I hope you had a lovely weekend. I’m delighted to start off the week by featuring an interview with nursery grower Claire Austin.
When did you start your business?
The business as it is now – Claire Austin Hardy Plants – started in 1999 as a breakaway part of David Austin Roses, where I had been running the Hardy Plant side since 1984.
I studied illustration at college, but growing up in a family of plantsmen (my aunt was running a successful nursery, and my father was busily creating his English roses), I always loved plants and especially herbaceous perennials.
I also developed a particular love for big blousy, glamorous peonies and opulent bearded irises, and gathered ever more varieties until I ended up being home to the National Collections!
Where are you based?
I have just relocated the nursery from Shropshire into the Welsh Borders, to a place called Sarn near Montgomery, which is a most wonderful part of the world.
It is off the beaten track amongst the most glorious, unspoilt rolling countryside, and we really love it here.
We have converted a large barn into our packing sheds and offices, and have planted up the iris and peony fields ready for their first flowering season.
Could you tell us about the different types of plants that you grow?
I specialise in growing hardy perennial plants. These are the mainstay of beautiful summer borders, the non-woody plants that die right back in autumn and emerge again in spring. Some herbaceous perennials are evergreen – but not many.
We stock nearly 350 different varieties from achilleas and astrantias to geraniums and heucheras, lupins and poppies, veronica and verbascums and plenty in between!
We also grow over 500 different irises and more than 200 different peonies in our fields.
Most of our perennials are grown in 9cm and 2lt pots, while the peonies and irises are grown in our fields, and sent out to customers as bare rooted plants in autumn and spring.
Could you tell us about your Border Collections & Colour Collections?
With so many perennials to choose from, selecting the right ones can be a little daunting, so the collections of border plants we put together are very popular.
These are my personal recommendations of beautiful, reliable hardy perennials that work well in combination for specific purposes. There are collections for All Season, Butterfly, Cottage Garden, Shady, Short and Spring.
For those looking for a specific colour palette, we have created three beautiful textured Colour Collections: Softly Coloured, White Border for the purists, and Bright & Breezy for an exciting fusion of vivid shades.
Are the public able to visit your nursery?
The new nursery is in a place where we cannot have everyday visitors, unfortunately.
However, we are opening the field of irises and peonies on June 2nd this year for one day only, between 10am and 4pm, and everyone is welcome!
It is a wonderful chance not only to get to see our National Collection of Bearded Irises & Hybrid Peonies, but to visit one of most beautiful parts of Britain.
What is your favourite flower?
Now you are asking! I love so many plants I really could not name one or even ten. I can say that there is not a plant we grow and sell that I do not love.
P.S. Do take a look at Claire’s team…of the fluffy and furry variety.
(Images : Claire Austin)