Situated in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, the Old Court Nurseries and Picton Garden are a family-run treasure that have evolved over three generations. Established in 1906 by Ernest Ballard, an early breeder of Asters, the garden was taken over by Percy Picton in 1947 who managed the garden for nearly ten years before taking ownership. The garden is now run by Helen Picton and husband Ross Barbour, the former Head Gardener at Ragley Hall.
A partnership garden with the RHS, the 1.5 acre gardens are open for the princely sum of £3.50 where the visitor can enjoy viewing many of the plants on sale in their natural surroundings. Famed since the 1980s for being home to the National Collection of Asters, the pretty garden is much more than just Michaelmas daisies.
On arrival, the first thing you notice is the abundant display of pots – crammed together with salvias, pelargoniums and grasses mixed in with annuals and succulents of all shapes and sizes. Entrance to the garden is through a charming wooden gate featuring a carved wooden aster. A gravelled path winds through Japanese maples and pine trees underplanted with late-summer crocosmia, anenomes and heleniums which provide splashes of colour amongst the green foliage. Bamboos tower overhead and butterflies and insects flit from flower to flower.
Onward through the garden, the path divides and splits at the centre where a copper beech hedge encircles towering displays of asters punctuated by the occasional sculpture. Here, Stipa gigantea, Japanese anenomes, Verbena bonariensis and crocosmias add texture and depth to the planting.
To the rear of the garden, a shady area is revealed beneath the tree canopy. Ferns of all shapes and sizes grow in abundance along with ornamental grasses and hydrangeas. In one corner, a bug hotel made from bricks, terracotta pots and logs sits beneath a huge oak tree.
The path winds back towards the nursery area which of course contains innumerable asters set amid the backdrop of a very quaint blue painted shed and antique greenhouse which houses a glorious selection of succulents.
The nursery isn’t just about the asters, though, and boasts an enormous array of other plants for sale including perennials, grasses and small trees. Visitors will definitely not go home empty handed!
I visited this garden last year and can honestly say it is even better this year. The garden is an absolute testament to the passion shown by Ross and Helen and their commitment to their trade.