• Heritage

Waterers Heritage

In 1829 Michael Waterer took control of John Taylor’s nursery at Bagshot. John Waterer, Michael's brother  went to live on the nursery and three of his sons – Frederick, Michael and John -  worked with him on the nursery which traded as ‘John Waterer & Sons’.  It was known for specialising in American plants, especially Rhododendrons.  

John Waterers CatalogueRegularly exhibiting at shows at the Royal Botanic Society’s ground in Regents Park, the nursery soon became known as The American Nursery, Bagshot.

By 1870, Waterers was the largest nursery in the area and by 1880 extended to 150 acres, of which 60 acres was utilised in the growing of Rhododendrons.

Charlie Rose and ‘Pink Pearl’

Gomer Waterer, working in his father’s nursery, raised many of the recognisable rhododendrons such as ‘Mrs E.C.Stirling’(A.M. 1906) ‘Gomer Waterer (A.M. 1906) and Corona (A.M. 1911). Gomer was responsible for the marketing of ‘Pink Pearl’, his father’s trial. Trials were a very closely guarded secret in the 19th Century and trial grounds were usually in wild and inaccessible parts of the nursery which at first glance appeared as neglected areas. ‘Pink Pearl’ had been a noted seedling which was reported missing by Gomer’s father only to appear in an employee’s garden. It was soon returned to the nursery and subsequently received honours including the Award of Merit in 1897 and a First Class Certificate in 1900.  It was admired by Queen Alexandra and ‘Pink Pearl’ has become one of the most popular rhododendrons of all time.

In 1914, due to financial difficulties ‘John Waterer & Sons’ amalgamated with the Wargrave Plant Farm of Twyford, Berkshire and became known as ‘John Waterer, Sons and Crisp’. My Garden Illustrated claimed the nurseries covered over 200 acres with its ‘Rhododendron and Choice Shrub Nurseries at Bagshot’.

Despite the changes in ownership the nursery continued to produce outstanding rhododendrons, mainly due to the skill of Gomer Waterer. Over the years he made more than twenty trips to the United States for the nursery. However, in 1931 Gomer transferred to the Knap Hill Nursery. 

Percy Wiseman

In 1925 Percy Wiseman had joined the Wargrave Plant Farm and after the amalgamation he became Nursery Manager at Bagshot. In 1951 Percy returned to work after the war and paid particular attention to a new strain of rhododendron - the yakushimanum hybrid - compact and dwarf in habit with masses of flowers and more suitable for small modern gardens than some of the other famous rhododendrons. Awarded the Waley Medal in 1953, Percy was  recognised for his work in the cultivation of rhododendrons. 1954 saw Percy being awarded the Associate of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society. Percy was described by Gerald Pinckney as “a man of immense patience, devoted to his work, kindly in nature, generous in advice, never failing to improve and with a keen sense of judgement of a good plant when he saw one.”

Gerald Pinckney joined John Waterer, Sons & Crisp in 1930 and within a few years became managing director. He regularly visited the United States where he saw Garden Centres displaying their plants in tin containers. Gerald used this idea at the Chelsea Flower Show, showing plants growing in tin containers. This idea caught on quickly and changed the traditions of nursery work. Gerald also obtained scion wood of many American varieties of Camellias, which were growing in interest. These varieties were then added to the wide range already listed, making one hundred varieties available to the public. In 1954 the Camellias were also added to the Rhododendron Year book.

In August 1982, Notcutts of Woodbridge, Suffolk purchased the Bagshot Garden Centre and nursery.  Production of ericaceous plants moved to Suffolk in 2006 and in 2007 Notcutts Nurseries was purchased by John Woods Nurseries in a management buyout with John Lord as Chairman/Managing Director and John Kirkum as Company Secretary and Finance Director.  Charles Notcutts was invited to be President of the new nursery business.