As headline partner at the new BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair, held at Beaulieu in Hampshire between 28th to 30th May 2021, we have created a stunning four-part garden display to inspire visitors in their own gardens. The design for the Hillier Experience is based on the distinct moods and symbolic colour palettes experienced throughout a day in the garden; from the buzz of activity in the morning to the dark wild of night. 

Here, we take a detailed look at the thought behind the design and offer advice on achieving any of the four areas in your own garden. 

Colour Creativity

As a brand-new show, and an entirely new outdoor area to design within, BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase creative garden ideas with minimal limitations.

To turn the display space into an ‘experience’, we chose to create four distinct areas of planting, giving greater opportunity to inspire visitors looking for ideas for their own gardens. 

The concept of a ‘dusk to dawn’ garden developed organically in line with these four areas; planting displays to represent morning, afternoon, evening and night-time. As we closely monitored the progress of the plants growing on our nurseries in Hampshire, each area evolved, the themes started to knit and combinations developed that included not only plant selections, but additions of pots, aggregates and accessories. 

This dusk to dawn design is very much about taking the creative essence of each time of day. Practically, of course, you wouldn’t change your garden and plants as the day progresses. But, each area offers a colour palette and conjures up a particular mood associated with that time of day, allowing visitors to instinctively feel which area most speaks to them. 

While this approach still leaves plenty of opportunity for practical discussion – still ensuring the right plant for the right place – it allows the emotion of the garden to come to the fore. 

The Morning Garden

The morning garden is the ‘working’ area, charged with the energy of a new day – and a recently drunk cup of coffee – as the sun sweeps across the sky and the birds and plants spring into life. This is the time of day when you might purposefully tour your garden before embarking on some vigorous gardening activities. 

This space is filled with bright, clean colours – vivid greens, yellows and whites to awaken the senses. Colour comes equally from foliage as flower, like the bright green leaves of cornus, choisya and acer. A productive area, it also contains the beautiful scent of herbs and vegetable plants including tomatoes, peppers and beans. A gravelstone pathway leads through the garden and helpful garden implements can be found, signifying an intention to work. 

Key Plants 

  • Eryngium x zabelii ‘Blue Waves’
  • Digitalis
  • Viburnum 
  • Verbascum

Inspired Quotes

“My favourite time in the garden is early morning with a cuppa watching the sun come up, waft of honeysuckle behind me and my garden looking so fresh waiting for the day ahead” – customer comment, social media

“My favourite time of day in the garden is first thing. Breakfast and a mug of tea in the sunny part of the garden while listening and watching the birds, watching the bee’s come and go, watching the squirrels and enjoying the colours in the garden. Then pottering in the garden and greenhouse, seeing what has changed from the previous day and what jobs need to be done.” – customer comment, social media

The Afternoon Garden

The mood changes completely as you walk to the next area, the afternoon garden. Following a productive morning, this space is inspired by leisure, calm and relaxation. It brings home memories of days whiled away in the sunshine. 

The colour palette here is dominated by pastel tones – soft pinks, lavenders, purples, white and silver. Cottage garden style plants rub shoulders with each other – aquilegia, lavender, lupins and digitalis. Pretty pale coloured pots complement the planting. Informal ground level seating – a rug, set with a pot of tea – signifies an intention to stop, enjoy the garden and listen to the sounds of the birds. A sunhat and a copy of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine complete the sense of putting your feet up. 

Key Plants

  • Cornus 
  • Viburnum
  • Hydrangea
  • Lavender
  • Lupinus

Inspired Quotes

“My favourite time in the garden is The afternoon when I’ve got time to sit, relax and enjoy my surroundings.” – customer comment, social media

The Evening Garden

The inspiration for the evening garden is a more romantic mood – celebrating the end of a good day, enjoying a glass of wine on a tea for two table with candles.

Planting is predominantly in shades of orange and deep red, from acers to our new plant introduction, Cercis x canadensis ‘Eternal Flame.’ These tones pick up the rich colours of sunset, with twinkling lights and the scents of the evening garden drifting across the display. Rusty, earthy pots complement the colour palette of the plants.

Key Plants

  • Acer
  • Polemonium
  • Geum
  • Cercis x canadensis ‘Eternal Flame’

Inspired Quotes

“My favourite time of day in the garden is late evening, sunset, listening to the birds singing, and just admiring the plants…with a glass of wine!” – customer comment, social media

“My favourite time of day in the garden is when the evening sun catches a part of the garden in summer, you can dine out and take in the scent of honeysuckle or jasmine.” – customer comment, social media

The Night Garden

The night garden is one that more often belongs to our wildlife than to us. Hedgehogs, owls and other creatures busy themselves by the moonlight.

When the heat of the day has subsided, and all is peaceful the planting reflects the mood, making use of rich, dark planting. Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ with its large, soft downy silver leaves grows next to the dark leaves of the heucheras and Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ pushes through its cloudy white cow parsley flowers. Night lights twinkle and highlight the shadows made by the delicate leaves of acers. Striking dark pots and a wildlife path complete this final area of the garden which is free-flowing and, like its occupants, a little wild.

Key Plants 

  • Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’
  • Lysimachia
  • Sambucus
  • Cotinus

Inspired Quotes

“My favourite time in the garden is at dusk when everything is quiet and still and the beautiful flower scents are more noticeable. It’s so peaceful and calming!” – customer comment, social media

Creating a Thread

The Hillier Experience has distinct planting areas, but the design is brought together in a number of ways. 

At the centre sits a pergola, with shrubs softly undulating at its corners. Certain plants also make extremely valuable ‘mixers’, able to unite different areas of a garden. Blue plants are fantastically valuable for this, able to blend into almost any colour scheme. Blue plants are used as a common thread throughout each area of the garden. Some plants can also be found in every area, such as digitalis.

Tips for the Home Garden 

Along with inspiration for colour palettes, there are plenty of additional tips for visitors to The Hillier Experience to take away for their own gardens:

  • Remain conscious of the layout of your garden when positioning plants. If you are drawn to hostas in the morning garden section, it’s still essential they are planted in a shady spot in your home garden to thrive. Right plant, right place remains one of the most important gardening mantras for success! 
  • A ‘random’ garden is one of the most frequently heard complaints people make about their own planting! While the reality is we all tend to buy things we like, which can create a bit of randomness, putting in place a colour theme and sticking to it as much as possible can alleviate some of that sense of random planting
  • One of the first elements when starting a colour scheme is actually the coloured foliage plants. If you want to recreate the brightness of the ‘morning’ theme, first position your bright foliage plants – choisya, acer, cotinus – then after those introduce the rest 
  • A tightly packed planting style, as used for The Hillier Experience, really creates a sense that the garden is overflowing

With Thanks to Supporters of the Hillier Experience …