St Albans horticultural pioneer Roger Aylett dies

A PIONEERING horticulturist who founded a thriving St Albans nursery and garden centre over 50 years ago has passed away.

Roger Aylett, who developed Aylett’s Nursery on the North Orbital Road from nothing more than a shed shop in 1955, died earlier this month, aged 76.

Having trained at Oaklands College, which at the time was solely for the study of agriculture and horticulture, Mr Aylett started the family business when he was 21 years old and initially grew just glasshouse crops on the nursery.

But it was not long before My Aylett, who eventually became an Oaklands governor in the 1980s, indulged his childhood interest of dahlias and the colourful exhibitions he created were showcased all around the country, earning Aylett Nurseries a staggering 36 consecutive gold medals between 1961 and 1999 at the Royal Horticultural Society shows.

Aylett Nurseries, recently rated the third best independent UK garden centre by Which? Gardening magazine, won myriad awards during Mr Aylett’s lifetime, including the Williams Memorial Medal in 1977 and 1994, presented for the best exhibit of plants and/or flowers of a single genus staged at one of the Society shows during the course of a year.

But of all the achievements collected during his lifetime, Mr Aylett, a valued member of the R.H.S Shows and Dahlia Committees, was most proud to receive the Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for outstanding contributions to the science and practice of horticulture. He later described that moment as representing the pinnacle of his career.

Having watched his garden centre blossom for over half a century, Mr Aylett celebrated his 50th year as managing director by publishing an autobiography, 50 Golden Gardening Years, in 2005.

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Mr Aylett, who is survived by his wife Hazel, two married daughters Julie and Sally and four grandchildren, is described by family as a true gentleman – quiet, unassuming, kind and generous. His interests were his family, to whom he was devoted, and Aylett Nurseries. He was also an active Rotarian.

Aylett Nurseries was recently awarded a St Albans Chamber of Commerce Community Business Award, and ex-president of the chamber Michael Weaver said that Mr Aylett was an inspiration: “The way Roger developed his business is a wonderful example of a how a local person can achieve so much with enthusiasm, determination and pure hard work.

“Because of his involvement in our community he will be sadly missed”

A service of Thanksgiving will take place at 2pm next Wednesday, June 2, in St Albans Abbey with a private burial afterwards.

The family have asked for family flowers only, although donations are welcome to St Marys, Manuden c/o Phillips Funeral Directors, 68 Alma Road, St Albans, AL1 3BL.