How did you get started in the industry? I started in 1975 with Dobies in Llangollen as trial ground manager after studying at Hertfordshire College of Horticulture in Oaklands and then at the University of Bath. Dobies was part of the group that contained Carters and Cuthberts Seeds. Suttons bought Dobies 23 years ago and I had moved into catalogue management on Dobies before coming down and I had been doing young plants and trial grounds. That’s when seedlings and plugs by post first took off and now of course it’s everywhere. At the time you had to go to Germany to find good enough plants.
What advice would you give to others starting in the industry? You have to be looking at ONDs and HNDs and degree level really if you’re talking the seed and plant industry because we need that kind of level of people. The industry is crying out for them but they’re not there. It’s sad really because there are terrific career opportunities out there.
How do you spend your spare time? I’m doing three days a week at Suttons now as well as more journalism and consultancy in the industry. I could do with doubling the hours in the week.
What does the future hold? Suttons had a management buyout in December 2014 and Rufus Roberts and David Robinson want me to stay as long as possible. There’s quite a training job to do with new staff coming in. As long as I enjoy what I’m doing I’ll carry on. We’re taking it easy on shows this year and concentrating on getting the company moving. The promotional side is very important but we have to sort the business out. We have a lot of new product coming through. James Wong’s new book Growing for Taste launches on 3 March and we have a seed range to accompany that and a plant range for retailers as well.