Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 49

GARDENING The changing face of the garden centre Gardening means big business these days. And anyone thinking of setting up a garden centre of their own will need between £1.5m and £2m at their disposal. “It’s the land that costs vast sums these days,” says Tim Honnor of Freshwater and Lake based garden centres Honnor & Jeffrey. “Customers also want to be able to visit a café on site and then there’s all the costs involved with getting in stock etc. Tim is probably quite lucky that his family’s business started out much more organically in 1900. He explains: “My great grandfather moved here from London and bought a coal business in Freshwater. “Mr Jeffrey was a corn merchant who had a shop in Station Road and my great grandfather had bought the coal business from a relative of Mr Jeffrey’s. “The business wasn’t as healthy as he’d been led to believe and Mr Jeffrey, being of a Quaker family, felt bad about this. “So they joined forces as corn and coal merchants which is how the Jeffrey connection came about. “Corn and coal merchants always sold seeds and seed potatoes and later they started to stock fertilisers. “In the 1970s a lot of houses were being built without chimneys, we decided the coal business couldn’t go any further and we opened our first garden centre in Freshwater in 1974.” The sort of customers back then were different to many that frequent garden centres now. “Most were traditional gardeners who grew their own veg. Those sort of gardeners took a dip, although I - life Once in a lifetime chance! Visit the Royal Garden without having to leave the Island. think that side of things is coming back again now with the interest in organic gardening,” adds Tim. “But generally it’s more life-style based now with people buying much larger plants and trees rather than bringing them on themselves. “And with climate change more unusual species such as olive trees are proving popular.” Traditionally, November was always the quietest month of the year but now it is January. “November is part of the Christmas build-up which is a very busy time with cards and gifts.” The boom in gardening programmes has also forced trends on the market. “Water features were a big thing a few years ago thanks to shows like Ground Force but that has died away a bit now. “But whenever a product is recommended on the television you can guarantee a rush the next day. “The café is an integral part of our business too. All our food is home-cooked and all our cakes are baked on the premises. “Years ago we’d be like farmers looking to the sky. If the weather was bad, we’d have a bad F