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…
His 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 year 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 building, including the weaning shed where The Potting Shed Restaurant now sits.
This photo shows the offices for the Nursery being built back in 1983. Interestingly, the Gentleman who built these, Brian Game, was a good friend of the Blake family. His two daughters, Sarah and Jane later worked in the Garden Centre as managers. Sarah returned to work for the business again in 2013 as a Sales Assistant within Blakes Deli, after a 14 year break. Sarah’s two children, James & Oliva also work within the Garden Centre as Sales Assistants. So, that is three generations of the same family involved from the day it started, to present day.
This photo was taken Inside the weaning shed, where our restaurant counter is now positioned – Tony’s three children, at the time, thought it was great… hay bales and old discarded cars kept them entertained for hours. The young lad at the front of the shot is our very own William Blake, now General Manager. This shed was the potting shed for the production Nursery. Plugs (young plants) would be bought in, in their thousands and potted on before being stood down for the growing season.
The Nursery opened in 1983, it was a production nursery growing in-bulk and supplying plants trade only, to landscapers, developers and councils throughout the UK. It was a small team, with approximately twenty employees, and very seasonal due to the nature of the product.
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 Peter The Great, ‘St. Peters’ was only just being built, and 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, a major supermarket 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) for plant storage.
Unfortunately the recession was very hard on the Nursery industry. Many developments ground to a halt, and therefore there simply wasn’t the continued demand for plants & sadly the Nursery was forced to close. Fortunately the Garden Centre survived the recession and continued to trade from the site. After the recession the Garden Centre benefitted from further housing developments in the local area, and it soon began 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 access and increased the capacity. Significantly, and deliberately, the new 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 our 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 and to give it much more space.
This stunning photo shows our 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 and Blakes Deli. These developments also increased the space for plants and landscaping products.
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.
The photo shows an extension to the retail space. With the extensions to the plant area created the year before, it was now time to extend the indoor area. It meant we could give our Interiors department a better home, put Houseplants in a much more prominent positon, and re-design the layout of the remaining space in a much better way.
Blakes Deli Extension – Having moved Houseplants, this allowed us to increase the space for the deli. We took the opportunity to replace a lot of the shop fittings, so this area now looks bright and modern.
Probably our most significant development yet – The Potting Shed Restaurant. Our restaurant has become very popular in the local area. Its serves hearty breakfasts, fantastic lunches, and the very best homemade cakes. It was somewhat struggling to cope with its 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 and Sherwood Foresters Regiments. We have worked with them and our local school to create a commemoration garden in the shape of a poppy.
Our brand new Food Hall, alongside Checketts.