Cedar Nursery in Cobham was founded by Tim Sharples in 1986. We interviewed Tim to find out more about the development of the Nursery and the growth of its loyal customer base in and near Surrey.

Hi Tim, how long have you been involved in Horticulture?

For most of my life. I enjoyed growing seeds at a young age and always wanted to work with plants and gardens. When I was 11 years old I worked with Jim Hendriksen, a rose grower in Cobham.

Have you always lived in the area?

I've lived in Surrey since I was 8, our family lived at Cedar House in Cobham opposite the mill which I loved hence the name later given to Cedar Nursery.

Why do you like living and working in Surrey?

Not for the traffic that's for sure! It's the people, we're so fortunate to have such a huge diverse customer base with differing thoughts ideas and opinions about their gardens.

When did you first come to the Nursery?

I really wanted a nursery of my own, my father helped to find it and we both viewed it and agreed it would be an ideal spot. At the time it was derelict but owned by my old boss Jim, who, with the help of an affordable rent got me going. I started here at the Nursery with the help of my brother John. Then 8 years later Andy joined us as a hardworking Saturday boy and then worked for me for 22 years, he made a great impression on the nursery and was certainly missed when he left for a new career. Many other dedicated staff have worked here over the last 30 years and the Cedar Nursery team has steadily grown!

What were your most popular products and plants when you started the nursery in the late 1980s?

Some of my favourite plants are conifers and heathers and in the early days we sold lots of these, alas not any more as fashion impacts even gardening. Over time we have diversified to offer more plants and products to appeal to the ways people are using gardens today.

And how have things changed since then?

In the past keen gardeners would often use their garden as a vessel to show their plant collections to the best effect. However, nowadays more of our customers want to make a "room" of their garden and would like to use their garden for a lot of differing purpose with their family and friends. For example, as newer houses are often built closer together the owners often require garden screening, in the form of hedges, trees and pergolas to create more private areas. We are also seeing a high demand for garden buildings for both leisure and work purposes.

In essence the garden is now seen as a real asset for use for entertaining and outdoor living, in addition to the beauty of the plants themselves. Increasingly people are using the garden as a place for exercise and wellbeing, spaces for relaxation, exercise including yoga, outdoor spas, hottubs and spaces for cooking outside in the fresh air.

Have there been any challenges running the Nursery?

At the beginning the challenge was the on-going hard work to strive to improve the Nursery. Of course, working in the UK there is also the added challenge of the seasonal nature of the plants and garden activities!

Today there is a lot of competition, especially via the internet. We have to work hard to get our message out there. This requires that all our products have a very good price/performance ratio. We aim to stock the best varieties of plants and innovative products with expertise to ensure customers can have gardens that exceed expectations.

Regular customers will know that Cedar Nursery is continually evolving! 

What do customers say when they first visit the Nursery?

Our Nursery is located on a fast road, the busy Horsley Road between East Horsley and Cobham, we often have people saying that they have "driven past" us many times until their visit on that particular day. They are complementary about the Nursery and many say they wish they had visited previously. Another comment that we frequently hear is, "you're so different to the garden centres."

Where do your customers come from?

About 50% of our customers are retail customers from nearby or further afield and the other 50% are trade customers.

You must have many happy memories here; do you have any highlights?

I do, we've worked on some beautiful garden designs for several special Private Clients over the years. I also exhibited gardens at the Hampton Court Flower show for several consecutive years.

How has the range of products and services you offer been changed by technology since the late 1980s?

Our designers can now use modern 3D Garden Design software and it really helps to visualise the finished gardens. We also have technology influencing the styles and designs of pergolas and terrace covers we sell; for example, the Biossun pergola that we sell comes with a motorised, automated roof to protect from the elements or let the sun in and it also has heating and ventilation. This technology really allows for more outdoor living throughout the seasons.

Are your family involved at the Nursery today?

My father was involved right at the beginning and throughout the stages of development at the Nursery. My mother has also always provided a lot of help and support. All my family have been involved at some time, including our children helping out whenever they could. My brother-in-laws helped build many of the garden structures here. My brother Jeremy also runs Kitchen In The Garden, the outdoor kitchen centre based at the Nursery.

What are your favourite plants and products currently at the Nursery?

My favourite plants here are the Acers. I am also a big fan of garden buildings, a well-positioned garden building makes such a difference, I can just sit back in a comfy chair relaxing with some favourite music and almost be transported to another world.

What else do you like to do in your spare time when you're not working in the Nursery?

I spend my time researching and developing new ideas. In my own garden I keep bees and doves. I also enjoy listening to audio books when I'm hard at work mowing the grass in the summertime. My other hobbies include tinkering with my racing hovercraft, my 1954 te20 tractor and of course computers & electronics for the less clement days!

Do come and visit us soon to find out how Tim and his team can help you with your next garden project!