Modern heroes of horticulture - Alan Down

Alan Down’s life in horticulture is not only an example of hard work and dedication but also one of pure passion.  Currently President of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), Alan’s career goes right back to the late 60’s when he started work in glasshouse production growing chrysanthemums and tomatoes.

Studying for a Masters Degree in General Commercial Horticulture at Cannington and then Pershore he completed his studies in five years rather than the usual six.  He remained at Pershore as an instructor in orchard fruit growing before heading to Germany to gain valuable experience in rootballed and container-grown trees, something still in its infancy back home.

With his experience in the sector not going unnoticed, he was invited to join Hilliers Nursery in Hampshire where he started developing a one acre site which quickly morphed into 27 acres.  During this time he set about putting together industry standards for container grown stock and it was here that he met his wife Felicity.

In 1980 he obtained a Nuffield Farm Trust scholarship and headed off to North America to study container growing with a particular interest in soil/potting medium alternatives such as bark and sawdust.  After 9 years at Hilliers he moved with Felicity to Bristol where they set up Cleeve Nursery and Garden Centre.

During 35 years at that location, they expanded their production facilities into a site across the road enabling them to restock popular lines on the garden centre shelves overnight.  Their combined knowledge and skills were put to good use and a collaboration with Southern TV led to 150 half-hour programmes titled Garden Calendar.  They found time for weekly phone-ins with Radio Bristol and a weekend writing slot in The Western Daily Press.

In his last year of tenure at the HTA Alan continues to support all sectors of the horticultural industry.  Semi-retired, he has his own website  www.down-to-earth.co.uk where you can find out more about him and Felicity and where he blogs regularly.