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Q&A, horticultural specialist Laura Willgoss, Wildegoose Nursery

Interview with Laura Willgoss, Wildegoose Nursery

Wisley-trained horticultural specialist Laura Willgoss established Wildegoose Nursery in 2011 with her husband Jack. Breathing new life into a neglected Shropshire walled garden Laura and Jack designed and created a beautiful space in which to share their expertise and showcase their extensive range of perennials, grasses and violas. Their hard work and dedication has paid off; Wildegoose Nursery has won multiple RHS medals and is listed in Gardens Illustrated Top 100 Specialist Nurseries.

RHS Gold Medalists at Malvern 2014 & 2015

RHS SilverGilt Medalist Chelsea 2015 & 2016

1. Please tell us how your connection/interest in violas came about.

We first came across perennial violas at Dove Cottage Nursery in Yorkshire. Its a wonderful nursery, but when we visited in Spring it was all fresh green shoots poking out of pots, apart from one table with an abundant display of flowering violas. We loved their jolly faces and array of colours and markings and these perennial types were definately a cut above the annual bedding violas from the garden centres. We bought a few and that is how the collection started. Then we started buying them from Bouts Cottage Nursery, ultimately buying the entire collection when the owners Mark and Stephanie Roberts retired in 2011.

2. What is the best way to show violas to their best? In pots/open ground/raised bed/windowsill?

Violas are very versatile and how to use them to best effect really depends on the particular habit of each named variety. Some are neat and compact like Viola ‘Delicia’ or Viola ‘Columbine and look wonderful planted in pots near the front door, or patio table where you can enjoy their beautiful scent. Other types like the Viola cornuta hybrids are much more spreading and vigorous in their habit and look wonderful underplanting roses or scrambling along the border front.

3. What is a perfect day in the garden for you?

A cool sunny day where I can thoroughly weed, deadhead and generally tittervate a border, even add in a few new plants. So often with a nursery you are madly running around propagating, potting on, restocking and serving customers and having time in the garden is really precious.

4. In what way is Wildegoose Nursery innovative?

Wildegoose is increasingly rare as specialist nurseries go, in that we still grow all our own plants from seeds, cuttings and divisions. This is surprisingly rare, as is the fact that coupled with our garden we intimately know the plants we sell, how they grow and perform and what they combine well with. While a lot of the industry moves towards buying it in from the wholesaler, we think maintaining the traditional skills of the nurseryman is really important. There are no air miles in our plants, we select good forms that are garden worthy and grow healthy organic stock from which we propagate. Our herbaceous perennials are grown in peat free, and recycled plastic pots, we grow organically and we are always looking to do more to be as sustainable as possible.

5. I want to grow an ‘unusual but easy’ perennial- what do you recommend?

Last year I was really taken with two hardy plants. The first is Lotus hirsutus which is something of a sub shrub. It has beautiful silver foliage, creates a low mound and is smothered in white flushed pink pea like flowers in Summer. I was expecting it to be tender but it is remarkably hardy. The other herbaceous perennial I was taken with last year and is tough and easy is the little known Campanula relative Symphyandra armena. A low sprawling plant for pots or border fronts with delicate hanging lilac purple bells in Summer. Both these plants are for sunny spots in the garden.

6. Which historic gardening figure has most influenced you?

I absolutely love the garden at Hadspen in Somerset when Sandra and Nori Pope gardened there. They selected and grew such fantastic plants and had such an artistic eye in the way they combined them. Also Christoper Lloyd - his writing is still so rich in information and acerbic wit and Dixter is a garden Jack and I visit regularly and we are both so fond of.

7. I have a friend who is a plant-a-holic, what could I buy them as a present?

A collection of perennial violas of course - like snowdrops and auriculas they are dangerously addictive!

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1 Comment

Kelly Degg
Kelly Degg
Jan 21, 2023

Lovely article- looking forward to visiting in June

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