Who'd have thought a chance conversation at a family wedding would result in the development of the worlds largest Dianthus nursery, but this is exactly what happened when Montagu, Edward & George met up in June 1908.
George Allwood who at that time was working in America came home for the wedding, in this day and age that is no big thing as we can just jump on a plane and in a few hours we are in the USA. But at the turn of the 1900s it was no mean feat, involving a lengthy stay on a ship for several weeks and for George to do it more than once is quite something.
Montagu was, at that point, employed on a nursery running the carnation department and Edward was working in the brewing industry as a barley buyer - he was the one with the proper job and the capital to start the business, though the whole family helped with some of the finances.
These three men from a large Lincolnshire farming family set out in search of a nursery and it was from a famous Orchid Grower of Haywards Heath who told Montaqu to look at land to buy in Mid-Sussex because the light levels are the best in the country for growing and the land was cheaper than in Lincolnshire - not the case these days!!
So they found a small nursery in the village of Wivelsfield and George returned back from America, with him he brought his knowledge and experience of growing carnations along with some of the newer American varieties. Montaqu's breeding work was already starting to be recognized, he was working on crossing Perpetual Flowering Carnations and Old Fashioned Dianthus Corraphilius to produce repeat flowering pinks - these were designated by the Royal Horticultural Society Scientific Committee as Allwoodii pinks, this cross unlocked the door to many successful hybrids which are still appearing today. This breeding breakthrough revolutionized the humble garden pink and led to them being as popular as they are today.
Allwood Bros (as it was known) was officially born on 1st October 1910, they exhibited at many shows but it was in 1912 when they first exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show that put their name on the map. Back then the show was known as the "International Horticultural Exhibition in London", it was reported it would be a failure as the show was classed as being too far out of London (how times have changed!). Allwoods won a Gold Medal for their exhibit of Carnations. The following year the event was organised by the Royal Horticultural Society and became what is now famously known as Chelsea Flower Show. Up until 2004 Allwoods were one of the very few original exhibitors to still be exhibiting at Chelsea - 2020 sees us return!
in 1960 as with all things, time catches up with us and the three brothers were no different, Edward was no longer playing an active part in the firm preferring the quieter farming life, he subsequently died in 1956. George had had a heart attack earlier and was suffering some ill health and his son Robert was involved, but it was on the death of Montagu in 1958 that things really changed. Montagu was the brains and power behind the firm, keeping everyone in their place and on his death his nephew Robert took over but sadly within a couple of years Robert had to call in the receivers, this led to the sale of the business to a group of businessmen and no longer a part of the "Allwoods" family.
Photo: Left to right - Charlie Fielder, Owen Tullet, Jack Warden & Percy Parsons.
Unfortunately the businessmen didn't all have the firm's interest at heart and it was soon back in trouble again, by now it had been reduced and was again under new ownership. The new directors were Les & Percy Selsby and Jen Pearce. Les & Perce had worked for Allwoods since being demobbed in 1946 and had unparalleled knowledge of the plants, but they were no longer young people and traditionally nurserymen not sharp businessmen. They carried on until they came to retirement age and the business was by now dramatically reduced and in danger of closing for the last time as they felt there was no future for it.
This is when David (current owner) came in, in 1994 by chance conversation at
Kent Show Les mentioned they were going to retire at the end of the season. If this had happened we would have lost a HUGE chunk of history not to mention the many varieties that Allwoods grow and have bred.
So David took over Allwoods on the 1st October 1994 and in October 2000 Emma joined him and together they make quiet a team. The nursery has an immense history not only from its original founders but also the current owners whose paths have long been intertwined through friendship in their youth. The knowledge these two have on the plants they grow is greater than any book and has been passed down by generations. This is growing as it should be.
But what makes Allwoods unique to other plant companies, besides their many, many years of experience is their amazing range of plants. We have one of the largest range of Dianthus available in the world all under one roof from heritage pinks dating back to the Tudors to adding and breeding new varieties "Allwoods One Ten" is our brand new one for 2020 that is making its debut appearance this year in honor of the company.
But we are also a family firm, husband and wife team who pride themselves on their quality and customer service. "When you ring us you speak to us, we are a traditional nursery that values the hands on approach - no nonsense just well grown plants and we do everything here - from keeping our mother plants, to propagating and posting"
Besides breeding new varieties for 2020 there is also a commemorative book "Celebrating 110 years, continuing to grow", it goes into great detail about the rise of this historic firm, how it came about, it's many achievements and gives a whole new insight into how it has had to adapt to the ever changing world we are now in along with how the collection of plants has grown.
So why not grab a copy HERE.
Thanks for reading and we hope our continued success is an ever present honor to the work our founders did, without them we wouldn't have the varieties we do today, and without us these plants probably wouldn't still be in existence and certainly not freely available to buy and enjoy.
So here's to the next 100 years!
David & Emma