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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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?
Over the year, there will be ‘A Potted History of Ashwood’ series published online. Look out for ‘The Early Years’ coming soon.