Halls of Heddon - a growing family business in the North East
PUBLISHED: 14:26 24 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:17 05 April 2013
Dahlias and crysanthemums have been blooming marvellously at Heddon on the Wall for almost 100 years, as Linda Viney reports
When William Nicholson Hall began his nursery at Heddon in 1921 he would travel to market by horse and cart with cut flower spray chrysanthemums. Almost 100 years later, the business is in the hands of the third generation of the family and they now produce 160,000 plants a year which are sold all over the world.
Now run by David Hall and his cousin Maxine, Halls of Heddon still specialise in dahlias and chrysanthemums, and all their stock is grown in fields, one in Heddon on the Wall, just off the A69 near Newcastle, and the second five miles away at Ovington, where there are display borders of the herbaceous perennials they also grow.
Davids uncle began a breeding program but he died in the Second World War and they now they tend to use amateur breeders who have more available time. Some varieties arent necessarily planned but can come out of crosses. From seedling to marketing can take from three to five years as stock is built up. They have 500 varieties and trial about 60 to 70 every year, some will come from overseas and it is rumoured that a blue one has been bred in Japan.
In every country the National Dahlia Society will have a different classification according to the likes of that nation. Some are preferred by the general public others by the exhibitors, that is the beauty of dahlias there is something for everyone and what better plant for later colour with a huge range of styles you cannot go wrong.
We start taking cuttings of dahlias from mid-February to May but chrysanthemums from late December as they are more complicated, said David, who now has 11 staff and takes on seasonal staff as required.
The other important benefit from open centered varieties of both dahlias and chrysanthemums is the late pollination up to October for bees and butterflies, the former which is in decline at the moment. Some of our regular visitors to see the spectacular fields from August through to mid-October will bring friends just for the butterflies and bees.
Last year was one of the wettest they have had in fact Davids father Stan who is now 89 cannot remember a wetter one and they lost nearly 500 plants for while the plants like wet, they hate to be water-logged.
For many years Halls have grown bedding plants, perennials and vegetables and in more recent times they have added Alpines to their range and they now have more than 80 varieties.
Their trade displays have been awarded many Gold Medals since Davids grandfather first started exhibiting in 1933 Their 90th year was celebrated by winning a Gold Medal and Best Trade Stand at Gateshead Flower Show and a Premier at Harrogate, even in the difficult season last year when they only just had enough blooms to cut for staging they still managed a Gold Medal.
David met his wife Suzanne at college in Chelmsford, and although she married into dahlias and chrysanthemums she had neither in her wedding bouquet, but as a token a friend created a willow sculpture of a water-lily dahlia for the car.
* David also gives illustrated talks and the nursery is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. To find out more go online to www.hallsofheddon.co.uk