Ambleside-based garden centre Hayes Garden World is celebrating the fantastic 40-year anniversary of their Plant Buyer, Paul Crossland.
Crossland joined Hayes Garden World on their apprenticeship scheme in 1979 aged just 16 and is now the Outdoor Plants Team Leader, a crucial role that supports Hayes’ success. It’s Crossland’s responsibility to ensure the garden centre’s covetable shelves are stocked high with colourful, vibrant and on-trend plants that satisfy and excite customers.
During the Easter school holidays in 1979, Crossland visited the Ambleside store to ask if there were any jobs available. Peter and Leigh Hayes, Hayes Garden World’s owners, interviewed him on the spot and were so pleased with the 16-year-old’s professionalism that they immediately offered him an apprenticeship.
“On my first day I was very nervous about meeting all the staff, but they made me feel very welcome,” Crossland explains. “The nursery manager John Bell showed me how to prune roses and then set me off on 3,000 of them – which kept me busy for the rest of the week!”
Crossland’s successful journey from 16-year-old school-leaver to buying team leader highlights the importance of apprenticeship schemes, particularly within the DIY and garden centre trade sector.
Crossland has had a truly memorable 40 years at Hayes Garden World, including his greatest achievement which was serving a 3-year apprenticeship in Horticulture.
“Taking over the running of the plant area was a big achievement for me,” Crossland continues. “I’ve also enjoyed being in charge of buying the stock for the department and being part of the Tillington Group and attending meetings and Nursery Visits.”
Over his 40-year career, Crossland has seen the garden centre transform from a small site in the Lake District to a popular tourist attraction and leading e-commerce platform that caters nationwide. He is also proud to have witnessed Hayes Garden World winning the HTA Garden Centre of the Year in 1994.
“The first most notable changes that I saw was the major renovation to the upstairs restaurant in 1983,” Crossland explains. “Up until then, we only had two vending machines in the shop doing hot drinks in plastic cups and a small range of snacks with a little breakfast bar to sit at. Also, there was the expansion of the retail site and the ‘Crystal Place’ which opened in 1987.”
“In the early days, our shelves predominately featured A-Z ranges of plants,” Crossland continues. “But now that’s just 15% of the plant area, the rest is now seasonal impulse buys of displays in bud, flower and foliage colour. We’ve also got lots of Herbaceous Plants, Roses, Alpines and Seasonal Bedding Plants.”
To celebrate his career to date, Hayes Garden World has awarded Crossland an all-expenses-paid weekend at popular hotel chain Macdonald Hotel Group, an extra week’s paid holiday and a certificate to mark his 40-year anniversary. A ceremony will also be held internally.
Commenting on Paul’s milestone, Keith Laird, Operations Director at Hayes Garden World said: “Paul is one of our longest serving members of staff and is a highly valued member of the Hayes team. He has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge of over the 40 years he has worked with us and is a real asset. Paul has worked his way up to the very top of his industry, and that can only be achieved if you hold a genuine passion for what you do. We are very proud to have had Paul serve with us for so many years.
Paul started with us on as one of the last Nurserymen Apprenticeships between 1979 – 1981, shortly after, we witnessed the shift from growing all our own stock to buying it in and the style of apprenticeship that we had historically carried, came to an end. There is a vast shortage of knowledgeable plant and nursery staff in the UK, in the future we hope to take part in another initiative to bring people like Paul into the industry where they can grow and share their knowledge with visitors and amateur gardeners alike.”