The Nurseries were founded in 1925 by the late Frank Langdon who decided to leave a family firm of market gardeners in which he was a partner. Frank’s paternal bloodline had been in the market garden profession since the early eighteenth century but Frank had always dreamt of owning his own nursery and with just £300 to his name, he managed to acquire an acre of farmland in Old Rydon Lane, Exeter, which now forms the front corner of the main nursery.
The First Crop
One of the first crops Frank Langdon grew was a patch of St. Brigid anemones. Frank and his wife Hilda decided to name the firm after these flowers, though they thought St. Bridget sounded better than St. Brigid, hence the different spelling.
To help make ends meet in the early years, vegetables were grown as well as flowers and a Ford Model A lorry was purchased to sell them to local greengrocers. As the business grew the vegetables gave way to nursery stock and in 1934 Frank bought some 30 acres of land at Clyst St. Mary. To ensure they had a permanent supply of organic manure the family purchased a herd of pigs, which eventually grew to number about 1500.
The nursery continued to expand steadily with greenhouses and buildings being erected and more staff employed. Frank and Hilda’s children, Una and Norman were both actively involved in the business, which was truly a family concern.
The Second Generation
Frank Langdon died in 1941 leaving the business to his nineteen-year-old son Norman. Under his management St. Bridgets became fully involved in the Dig for Victory campaign, nursery stock being replaced by vegetable crops though a nucleus of stock plants were planted in a small corner of land so that production could recommence quickly after the war.
Indeed after the war the nursery expanded rapidly and St. Bridgets was soon exhibiting at lots of shows including Chelsea and supplying plants to customers across the country.
The 1960s brought many changes to St. Bridget Nurseries. In 1965 everyone was saddened by the death of Hilda Langdon who was greatly missed by all who knew her. Three years later Hilda’s granddaughter, Janet, Norman’s daughter, joined the firm.
During this decade the Garden Centre had started to evolve utilising Nursery beds and frames whilst two old greenhouses and a potting shed served as the ‘Sundries centre’. On the Nursery, two wide-span Aluminium Greenhouses covering nearly an acre were erected, and in 1969 the famous old nursery firm of Robert Veitch and Son Ltd was acquired. Although run separately for many years, Veitch’s is now a subsidiary of St. Bridgets and no longer trades under its own name.
A Limited Family-Run Company
During the 1970s trade increased at the Garden Centre in Old Rydon Lane and more and more shrubs were being container grown. In 1974 the Garden Centre at Clyst St. Mary was opened on the site of the old piggery utilising some of the old farm buildings. In 1978 St. Bridget’s became a Limited Company but still remained a family firm and in January 1979 a micro propagation laboratory was opened – the first in the country for hardy nursery stock production.
The 80’s and 90’s saw continued expansion of the two Garden Centres. Each of them going through several major re-developments during these two decades, whilst on the nursery, more and more stock was being container grown.
In 2004, St Bridget Nurseries suffered a major loss with the sad death of Norman Langdon. Norman had driven many of the changes and advancements of the company for over 60 years and he is greatly missed. However, just two years later and with history almost repeating itself, the fourth generation has joined the firm. Tammy Falloon (nee Flinn), Janet’s daughter, now works alongside her mother and together they are planning for the future. Today the nursery still grows a wide range of plants, propagating and producing its own ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, shrubs, hardy perennials, conifers together with seasonal bedding plants and a cyclamen crop.
In November 2006, the company won the ‘Nursery Retailer of the Year’ award, the judges commented on our presentation, attention to detail and devotion to plants.
In 2007 the company was further recognised by winning a hat-trick of awards at The Greatest Awards for Team Success in Garden Retailing. St Bridget Nurseries were presented awards for being:
• The UK’s Greatest Planteria Team
• The Greatest Garden Centre Catering Team in the South West – the award went to The Plantsmans Cafe at Our Old Rydon Lane garden centre.
A silver award for the greatest in-store merchandising idea as well as being voted one of the top 20 garden centres in the UK – as voted for by the general public! It didn’t stop there either as we’ve since gone on to be UK Grower of the Year Finalists and in 2019 we were the national winner for the Family Business Awards, Home and Garden Category.
Our 95th year
2020 marked our 95th in year business and it was certainly the most challenging in recent history. Garden centres across the country went into covid-19 lockdown at what would be the busiest time of year for any gardener. Sadly we closed the doors for good at our Old Rydon Lane garden centre. Whilst the site continues to home our production nursery it is no longer open to the public and our retail operations are entirely based at our Sidmouth Road, Clyst St Mary garden centre. Most of the retail team moved across to Clyst St Mary and so we now have an even bigger team there to help serve you and provide the customer service we are known and loved for. We remain plant-orientated and are always looking at ways we can offer you more.
In 2021 we re-opened our wonderful café. We have a delicious menu serving breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas so you we make an ideal day trip location!
Our garden centre is open 7 days a week, we look forward to you visiting us at Sidmouth Road, Clyst St Mary, Exeter, EX5 1AE.