A potted history of Hedgehog Plants
We didn’t start out in horticulture. In fact, we (Simon & Jay) both spent many years in all sorts of jobs. Everything from working in a laboratory to selling houses (badly!) to running a packhouse on a farm. Eventually though, our passion for plants and the call of the great outdoors became too loud and we both decided that quality of life was far more important than a regular wage. (Feel free to laugh at our innocence)
So, with that in mind, in 2003 we both gave up our jobs and became “Hedgehog Gardens”, a gardening service in and around Hopton, Suffolk. We built a steady client base and gained a good reputation.
A change of direction
In 2007 a local hard landscaping centre offered us the chance to run their very small plant section and we jumped at the chance, becoming “Hedgehog Plants & Gardens” in the process.
Initially Jay ran the plant section having grown plants since she was ‘knee high to a gnat’ whilst Simon continued with the gardening side of the business. However, we both quickly decided that simply buying in the same old plants that you see everywhere and selling them on wasn’t for us.
Slowly but surely we began growing other, more interesting hardy plants and introduced them to our customers. This went well and in 2008 we did our first ever plant fair at Wyken Vineyards in aid of SWWAG – Stanton Woodland & Wildlife Action Group. A fair we attended for many years.
Firm supporters of British horticulture, we started, together with our friends at Fuller’s Mill Gardens, the Suffolk Nurseries Plant Fair which was held each July at Fuller’s Mill. The idea behind the fair was to make people more aware of both these beautiful gardens & of some of the fantastic independent nurseries we have in Suffolk. Sadly, due to parking restrictions, the fair has now been discontinued
The show bug bites!
In 2012 we did our first ever display in a horticultural marquee and wow, what a learning curve that was!
But in 2013 we bounced back and were awarded a large gold medal at the Sandringham Flower Show. All the while this was going on, Jay was developing her passion for shade plants and Simon, his for Viburnums & Cornus.
The plant area continued to thrive but the lack of space was becoming a serious issue and so the hunt for an affordable plot of land began.
Eventually in early 2015 we found a small garden centre for sale in Risby and, with a lot of help from our families, it became ours on November 1st 2015 and Simon was finally able to give up gardening and join Jay full time.
Though still not huge, the extra space and man-power has allowed us to rapidly expand our range of plants and, hopefully, the ongoing renovations, re-organisations & our eldest son joining us part time will allow us to add even more!
2017 was a huge year for us, not only were we accepted into Gardener’s World Live for the first time but one of our heroes, the great Roy Lancaster CBE came to visit us in preparation for an article in the RHS Garden magazine (published in the August 2018 edition, please see link below). Also, the RHS accepted us and in 2018 we did our first ever RHS display at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show no less!
The BBC come calling
In March of 2019 we received a call which neither of us expected – it was from the BBC, they wanted to come to the nursery and film us in preparation for our first ever RHS Malvern show. Not quite believing it was real we, of course, said yes and then sat back and waited for someone to say ‘April Fools’. However, on April 10th a small film crew duly appeared at the gates to the nursery and proceeded to film our every move, both at the nursery and at Fullers Mill Gardens, for the next 10 hours.
Luckily, our crew were both patient and good humoured and we all survived the experience. The results were aired during the Gardener’s World Malvern special on Friday 10th May and the response was truly phenomenal!
Just like everyone else, our 2020 took a decidedly dark turn when Covid struck. It was a very strange feeling driving to the nursery each day and not seeing any other cars. Although we were allowed to open for some of the later lockdowns, the fear for both our customers and ourselves was always there.
Ironically, that first covid spring was perfect growing weather and our plants had never looked so good! This led to the beginnings of the semblance of a plan for post covid (albeit we didn’t know when that would be)
In the summer of 2022 (after a-lot of badgering from Jay) Simon eventually agreed that our covid plan might just be possible and so we contacted the RHS to discuss the plan. They agreed it would be both possible and very desirable and so, in August, we submitted our application for RHS Chelsea 2023 for a display of purely epimediums.
Once we had been accepted into Chelsea the nerves began to kick in – what if it was a hot spring? What if there was a storm that damaged our epimediums? Would we be able to cope with the long show days and who would look after the nursery?
With this in mind we sent out a cry for help to all of our horti friends and they didn’t let us down, we had willing volunteers for several hours every day of the show and boy did we need them!
About 2 months before our debut, Jay set to work with a pair of Disney Princess tweezers and began the massive task of making sure every epimedium was absolutely spotless and show ready. Every time one came into flower it was crossed off the Chelsea list and our hearts sank just a little.
However, thanks to the cold spring weather, we were able to display 30 of our specimen epimediums, for which, we were awarded a silver gilt medal (only missing the gold by 1 point) and we got to meet some amazing people.
All of this has only been possible thanks to the continued support of our friends, family & customers. When a car crashed into the nursery in July 2016 we had so many messages of support and offers of help from both fellow nurserymen, the other businesses on site and villagers it was quite over whelming. Thank you to all
Here’s to warm days and rainy nights!
Simon & Jay