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Master Grower: Hoyland Plant Centre

Celebrating the skill, knowledge and growing methods of specialist nurseries who produce picture-perfect plants

Agapanthus 'Moonlight Star'

For more than 30 years, the Hickman family (Steven, Elaine and Colin) have been growing plants and today they are famous for their extensive collections of Agapanthus and Tulbaghia.

Originally the nursery grew a range of trees and shrubs in South Yorkshire to supply their landscape business - but over time they have immersed themselves in their love of plants from South Africa and focused their attentions on exhibiting at flower shows.

A new polytunnel has recently been erected on the 1.1ha (2.5acre) site, adding to the six already in position alongside two glasshouses. Two large raised beds at the entrance of the nursery are home to a range of hardy agapanthus which serves to inspire visitors and help them with plant selection.

Ian's son Colin who has been working full time on the nursery for three years said:

'If people can see which ones grow well in the Pennines then they will know they can grow them too.'


Video interview - good plants for a changing climate


Hoyland Plant Centre has been exhibiting at RHS Shows for more than a decade after cutting its teeth at local events such as Southport and Shrewsbury flower shows. It has now been awarded a string of Gold medals which is a testament to its range of quality plants.

Today agapanthus is a key plant for the business and around 200 cultivars are grown. The family holds a National Plant Collection of agapanthus and breed its own cultivars to expand the choice and range available to gardeners, particularly hardy and variegated forms. Recent introductions include Agapanthus 'Margaret' and Agapanthus 'Hoyland Blue'.

A National Plant Collection of Tulbaghia is also maintained with around 150 cultivars listed. The family enjoys hybridising and experimenting with these too, and the white-flowered Tulbaghia 'Scented Beauty' with blooms smelling similar to jasmine was introduced last year.

To extend seasonal interest at the nursery, nerines (which tend to lose their leaves before they flower) and plants of the new group of amarines (which hold their leaves throughout) are now also grown at the nursery. Colin said an impressive display can be achieved in the garden in autumn by growing nerines and amarines together - with the shorter nerines to the front. As well as these Colin also grows Dierama and Steven a selection of Clivia.

Although Clivia miniata comes with blooms of red, yellow and orange, it is only the orange forms that are regularly seen. Steven is now hybridising them to see if he can increase the range available. Suitable for darker areas, they will grow in shade, which is why they make a good houseplant.

'I know they may appear to be a bit old fashioned,' said Colin, 'but Clivias are really useful plants and flower naturally in spring.'

Hoyland was a perfect choice for Master Grower at the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show and its stand displayed information boards about plant propagation, photographs of the nursery and displays of all the plant groups it grows. This included massive seed heads of Brunsvigia grandiflora and other unusual South African plants which provided enjoyment and fascination for the show's many visitors.

All the family members are passionate about growing plants and with the next generation now on board they will hopefully continue to be familiar faces at our flower shows for many years to come. 

What is the RHS Master Grower?

This new RHS initiative celebrates the growing methods of specialist nurseries and acknowledges sound, skilful production among the teams who produce picture-perfect plants and amazing displays at our flower shows.

For 2017 we selected five leading nurseries to feature in the scheme, and at each of our major shows we tell the story of one of our Master Growers – explaining their journey to the show through the highs and lows of breeding and producing plants. Visitors will get a behind-the-scenes view of the nursery and be introduced to the dedicated people who make the business possible.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.