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Man who grew plant nursery into international success dies

PUBLISHED: 11:25 14 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:31 14 December 2019

David Howard, who founded Howard Nurseries in Wortham, near Diss, 50 years ago, has died aged 81. Picture: Alex Fairfull

David Howard, who founded Howard Nurseries in Wortham, near Diss, 50 years ago, has died aged 81. Picture: Alex Fairfull

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The founder of award-winning Howard Nurseries, based at Wortham, near Diss, has died aged 81.

David Howard grew Howard Nurseries into a business that supplied Chelsea Flower Show award-winning gardens. Picture: Alex FairfullDavid Howard grew Howard Nurseries into a business that supplied Chelsea Flower Show award-winning gardens. Picture: Alex Fairfull

From the seed of an idea, David Howard grew his plant business into an award-winning international success story that included the Royal family among its customers.

Set up in 1969, the firm now employs 35 people and grows more than two million plants each year, supplying independent nurseries, landscape designers, local authorities and historic gardens nationwide.

Such is pedigree of the plants that over the years the nursery he founded has supplied dozens of show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show that have won numerous gold awards.

Pictured in 2009, David Howard with his daughter Christine who now runs Howard Nurseries at Wortham, near Diss. Picture: Andy AbbottPictured in 2009, David Howard with his daughter Christine who now runs Howard Nurseries at Wortham, near Diss. Picture: Andy Abbott

Mr Howard's interested in plants began when he was young with both his parents keen gardeners at his home in Burgate, the neighbouring village to Wortham.

As a schoolboy of 14 he cottoned on to the fact there was a shortage of annual asters that year and bought a thousand from a nursery in Mildenhall.

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"I sold them round the village in one night," he recalled in an interview with the EDP. "They were all bare root so I had to move 'em quick!"

Dahlias and chrysanthemums were his real passion and, by the age of 16, he was supplying Covent Garden while selecting and breeding.

He worked at a nursery at Diss until he went into National Service at the age of 18. After two years in the Army, he had a brief spell as a jobbing gardener before being invited to work for Alan Bloom at Bressingham.

It was here he met student Nicholas Kooij, the son of a Dutch nurseryman, with whom he bought the first piece of land at Wortham to start a nursery.

It blossomed to supply plants to the Queen Mother and Highgrove, the residence of Prince Charles. Mr Howard became sole owner of the business in 1999.

"We started with four acres, then 12, then 24 and just kept adding pieces as we could," he recalled. "We never ever thought we would be as big as we are now. We just worked very hard and always achieved the best possible standard."

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Shelia, daughter Christine, now the company manager director, and son-in-law James.

There will be as private funeral in the New Year and invitation memorial service. To register an interest contact the nursery via sales@howardnurseries.co.uk


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