Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden

Old Court Nurseries


Old Court NurseriesWelcome to Old Court nurseries the birthplace of the modern Asters hybridised by Ernest Ballard in the early years of the twentieth century. We have been specialist growers of these wonderful autumn flowers since 1906 and are continuing to expand the range available for purchase. We are a third generation family run business and offer a friendly personal service.


Plants are available by mail order each spring, please see the online catalogue for more details, or can be purchased from the nursery in Colwall. You can also request a printed copy of the brochure or a list of items via email by contacting us.


Opening Times 2019

May – 31st July -  Wednesday to Saturday 2pm-5pm (and by appointment)
August - Wednesday to Sunday 11am – 5pm (also open Bank holiday Monday)
1st September – 20th October Everyday 11am-5pm


Please see The Picton Garden page for special open days including early season.


Entry to the garden is £3.50 per person, Children under 18 are FREE.
There is no charge for admission to the nursery.


We are an RHS Partner garden so offer free entry to RHS members, with joint members it is the main member only (the one with the asterisk *  on the back of the membership card).


Please note dogs are not allowed in the garden, and that while dogs are allowed on short leads in the nursery we do ask that you are aware of other visitors as the paths are fairly narrow.


Percy Picton & Ernest Ballard 1950Brief history

Old Court Nurseries were established by Ernest Ballard in 1906. Ballard was one of the first growers to specialise in breeding Asters and he devoted over 50 years to the development of his new race of garden flowers. The Herefordshire village of Colwall became the international home for the popular Michaelmas Daisy. Several fields glowed with colour each autumn when thousands of plants came into flower.


Such was the popularity of Asters during the first 60 years of the 20th century that many other English nurseries grew Michaelmas daisies and some raised new varieties, most of which were based on those raised by Ernest Ballard.


For decades Michaelmas Daisy borders were prominent features in large gardens and the plants were also popular as cut flowers. Autumn flower shows featured displays and those at London shows of the Royal Horticultural Society were always notable.


Percy Picton continued Ernest Ballard’s work after he came to manage Old Court Nurseries in 1947. Ernest Ballard died in 1952 and Percy bought the business from the Ballard family in 1956. His son, Paul, joined him in the 1960’s. Paul and his wife Meriel formed the NCCPG National Collection of Autumn Flowering Asters in the 1980’s. At the same time the Picton Garden was much expanded to display nearly 400 varieties of Asters. Since gaining a first class degree in Botany at the University of Reading Helen has been back at the nursery, she has now been joined by her husband Ross Barbour and together they are helping to look after what is probably the largest selection of Michaelmas Daisies in the world.


What else is available?

Along side the autumn flowering asters there is a wide range of other autumn flowering perennials including Eupatorium atropurpreum, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Polygonum scoparium and Sanguisorba canadensis. Other specialities include Dactylorhiza foliosa and a range of the beautiful Japanese hybrids of the autumn flowering Saxifraga fortunei.


Over the last three years we have been rebuilding our collection of Alpines, many of which are now on display in the rejuvenated rockery in the car park, and the undercover rockery. Both these projects are still works in progress with much been done over the 2012 - 2013 winter.'




We are offering a range of short courses from a whole day exploring autumn borders to a half day working with succulents please click here for more information.