Nursery & Garden
Situated on the lower slopes of the Malvern Hills Old Court Nurseries & The Picton Garden covers 2 acres on the edge of the village of Colwall. The nursery was established in 1906 by Michaelmas daisy breeder Ernest Ballard to start commercially producing his plants. Over the decades he raised many award-winning cultivars including the well-known ‘Marie Ballard’.
In 1947 he was joined by the first of the Picton family, the great plantsman Percy Picton, who came to manage the nursery. At this stage all the asters were grown open ground.
In 1952, soon after Ernest Ballard had died, Percy bought the business and in 1959 was joined by his son Paul. Unfortunately, during the 1970’s asters stopped being so popular and gradually the stock of daisies was reduced, and part of the nursery became a garden of stock beds.
In the early 1980’s Paul met and married Meriel and together began to restore and enlarge the collection of Asters. Before long this was recognised by NCCGP (now Plant Heritage). During this time Paul began to enlarge the stock garden in the southern 1 acre of the site to display the increasing numbers of Asters. After Percy’s death this garden was named the Picton Garden in his memory and coincided with the Wyche and Colwall Horticultural Society founding the Percy Picton Memorial Fund. The latter raises money for students of Horticulture from the HR, WR and GL postcode areas. Since then the garden has been featured on several TV programmes including BBC Gardener’s World and regularly in magazines and newspapers.
More recently Helen, Paul and Meriel’s daughter and the third generation of Picton’s, along with her husband Ross Barbour have taken over the nursery and garden. Helen and Ross are now the curators for the Plant Heritage National Collection of autumn flowering asters and related genera with more than 430 varieties. They continue to take the garden forward, expanding the seasons of interest and pushing the boundaries of this little 1.5-acre garden, using lots of winding paths to create the illusion of size. There is an evolving woodland area, thanks to Pauls brilliant tree choice, where a great range of unusual plants can be found including a large part of the 300+ varieties of Snowdrop and over 100 different ferns. There is always something of interest, but the early Spring is when all the little treasures really shine. Beyond the wooded area herbaceous thrives interspersed with mixed bulbs for early season but, its true peak comes August through to late October.
The extended range of plants we now grow in the garden means we are now able to offer a greater range in the nursery including snowdrops and succulents. More than 90% of what we offer for sale is propagated on site by us. We also offer a mail order service if you can’t visit. For the asters these are only sent out in May, but early ordering is advised as many are propagated to order. The snowdrops are available to order from January and are sent in the green during February. Succulents are sent out throughout the year.
Please see the page footer for general opening times and the events page for extra openings. See visit us for directions and extra details.
Garden admission is £4.00, and children are free. There is no charge for the nursery. We are also an RHS Partner Garden so there is free entry RHS members. Dogs are not allowed in the garden.
We are more than happy to welcome groups, but they must pre-book, please get in touch for more details.
Ross Barbour and Helen Picton both lecture on a variety of subjects for groups and societies please enquire for a current list of topics and prices.
A few highlights
Peak flowering for Michaelmas daisies is between 22nd September and 10th October. Click the images below to enlarge.