From a 3 acre field in 1968 to a 1 million container business in 2008, Palmstead nursery has grown beyond the wildest dreams of its founder John Langman. The Kent-based business still supplies plants to its early local customers, but has also gone on to supply plants, trees and shrubs to some of the top designers in the country as well as featuring in some prestigious Hampton Court Gold medal winning gardens.
John Langman says: ‘It’s been a forty year love-affair. I don’t think that when I started Palmstead I had any visions of it being this big, because the industry wasn’t that big, leisure and gardening has taken off in those 40 years, which has been fortunate timing. ‘
Born in Herne Bay, John Langman is a Man of Kent through and through and with the exception of a year in Holland, John’s working life has been based in the Garden of England. John spent his year in Holland working on a tree and shrub nursery, he could see from his experience in the Netherlands that mechanism and large scale production was the way forward. ‘Having spent that time in Holland I could see how they could grow so cheaply and sell to us, it was a good education.’
When John moved his Palmstead nursery in 1988 to its new site in Wye he went from 11 acres to 123. John says: ‘It seemed absurd at the time, but we had no choice it was either 123 or we couldn’t have it – it has repaid us handsomely by doing it.
With close to 50 staff John Langman’s business is a success and he hopes to weather the economic downtown affecting all in the industry. John says: ‘Having spent all my working life building it up I’d love to see Palmstead go on being a successful nursery. We have plans to upgrade the propagation house thereby securing another 3.12 acres of propagation. With the pound being where it is we do have opportunities – it’s not all doom and gloom, as the Dutch stock becomes more and more expensive there are opportunities to provide plants for independent sellers.’
It became increasingly obvious that there was going to be a downturn with all the borrowing and we were ready for it.
The future is looking bright for the family business: ‘We are a family business’ says John, ‘and I have been fortunate to build up a really great team who are virtually family. Many of my staff have grown and developed with the business for example; Bob Chapman my MD overseeing production and Peter Curtis my Operations Manager, have both been with me for over 25 years’. We came through the 70s and the 90s. We’ve always used the good times to prepare for the down times. It became increasingly obvious that there was going to be a downturn with all the borrowing happening and we were ready for it. For the last 3 years we’ve been replacing our lorries so that we can batten down the hatches. Unless trade becomes much worse I don’t see that we’ll have any redundancies. We also tend to support our customers and suppliers alike, we know that they are often waiting for their money; we do try and support them if we feel that they’re genuine. We value all our customers are and we work hard to look after them and give them the excellent value, quality and service that Palmstead deliver.’
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