Recent Awards and Milestones
2006 - 61st Consecutive Gold Medal Chelsea Flower Show
2006 - Grower of the Year – Hardy Nursery Stock - HTA/Grower Magazine
2005 - Grower of the Year – Semi-mature Trees – Horticulture Week Magazine
2005 - Best New Plant Variety – Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ – Horticulture Week Magazine
2005 - Guinness World Record 60th Consecutive Gold Medal at Chelsea Flower Show
2004 - Sustainable Business Awards
2004 - Water Conservation Awards
Hillier Trees - Company History
Hillier Nurseries, 140 years and still evolving with our customers.
Over the last twenty-five years the progressive change and development of Hillier Nurseries has been almost entirely directed and inspired by our customers.
Back in the 1970's the majority of trees and shrubs were sold “bare-root”, dug from the fields and despatched in the dormant season to our customers. By today’s standards the trees were very small: from 6-8cm girth to 14-16cm girth. The range of stock was also enormously different, with over 250,000 bare-root trees, 150,000 roses and 750,000 bare-root shrubs, across a huge range of species. Much of the lifting, and certainly any root-balling of conifers or delicate species, was carried out by hand-digging.
Our amenity customers were primarily Local Authorities who often ran their own nurseries and bought large quantities of our plants for growing on or holding prior to planting in their cities or boroughs. Housing developments and new towns were growing rapidly. Landscape Architects, Contractors and other clients hardly ever visited the nurseries, stock being sold on competitive tender. Customer visits to our nurseries are now a daily event and a very welcome one.
By the 1990's the UK construction market had started to change radically, with more private money available for a broad range of prestige commercial development. It was rapidly clear that client expectation was growing and competition between developers was raising standards. The role and influence of the Landscape Architect was growing enormously. Ambitious designs for company headquarters, city centres and business parks demanded bigger and better trees and shrubs. Clients and designers wanted flexibility, reliability and the ability to plant at any time of the year. This meant that nursery stock, particularly shrubs, had to be grown in containers rather than lifted from the field.
Our customers required a more “finished” landscape, and we were quick to respond. Open-ground shrub production disappeared and container grown production took over; this demanded huge investment in, and development of, both facilities and staff skills.
However, perhaps the biggest challenge we faced was the demand for our trees. All of our customers now wanted bigger stock, and Local Authorities, tiring of endless vandalism, were planting fewer, but larger, trees. Landscape Architects were specifying larger trees to meet their clients’ expectations of a “mature” landscape, which would look impressive from day one.
For Hillier Nurseries, producing larger trees was something of a return to the past. During the Second World War, at the request of the Air Ministry, we had developed techniques for growing on, lifting and transplanting large trees to camouflage aircraft hangars. In post-war Britain, big trees were a Hillier Nurseries speciality. Exciting profile projects such as the 1951 Festival of Britain site on London’s South Bank required very large stock to give instant maturity.
We had to be confident and move with the demands of the market place in the post-war years. By the mid-1990's, confidence had grown in the building market. Hillier Nurseries tree production had risen to the challenge of growing top quality, semi-mature trees. This had required massive ongoing investment in land, manpower, expertise and plant stock.
It takes a long time to build up credible stock lines and, although European growers had a head-start on us, today Hillier Nurseries is among the best semi-mature tree grower in Europe. Our open-ground semi-mature tree unit, at Andler’s Ash near Liss, was opened in 1996 and offers trees for sale from 20-25cm girth up to super semi-mature 80cm+ girth. Happily for Hillier Nurseries, new clients and Landscape Architects, as well as our traditional Local Authority and Landscape Contractor customers, were quick to support us. Hillier Nurseries is now the biggest tree grower in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. In 2005 we won the Horticulture Week “Grower of the Year Award” for our achievements in growing semi-mature trees.
Andler’s Ash nursery covers over 500 acres and has over half a million open-ground trees in production at any one time, spanning 150 species. Our Container Tree Nursery produces 20,000 trees a year in containers up to 1,000 litres in volume. Some of our largest container stock was recently supplied to the new Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham.
New skills have been learnt, and new varieties selected to meet the demands of today’s marketplace. Machines have been designed to lift our huge trees effortlessly, a task that was once done by hand. Research and Development has resulted in outstanding success for our clients.
Landscape Collection Service
The last ten years have also seen massive growth in the popularity of our “Landscape Collection Service” department, based near Romsey. This offers a very flexible service to Landscape Contractors, Garden Designers, Developers and Local Authorities. Stock offered here includes bare-root trees in the winter and container tree stock from our container nursery all year round. Much of the stock available here will be “specimen” size, again meeting the demand for instant gardens or developments.
The past fifty years has been an interesting chapter in the Hillier Nurseries history. We thank our customers, who specify and purchase Hillier Nurseries amenity stock, and give feedback to help us develop for the future.
Hillier Nurseries Ltd full company history is available on our main website. Please click here.