’s Hillview Hardy Plants confirmed as RHS Malvern Spring Festival’s ‘Master Grower’ 2023

Shropshire-based Hillview Hardy Plants has been awarded the coveted RHS Malvern Spring Festival ‘Master Grower’ accolade for 2023 and will be sharing their expertise at the show from 11 – 14 May 2023 at Three Counties Showground, Malvern. 

The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Master Grower’ scheme endeavours to shine a spotlight on the UK’s finest specialist nurseries. Nurseries that have proudly collected a number of awards and medals are invited to become ‘Master Growers’. Hillview Hardy Plants has been going to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival since 1988 and the family are thrilled that their plants will be in the spotlight in 2023.

Ingrid Millington from Hillview Hardy Plants said: “We’re really proud to be asked by the RHS to be a Master Grower. We’ll be putting on a bigger display than normal and are delighted to be recognised for our knowledge and expertise.”

The RHS ‘Master Grower’ scheme singles out nurseries that offer excellent customer service and propagate a high percentage of plant material themselves. Hillview Hardy Plants are focused on ethical and sustainable plant production and breed their own varieties too.

Owned by John and Ingrid Millington and their daughter Sarah, Hillview Hardy Plants has no fewer than two National Collections of Auricula, namely the Alpine Group and cultivars bred by Richard Austin in the New Forest.

They also produce border, double, show and striped cultivars, with more than 1,000 varieties of stock plants at their nursery and in excess of 640 different ones for customers to buy.

For many people, Victorian-style auricula theatres and clay pots are a must when it comes to displaying these colourful flowers, but the Millingtons’ display at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in May 2023 will also demonstrate more modern ways for showing them off, such as extending shelves. The family will also be on hand with lots of practical advice to help gardeners get the most from their plants.

Ingrid Millington explains: “Auriculas aren’t difficult to keep at all. People think they’re going to be difficult and mollycoddle them, but it’s really not necessary.

“Generally, auriculas don’t like the summer sun or winter wet. They should only be put in an auricula theatre for showing and not for growing because they need lots of air movement.

“Auriculas are completely hardy – leaving them outside doesn’t hurt them at all; they might freeze in their pots but put them on mesh so that water can drain through. When watering, avoid getting water on their flowers as this spoils them.”

Auriculas are usually associated with terracotta pots, but this can lead to water being lost through the clay during the summer.

“Clay pots look lovely but we advise growing auriculas in plastic pots, which can be dropped into a clay pot when they’re being displayed,” Ingrid advises.

John and Ingrid met while studying horticulture at Writtle College and set up their nursery on a former tomato growing site in 1987 when daughter Sarah was five, with John continuing to work for Birmingham Parks until their business was fully established. Sarah joined the nursery after completing a law degree and, like her father, is now a Master of Horticulture.

Initially they specialised in Alpines, prompted in part by their shared love of walking and the general popularity of these plants, before moving onto herbaceous species.

Their interest in auricula started after they were approached by an elderly gardener who was giving up his collection.

“To be honest we had no grand desire to grow auricula, but things happen for a reason and now we have rather cornered the market,” says Ingrid with a chuckle.

“As a family we’re always thinking up ideas that will entice people to grow auriculas.

“People don’t need to display them in the Victorian way, although this is still popular and John and Sarah receive a lot of orders for bespoke auricula theatres that they make themselves.

“Over the past few months we’ve potted up some 9,000 auriculas produced by division to sell in 2023.”

Alongside their auriculas, the Millingtons also hold National Collections of Albuca, a South and East  African plant commonly known as ‘Slime Lily’, and Acanthus. They also have a wide range of other plants, including herbaceous perennials, and are well known for giving talks to gardening clubs.

Hillview Hardy Plants will be featured in the Floral Marquee at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival from 11 – 14 May 2023 at Three Counties Showground. Tickets start from just £25 (with under 16s free of charge) and are on sale now. For more information about the festival, or to book tickets, visit: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/malvern-spring-festival

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