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Ashwood celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Posted on Tuesday 7th March 2017

Ashwood Nurseries is commemorating its 50th Anniversary this year. 2017 certainly promises to be a year of both celebration and nostalgia, looking back at the milestones and achievements during the fifty years since John Massey acquired the nursery.

John with Philip Baulk in the cyclamen house at Ashood

John Massey (right) with plant breeder Philip Baulk (left) in the cyclamen house at Ashwood

The Early Years

John’s parents bought Ashwood Nurseries in 1967 when he was still at school. John already had a love of plants that began as a child growing up in the Black Country and he was encouraged by his grandfather who taught him the principles of gardening.

The following year John left school to take over the reins at the nursery in spite of having no formal training in horticulture. With the help of a small but dedicated workforce led by Tony Cartwright, the dilapidated nursery was transformed into a thriving business in less than ten years.

A Growing Passion

Ashwood developed further in subsequent decades when John’s passion for plants encouraged him to begin the commercial production  of a range of speciality plants notably hellebores, hepaticas, cyclamen, snowdrops, lewisias, Primula auricula, salvias, hydrangeas and conifers.

Kevin Belcher, Ashwood hellebore breeder

Kevin Belcher, Ashwood’s hellebore breeder

John, together with two talented plant breeders Philip Baulk and Kevin Belcher, played a significant role in the development of many of the highly acclaimed Ashwood seed strains and plant introductions.

Awards and Accolades

Over the years, John and the Ashwood team have achieved numerous prestigious awards including 52 RHS Gold Medals for exhibits of various genera, culminating in a Chelsea Gold Medal and Diamond Jubilee Award for a memorable hepatica exhibit in 2016.

In 2010, the RHS awarded John the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH), the highest accolade that they can bestow, in recognition of his outstanding services to horticulture.

The Ashwood Team
Stella Hollick, Tony and Barbara Cartwright have 146 years of service between them

Stella Hollick, Tony and Barbara Cartwright (left to right)  have 146 years of service between them

Ashwood today includes a successful nursery, garden centre, garden shop, flower shop, gift shop and tea room together with a website, online shop, mail order business and a busy office.

There is a great sense of pride and loyalty amongst the 80-strong Ashwood team and between them they have a remarkable record of long service that any other business would find hard to beat.

Amazingly, three members of the team have each completed over 48 years of service while seventeen have each completed 25 years.

John’s Garden

Over recent years, John has concentrated on developing his own private garden adjacent to the nursery, applying the same zeal and passion for plants that the horticultural world has come to expect from him.

John in his garden, one of the finest private gardens in the UK

John in his garden, one of the finest private gardens in the UK

‘John’s Garden’ is now regarded as one of the best private gardens in the UK, attracting visitors from all over the world. It is open for charity on selected dates throughout the year.

The future

For John, his ‘romance with plants’ is all part of a large learning curve of which he never tires: ‘I’ve always followed my plant passions rather than commercial pressures”.

So we can be sure that, after a brief but fond look back at Ashwood’s 50 year old history, John and the team will have their eyes set firmly on the future… and who knows what that may bring?

‘A Potted History of Ashwood Nurseries’

‘A Potted History of Ashwood’ series will be published online over the coming year. The Early Years 1967-1969 is available now: read more

 

Barbara Cartwright