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From Chelsea to Ellerslie

26 February 2013

From Chelsea to Ellerslie

Few people understand what it takes to succeed at the Ellerslie International Flower Show more than the show’s exhibition manager Kate Hillier.

Over the course of her impressive career in horticulture Kate Hillier has been both an award-winning exhibitor and a judge at Ellerslie, but many of the skills she brings to her job as exhibition manager have their roots in the childhood trips she took to the Chelsea Flower Show in England.

Kate Hillier’s great, great grandfather founded the Hillier chain of nurseries in United Kingdom and her family still hold the world record for the most gold medals ever won at Chelsea.

“That’s where my love comes from. I was dragged up to the garden shows from a very young age,” she recalls fondly.

The Chelsea Flower Show is still regarded as the best garden show in the world but Kate Hillier believes that Ellerslie is closing in on it and now ranks among the top five shows internationally.

“There are some very good shows around the world but the calibre of our exhibits is exceptional. The exhibitors at Ellerslie know Christchurch people are passionate about their gardens so they pull-out all the stops,” says Kate Hillier.

“The fact we’re now getting the calibre of people like Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Tom Harfleet coming from the other side of the world to exhibit at Ellerslie is really quite amazing and shows how well regarded the Show now is.”

In fact international interest in this year’s show has been so high that Kate Hillier has had to turn away international judges.

“People want to come over to experience and learn from Ellerslie," says Kate Hillier.

As exhibition manager Kate Hillier manages the horticultural content of the show and one of her key roles is to mentor the exhibitors. It is a job she is ideally suited for as not only has she won two golds, a silver and a bronze at Ellerslie in the past but she also judges garden shows around the world.

“It’s great fun. You’re holding people’s hands when they’re bawling their eyes out because they haven’t got what they wanted, but at the same time you’re there when they’re having all their joys as well and that’s wonderful."

Kate Hillier says there is a great spirit of co-operation among the exhibitors at Ellerslie.

“They will be working all hours and will be stressed to the max, but there’s a real lovely feel of camaraderie and support.’’


Follow Ellerslie International Flower Show on Facebook

• To book any of the Edible Ellerslie sessions go to

• Tickets for Ellerslie International Flower Show at a pre-gate price of $35 for Adult Anyday passes, are available from the website all open Christchurch City Council Service Centres, Mitre 10 Mega Stores in Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru, Terra Viva, EziBuy Christchurch and Nichols Garden Centres.


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