Leaving a 20 year corporate career behind, Nikki Hollier has started her new venture into garden design with a fantastic success – her first ever show garden “Hidden Gems of Worcestershire” not only won a silver medal at the RHS Malvern spring festival, it was also presented with the people’s choice award. We catch up with Nikki a week after the event to talk about her experience and what she’s got planned for the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I was working in IT for twenty years and I needed to do something more creative – I love putting colours together and so re-trained as a garden designer. Firstly I studied at Pershore Horticultural College, completing RHS Level 2 part time whilst I was still working, and then an intensive design course at the Cotswold Gardening School which finished in November 2015. I submitted my designs to the RHS in December and was accepted in February. I have also created a product called ‘Border in a Box’; out-of-the-box designs to help garden-phobes create their own gorgeous garden which are beautifully packaged and make great gifts. I also write the gardening section for the Pershore Times, so it has been a very busy first year for my new business
How has your life changed since you moved from a corporate lifestyle to garden design?
Immensely! There is a saying that if you love what you do, then you’ll never work another day in your life! It is so true – I absolutely love what I do; it is very challenging and equally rewarding.
How has your first experience designing a show garden been – is there anything you would do differently next time?
It has been the most amazing project I have ever done – I have loved every day, even when I’m covered in mud and it’s freezing cold! The weather was always a talking point as we had snow, hail storms, thunder storms and rain of biblical proportions and then the sun shone for the event which made all the plants grow! You couldn’t plan around it – you just had to work with whatever happened on the day, which isn’t easy if you’re building a wall, laying paving or rendering!
Where do you get your inspiration for your gardens? Are there any designers you particularly like?
Inspiration comes from everywhere – the show garden was all about Worcestershire, so the design came from all aspects of the county, such as the black and white colour scheme that was inspired by the Berrows Newspaper, which is the world’s oldest newspaper that is still in production. The circular seating was made from moulded fibreglass, which made me think of the Morgan cars that are designed and built at Malvern. The Digby Stone slate paving was used to depict the concentric circles of a telescope that was used by QinetiQ at Malvern to track ballistic missiles and earth satellites.
There are many designers and styles that I love such as Piet Oudolf who created the High Line – which is an amazing transformation of a disused railway line in the States into a thing of beauty. It is stunning!
Do you have any tips for aspiring garden designers?
If you love designing, then you will find a way of turning your passion into a career. I accepted every opportunity that came my way from helping out on a show garden at Hampton Court for a day last year, to attending a talk by Andy McIndoe (who has 25 gold medals from Chelsea Flower Show). Never stop learning and working hard!
What’s next for you in your career – are there any more shows you’re looking to take part in?
I have been approached to create a garden for another amazing show, but it is too early to say what or when, but it sounds very exciting! I’m also creating a version of my award winning show garden for Border in a Box to enable people to recreate the garden in their own home. I’m also working on designs for people I met at the RHS Malvern show which will keep me busy for a while, but please follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the projects I’m working on and a few top-tips thrown in for good measure!