Squire’s Garden Centers celebrates its 85th Anniversary this year. The company was incorporated on the 8 July 1936 and the original certificate of incorporation, though faded over time, still hangs on the boardroom wall alongside the first handwritten bank statement.
Sarah Squire is now Chairman, and she tells us a bit about the changes in gardening and garden centers over the last 85 years.
Plant trends come and go but many plants are just as popular now as they were 85 years ago, and for good reason – because they do well in people’s gardens and are reliable performers. Roses, Clematis, and Lavenders are perennially popular, and there’s increased demand for "grow your own" fruit & veg and large statement plants. Planting for wildlife is a trend which quite rightly keeps on growing in popularity. Our gardens have become such an important resource for native wildlife with the urbanisation of the last hundred years or so. We are also seeing a resurgence in bright colour schemes this year as we all look for something cheerful.
We are proud that 80% of our plants are grown in Britain, many very locally indeed – this supports local producers and means that customers can choose from the freshest possible stock which hasn’t traveled far from nursery to garden center.
Gardens became sanctuaries for many people during lockdown, especially with more people working from home and spending more time at home. Gardens and open spaces have become more important to people and gardening, dare I say it, has become cool again. And its popularity continues to rise with research by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) showing that lockdown in 2020 created 3 million more gardeners.
With people spending more time at home again in 2021 it is the perfect opportunity to make your garden, no matter what its size, look its best. But it is not just about looks. It is a fact that gardening makes many people feel happier, healthier and more in tune with nature.
"My grandfather D.J. Squire (1905 – 2003) started our business. He was head gardener and sports coach at the Police orphanage in Twickenham and a keen long-distance runner with Thames Valley Harriers. When the orphanage closed in the mid-1930s he was made redundant. This was a time of high unemployment and unable to find alternative employment and with a young family to support he decided to start his own nursery and landscape gardening business. He worked hard and was soon able to rent a nursery and then buy a nursery. During the Second World War the company built Anderson air raid shelters in the Twickenham area and turned the nurseries over to food production. Land Girls were enlisted to help on the nurseries and later in the war Italian and then German prisoners of war were brought in to assist from the large prisoner of war camp at Kempton Park Race Course.
With D.J.’s blessing, his son, my father, Colin Squire who is also 85 this summer, developed the company into one of the first garden center businesses in the UK when he opened Squire’s in Twickenham in 1964. Today we operate 16 garden centers located in Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and Berkshire. This relatively tight geography means that the senior team can visit each center frequently and we all know many of our colleagues very well and are privileged to get to know some of our customers too. It means we can do our best to keep the family feel of our centers. I believe our centers should have the freedom to have their own character and personality, like siblings, but that there should be a family resemblance because we share the same standards and values.
Gardening is very much a family tradition, it is in our DNA, and we are very proud to be an independent family-owned garden center group, firmly rooted in the communities we serve.
Gardening is great because it gets you out in the fresh air, is good exercise, connects you with nature and gives you space to think and clear your mind. It is so therapeutic to nurture plants and see them grow. I defy anyone not to feel relaxed and let the cares of the day slide away in the garden.
The early garden centers were a far cry from today’s businesses. They sold plants and gardening products, usually from converted greenhouse buildings that were nowhere near the shopping environment customers quite rightly demand today. From the 1980s, garden furniture and BBQs started to take off, and then cafes became an intrinsic part of the experience. At the same time, garden center businesses invested in their buildings to create more attractive, better insulated and watertight places to shop. Today we aim to provide our local communities with superb quality plants and gardening products as well as attractive ranges of garden furniture, BBQs and allied products, and a truly enjoyable garden center experience.
To celebrate the 85th Anniversary, look out for special flowerbeds our garden center teams have designed to celebrate our ‘85 years’ in plants. We are also offering a special Anniversary Cream Tea in our Café Bars in July and August.
For more information:
Squire Gardens Centres