Co-founder of St Albans garden centre dies aged 87

John Pearson

John Pearson - Credit: Archant

The co-founder and chairman of a family-owned independent garden centre and wholesale nursery, John Pearson, has died aged 87 after a short illness.

John was at the helm of Burston Rose and Garden Centre, Hertfordshire Fisheries and Burston Nurseries, all of which trade from the North Orbital Road in St Albans.

Until last year he was still a regular visitor to the business which was named Burston after the medieval name for the area in which it was set up.

Manager and director of the wholesale nursery, Paul Young, said: “He had been hands on until the end of last year and came to the business and garden centre every day. He had lots of input and enthusiasm about taking the business forward.”

Born in 1928, John went to work for De Havilland which fostered a lifelong interest in aeroplanes. After the war he joined the family business which had been set up by his father William, one of the Jarrow Marchers who left the north in search of work in the Depression of the 1930s.

William went into service at Burston Manor before setting up a smallholding from which a small nursery was created. John went into the business after leaving De Havilland and worked later with his younger brother Richard who died suddenly in 1981.

At first the North Orbital Road site was occupied solely by the wholesale business but John recognised the advent of retail gardening and set up the garden centre in 1978. It has gone on to receive many awards including the GCA Garden Centre of Excellence for 2014/15 as has its sister company, Hertfordshire Fisheries, which was opened at the site after the closure of its original premises in Park Street Lane.

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John’s great love was growing and the wholesale side of the business where he had begun his career sowing seeds. A man who kept a low profile within the horticultural industry, he was one of the first chairmen of the British Bedding Plant Association.

Under his stewardship, Burston Nurseries revolutionised the transportation of plants by manufacturing their own bespoke trollies and with David Colegrave, he worked on the development and production of the first UK pictorial labelling for bedding plants in the 1980s.

His passion for planes resulted in him learning to fly and owning several light aircraft. At the age of 75, he flew a kit-built Submarine Spitfire, the construction of which was overseen by him and his great friend Harry Luck between 2003-4.

John and Enid, his wife of 64 years, lived in Park Street close to the business and she is still on the Burston board. The couple had three daughters, Carolyn, Elaine and Dawn, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

The funeral is being held at 1.30pm this Friday, August 14, at St Stephen’s Church in St Albans and the Burston garden centre and Hertfordshire Fisheries will be closed on that day.