By Gerald O’Connor
With deep roots in the local area, Ashbourne man Alan Battersby set up the Ashbrook Garden Centre, Garden Centre Ashbourne, in 1999.
Mr Battersby said, âMy first love was always in flowers, shrubs and trees. I was brought up on a vegetable farm. I started producing vegetable plants but that market got tough when Tescos arrived on the scene because they were buying their plants form England. So I decided to diversify. We started slowly growing more and more bedding plants and selling them to the local people and it grew from there.â
The transition from being a farmer to being a retailer selling plants was a natural transition for Mr Battersby. He explains, âIf you have a wholesale problem it was just one problem, as a retailer, if you have a problem or question you can have 20 little questions in one day, but I love the challenge of that because I really love plants.
âPeople were asking questions for a good reason because they might have a problem in their garden or with their plant. When you have a problem with the wholesaler it was obviously going to cost you money. If youâre giving advice to someone who has a problem with their garden you will probably gain from it because they will either buy a replacement plant or come back to you in the future.â
There are a huge range of plants in the Ashbrook Garden centre, and there are a large range of demonstration gardens with various types of garden products. However, in some areas the Ashbrook Garden Centre stands out, âWe probably have the largest range of pots in Leinster,â said Mr Battersby. âWe have a good selection of garden furniture. We are looking at selling garden furniture online next season and plants and trees as well. We are trying to grow the Garden Centre all the time. â
Starting in November and lasting until March is the bare root season. The Ashbrook Garden Centre sells larger more mature trees, during this season, at a cheaper cost. Mr Battersby explains, âWhen people hear ‘bare root’they donât fully know what it means. It means that it has been growing in a field, especially trees and hedging, on a big scale and it’s left do its own thing for a number of years,â explained Mr Battersby. âIt doesnât cost much to maintain it. When the nursery digs the plants or trees in the field, it is not at such a higher cost as if you grew it in a pot. Therefore, you can save 5 or 10 years growth for the same money.â
Recently the Ashbrook Garden Centre entered another new line of business, restoring patios. Mr Battersby said, âWe have a product that works on patios that are looking really really tired, and it can make them look brand new. I tried the product first on my own patio and it made it look brand new.â
At the moment people are starting to feel the weather change and are coming to the Garden Centre asking âis now the right time to cut back their plantsâ. Mr Battersby said, âThere was so much damage done last year that we are encouraging our customers to cut back their plants in August and September. The reason for that is so the plants will still grow in September and October and heal themselves so as to not let the frost in and damage the plant. If youâre thinking of cutting your hedge, cut it sooner than later.â