Matthews Florist Shop Team 1970, showing the home grown Gladioli
Our seed was first sown when brothers Eric and Bill Matthews bought their first nursery in Great Wakering, Essex in 1953 and founded Matthews Flower Growers. The brothers started growing Gladioli, Sweet Peas, Stocks, Wallflowers and Dahlias. After meeting a Dutch grower the brothers widened the range in 1959 to include Roses as plants sales which were prepacked for sale to Woolworths and Garden Centres. Eric’s wife Joan, a florist, operated two florist shops which saw the business develop into a wholesale business supplying florist shops in Essex and East London.
Eric and Joan’s son, Ian, worked in the family business, however the company eventually found the pressure on British Cut Flower growers from cheap airfreight imports too much of a burden, and so moved onto other businesses whilst the nurseries were sadly sold. The British flower industry, which once employed thousands of people, lay in ruin – with just a handful of small nurseries growing cut flowers left and all the rest imported.
However, the last few years has seen growing opportunities present themselves to Ian, who now MD of Matthews Flower Group saw an audacious change to bring the British Flower industry back from the brink. The plan was a simple one, and one that fits with all todays key themes – resurrect the British Cut Flower industry and classic varieties by building glasshouses next to energy plants to minimise costs and increase efficiency.
Matthews Flower Group’s aim is to rebuild the British Cut Flower industry through growing cut flower varieties such as Avalanche Roses, Spray Roses, Specialist scented roses, Calla Lilies, Chrysanthemums, Gerberas and British Seasonal Cut Flowers in their specially constructed greenhouses.
Eric Matthews signing up Fritz Overmars one of the Dutch Budders in Boskoop. Holland in 1965 for another rose grafting season
Rose and Bulb Pre packing Team 1968
Product is one thing, but Matthews Flowers Group’s commitment runs deeper and the team want to invest in the next generation of British growing talent. So, along with Plumpton College in Sussex Matthews Flower Growers are putting in place a Cut Flower Nursery Management course to attract young people into the industry to learn how to manage cut flower glasshouses and businesses.