THE owner of a garden centre says his passion for plants is still alive as he celebrates his 70th birthday this year.

Alan Bourne bought Perrywood Garden Centre, in Tiptree, from his parents in 1984 with wife Karin.

He has lived most of it in a house next to the garden centre and has enjoyed the past few decades directing the family business.

In 1955, dad Les bought Perrywood, which at the time was a four-acre smallholding, when Alan was four years old.

They grew field crops and had a few animals to make a living from the land, with Les, wife Mary, son Alan, and his two sisters living on site in a bungalow.

Alan became interested in growing in greenhouses in his teen years and suggested his parents get some for Perrywood.

In his 20s, Alan worked with his dad to build up the site from plumbing and electricals to greenhouse building.

A young Alan Bourne gardening with his children at Perrywood

A young Alan Bourne gardening with his children at Perrywood

Once he bought the site from his parents, he moved in with his wife and children Hannah, six, Simon, four, and Tristan, two, taking their belongings by tractor and trailer.

The family moved into a static caravan while the bungalow was converted into a house.

In his 30s, Perrywood Tiptree, then called Perrywood Nurseries, scaled up and became well known in Essex.

Despite the challenges of storms and harsh winters, Alan was extremely dedicated and kept the business going.

Building and expansion continued in the Eighties and Nineties and into the millennium.

Alan Bourne admiring flowers at a competition

Alan Bourne admiring flowers at a competition

Alan said: “Perrywood has changed a great deal since I lived here as a boy.

“Over the years, we’ve significantly grown the team, invested in technology, sourced more and more plants and products, and built many greenhouses and buildings.

“What has remained constant is our passion for good quality plants, and the support from our customers.”

In 2014, Alan and Karin celebrated 30 years in charge of the business. Karin has now retired from day-to-day responsibilities.

Son Tristan is now back in the business and Alan has handed on some responsibilities to all three children, who are directors.

Alan, whose birthday was on April 3, is still responsible for plant buying, travelling to nurseries around the UK and Europe to find the best specimens.