Food allergy launched Accrington business

PUBLISHED: 01:15 05 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 February 2013

Rebekah with trug full of her favourite vegetables

Rebekah with trug full of her favourite vegetables

An Accrington gardener with half a century of experience has been inspired by his young granddaughter, as Linda Viney reports

Not many five-and-a-half-year-olds are as fond of vegetables as little Rebekah Dacey. Her family do not have to resort to the old the trains coming into the tunnel tactics to persuade her to eat her greens and she even inspired her grandparents new veg business, which has been named in her honour.

Rebekah lists cabbage, sweetcorn and potatoes as her favourite vegetables and her name is now printed on packets of 500 varieties of vegetable seed which are bagged up on granddad Peter Holdens dining room table in Accrington.

Peter, who this year marks 50 years of gardening, served a nine year apprenticeship with the local authority parks department before running his own nurseries.

As a 12-year-old Peter went every Saturday morning to help his friends family on their allotment and loved it so much that when the adjoining plot came free Peter took it over. The seed was sown for the rest of his life.

After renting a retail nursery in Accrington bought Springfields Nursery in Blacko, which he and his wife Yvonne still have and it is where they grow all the plants for the stunning award winning displays of vegetables seen at flower shows from Cornwall to Scotland.

Initially he propagated herbaceous perennials doing 80,000 a year and was skilled in propagating Oriental poppies supplying nurseries all over the country. However once the children left home they decided to stop trailing all over and with nurseries owing them money, they went back to exhibiting and selling at flower shows with spectacular displays of campanulas.

At Arley Hall they gained the Lady Ashbrook Best in Show with a limited edition print of her painting of Oriental Poppies. Roy Lancaster, the Gardeners World presenter from Bolton, couldnt stop commenting about their display which really captivated him.

We have even served Princess Alexandra with our campanulas, Peter proudly told me. However these campanulas only have six weeks at their peak and the thinking cap went on again.

Their granddaughter Rebekah, who will be six in July, suffers from intolerance to wheat and dairy but loves fruit and vegetables and so it seemed fitting that supplying vegetable seed was the answer for Peter and Yvonne.

Choosing a name for the business wasnt difficult - Rebekahs Veg was born about three years ago - and the youngsters involvement didnt stop there. She often accompanies her grandparents to shows held during school holidays.

Yvonne was initially sceptical about the veg seed business and didnt think their show stand would be appreciated by judges, even though the response from the public was positive. She neednt have worried.

There has been as explosion in interest in growing for eating and they won a Large Gold Medal and Best in Show at a small holders show in Wales.

Then at last years Holker Festival they were awarded the Lady Cavendish Trophy for their display of vegetables and at Southport they won the Christiana Hartley Trophy.

They now have 500 varieties of vegetable seed which are packaged on the dining room table in small glassine bags (like stamp bags) to keep the seeds dry, which are then put in brown wage packet envelopes.

People seem to like the nostalgic packaging, although they are keen to try new varieties especially the Oriental ones, Yvonne said. Cut and come again salad leaves and American landcress are proving popular this year. We sell them all at 1 with enough seed in for a family and at shows we have an offer of six for 5. We are DEFRA registered and everything has to be recorded so it is traceable.

Peter is up at his nursery every day when he isnt at shows and is often riddling his soil before sterilising it for planting.

People think I am totally crackers as I dont use peat based compost, he said. I do add a small amount of peat but I find my end product suits me fine.

He also gives talks to garden societies and at shows. His wit and twinkling eyes will no doubt captivate people and his knowledge built up over half a century will not be beaten. The talks Grow it, Pick it, Eat it are accompanied by small food tasters of soup and vegetable pancakes.

Visit the website for their seed list, you can order online and post a cheque to Yvonne Holden, Rebekahs Veg, c/o Springfield Nurseries, 2 Back Gisburn Road, Blacko, BB9 6LT. Alternatively you buy their seed and small plants

from their stand at many garden shows and plant fairs around the country, and they are often at Ramsbottom Market on a Saturday.

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