Tony Blake moved to Hereford with his family, from London in 1978. He had been working in the Horticulture industry throughout his career and at that time was working for a well-known production nursery in Hereford. Tony always dreamed of running his own business…
In 1982, Tony's wife, Janet, spotted a piece of land in Worcester, Pear Tree Farm, which was going to auction, and it looked the ideal spot to set up his own production nursery. The site, where the Garden Centre now sits, was a disused Pig Farm. It had been left for many years unused and therefore was badly overgrown and in desperate need of some TLC. Tony was successful in winning the bid and so embarked on the mission of making the land usable. There were a few old buildings, including the weaning shed where The Potting Shed Restaurant now sits.
Offices for the Nursery being built. Interestingly, the Gentleman who built these, Brian Game, was a good friend of the Blake family. His two daughters, Sarah and Jane later work in the Garden Centre as managers. Sarah returned to work for the business again in 2013 as a Sales Assistant in the Foodhall, after a 14 year break at Tesco’s. Sarah’s two children, James & Olivia also work in the Garden Centre as Sales Assistants. So, that’s 3 generations of the same family involved from the day it started, to present day.
1982 – 1983
1982 – 1983
Inside the weaning shed – Tony’s 3 kids thought it was great… hay bales, & old discarded cars kept them entertained for hours. The young lad at the front of the shot is our very own William Blake, who now runs the garden centre. This shed was the potting shed for the production Nursery. Plugs (young plants) would be bought in, in their 1000s and potted on before being stood down for the growing season.
The Nursery Opened. It was a production nursery, growing in-bulk, and supplying plants trade only, to landscapers, developers & councils throughout the UK. It was a small team, with approx 20 employees, and very seasonal due to the nature of the product.
One of the first major pieces of work at the site was to create a reservoir to allow watering of the plants. This photo shows the JCB which dug the reservoir, and again if you look closely, you can spot William Blake, in ore of the big digger!
Although the Nursery was doing well and growing in size, there was spare land available. The obvious choice was to build a Garden Centre to take advantage of stock being produced on the Nursery. At that time there was very little else in the area. ‘St. Peters’ was only just being built, & there was no ring road. To travel to the centre you came up the Bath Road travelling out of the City, and turned left in Norton Road. This would eventually bring you to the Garden Centre. It wasn’t long though before St Peters was completed, Tesco’s moved in & a ring road joined the Garden Centre up to a much wider area.
In addition to the Nursery, we also rented part of the Norton Barracks (the home to the Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters Regiments 1877 – 1977).
Unfortunately the recession was very hard on the Nursery industry. Many developments ground to a halt, and therefore there simply wasn’t the demand for plants & therefore the Nursery closed up. Fortunately the Garden Centre survived the recession and continued to trade from the site. After the recession the Garden Centre benefitted from developments in the local area, and it soon begun to flourish.
The first of the major developments was completed. It more than doubled the internal space, and significantly modernised the outdoor space. The car park was switched from one side of the building to the other, which gave far better capacity. Significantly, and deliberately, the entrance was direct into the plant area. We have always prided ourselves on being a traditional Garden Centre, and there’s no better way of making this point than for people to walk straight into the plant area. It also linked up the original weaning shed with the garden centre buildings, which allowed us to move the restaurant to give it a much better position & to give it much more space.
The Lakeside (reservoir) Retreat – We always knew this would come in handy one day! The reservoir made for a very nice relaxing lakeside retreat, which was created in 2012. Alongside this we created a vegetable garden to demonstrate what was possible in terms of Grow Your Own. This garden also helps to supply the restaurant. These developments also facilitated an increase in the plant & hard landscaping areas.
William Blake, middle son of Tony & Janet joins the business to learn the ropes of running the garden centre. William had a successful career in the logistics industry before returning to the family business.
Extension to the indoor retail space completed. With the extensions to the plant area created the year before, it was now time to extend the indoor space. It meant we could give our Interiors department a proper home, put houseplants in a much more prominent position, and re-layout the rest of the space in a much better way.
Probably our most significant development yet – The Potting Shed Restaurant. Our restaurant has become very popular in the local area. Serving hearty breakfasts, fantastic lunches, and the very best homemade cakes. It was somewhat struggling to cope with it’s popularity, so we took the decision to extend the restaurant area and to add an additional hot drinks and cake counter.
In line with the WW1 centenary, the Norton Community applied for some funding for a commemoration garden in recognition of the troops from The Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters Regiments. We have worked with them & our local school to create a commemoration garden in the shape of a poppy.
This was the year that Checketts Fine Foods, of Ombersley joined forces with us to open a new foodhall and butchery to showcase the best food and drink on offer in the county and surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, in 2018 Checketts decided to go back to having one outlet (in Ombersley) and as a result we decided to create our very own Blake’s Butchery that has since become famous in the area for it’s quality and value.
In 2018 we created our very own Blake’s Butchery. Our mission was to provide high quality, great value produce, locally sourced with proven welfare standards. Steve Beach joined us as head butcher and we have not looked back, becoming an essential hub for the community, with a very good reputation for being ‘the best around’.