Master Grower 2024: Grafton Nursery

Grafton Nursery

The RHS Master Grower scheme, celebrates the very best in specialist nurseries the country has to offer. At RHS Malvern Spring this year Grafton Nurseries in Worcester will bear the Master Grower title on their special display at the festival.

The family-run growers specialise in hardy eucalyptus and it’s their mission to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions of the most versitile of plants.
“People need to give eucalyptus a go because they are fascinating to grow. They just need a little bit of understanding.” says Hilary Collins who, along with partner Stephen, has been running Grafton Nurseries since 2008.

Master Grower: Grafton Nursery

“They don’t like being ignored,” says Hilary. “They’re really like racehorses: you need to feed them well, treat them well, look after them, stable them well, and they will reward you. But if you ignore them, then they will become badly behaved.”

Grafton Nursery

Why grow Hardy Eucalyptus

  • Hardy EucalyptusThey support bees and pollinating insects
  • They can be grown for firewood production
  • They’re great for drying up boggy ground
  • They make excellent cut-foliage for flower arranging
“There isn’t a day that goes by when you are not touched by Eucalyptus. If you use copier paper, newspaper loo roll, kitchen roll, cleaning products, perfumery or cosmetics.”

- Hilary Collins, Grafton Nursery 

How to grow Eucalyptus

Growing containersThe growers at Grafton recommend using Air-pot containers, made from recycled shampoo bottle tops, which allow plants to produce a radial root system. If they are to be grown in containers, then put them into a larger pot. As well as looking attractive, the bigger pot will add weight to stop it blowing over and cuts down on the water loss.
“If you are growing in a container, they need watering every day in the summer, three times a week in the spring and the autumn and at least once a week in the winter. In the ground they should only be watered for the first two years. Getting them established is crucially important in the first year and then they shouldn’t need watering thereafter.”

“When you plant it, we say don’t dig a bomb crater, dig a mineshaft. Fill that mineshaft with good quality loamy soil mixed with 20% sharp sand. When you water, that water runs down through the sand and it drags the roots with it. That’s how you get a two-foot deep root system. It will go out sideways in the fullness of time when it’s ready.”

Hardy Eucalyptus
Master Growers champion sustainable practices and Grafton is no exception. As well as using Air-pots, they have been peat-free for over 12 years and use as much collected rainwater as possible. The nursery’s hardy eucalyptus are also the ideal climate change-proof plant.

Recommended varieties

Though Hilary claims choosing between her plants is like ‘picking a favourite child’, we persuaded her to recommend some eucalyptus to try.

Eucalyptus gunnii France Bleu

Eucalyptus gunnii France Bleu
The underskirts of the plant are an icy silvery-blue colour, with rose-pink to violet new stems and shiny-white haze of new growth.

Eucalyptus neglectaEucalyptus neglecta
So-called because the botanist forgot to name it. A fast-growing dwarf, which is very rare, neglecta has tea plate sized juvenile leaves, progressing to something like a huge bayleaf.

Eucalyptus michaelianaEucalyptus michaeliana
A weeping habit, the flowers are like little stars. The bark has a slight silvery-metallic sheen. The leaves are soft sage green, and smell fabulous. 

Eucalyptus dalrympleanaEucalyptus dalrympleana
This grows very tall, very fast and has very huggable trunks. It’s good for firewood, and it’s a fighter.

Inside the Floral Marquee

Grafton Nursery
Find Grafton Nursery inside the Floral Marquee at RHS Malvern Spring Festival (9 – 12 May 2024).

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