Flora and fauna have always fascinated me but it was a lifelong career in horticulture that filled most days. Having grown up on a farm where boyhood days were filled with discoveries of the natural world I soon found that my passion for plants – wildflowers at that time – would direct my career…
Starting with glasshouse production I gained experience of both new methods and old. I left the all year round production of cut and pot chrysanthemum and traditional tomato growing to study.
My studies were at Cannington College * in Somerset and Pershore College in Worcestershire. At Pershore I joined the teaching staff and supported the fruit lecturer in delivery of practical skills of fruit production and propagation. I left Pershore with a Master of Horticulture qualification issued by the Royal Horticultural Society and the Ministry of Agriculture.
*I was later to become a governor of Cannington College and then chair its Corporation Governance Body guiding the college through a period of great change.
To get further experience after college I then moved to Schleswig Holstein north of Hamburg in Germany. There I worked in the hardy nursery stock sector producing pot grown hardy plants, field grown trees, seedlings, evergreens and shrubs. At the time container grown nursery stock production was in its infancy but I soon realised the huge potential that lay in this area.
Moving back to southern England in the early 1970s I joined Hillier Nurseries – the growers of the greatest range of hardy plants in the northern hemisphere! Setting up and expanding their container grown plant nursery occupied the next 9 years and although management responsibility for plant propagation was added to my portfolio I soon found that I yearned to spend less time in smoke filled meetings and more in touch with plants and nature!
Here I also had the good fortune to meet my wife Felicity who also worked for Hillier Nurseries but in their Winchester florist shop.
A 9 week Nuffield Farming Scholarship to USA and Canada in 1980 was the turning point in my career! I studied Production and Marketing of Container Grown Nursery Stock and visited 15 states and provinces.
In 1983 we bought Cleeve Nursery in a very dilapidated state and over the next 35 years built the business up to become the go-to place for plants in the Bristol area! Indeed because of the success of the business it became well known throughout the UK.
Felicity and I were frequent guest experts on Radio West and BBC Radio Bristol. However, a 6 year series of Garden Calendar filmed and presented by us for HTV from our private garden at Cleeve put both the village and Cleeve Nursery on the map. This highly successful series ended only when HTV was sold to another larger TV company and when we expanded back into nursery production with the acquisition of a small holding also in Cleeve.
Overseas travel has been a passion all my life. We have invariably had a big trip every other year and we hope that this will continue! Avoiding the more popular holiday destinations of the world we have sought out wilder areas to explore. Assam, Brazil, Botswana, Costa Rica, Lesotho, Namibia, Nepal, Rajasthan, Sikkim, South Africa and Zambia have all been memorable places visited and all have had strong wildlife themes. Some of my blogs have featured these trips in more detail.