Focus on Peter Graves
Florist: Oaklands Nursery
If every resident of Girton wished to have her or his own splendid scarlet poinsettia plant for Christmas, then they could each choose three from Oaklands Nursery -- such is the scale of production at Peter Graves Florist on the Cambridge Road. Here a veritable avalanche of colourful flowers and plants of all types is propagated, bundled into sprays, and fashioned into elegant displays. Girton's own plant and flower nursery is a world of beauty that few would suspect from its modest exterior appearance.
Oaklands Nursery has been on its present site since before the First World War. Now better known as Peter Graves Florist, it is a fourth-generation family business. Headed by partners Mr Peter Graves and Mrs Cynthia Graves, it now looks forward to the latest generation of their three sons Philip, Bruce and Andy.
Its business is the supply of cut flowers and houseplants, which were the mainstay of the firm for many years. But increasingly the artistic floristry side has grown. A team of six expert and qualified florists is led by Sarah Clark, and their skills at both modern and traditional bespoke floristry are appreciated by many private and corporate customers. They supply weddings, events, colleges, churches and funerals, local authorities with everything from large displays to small floral gifts.
While both partners still work a full day in the firm, their sons are now taking over. As well as the Girton site, Peter Graves has a High Street Histon shop ( Andy in charge), a long-established stall in Cambridge Market opposite Barclay's Bank and a busy outlet at RAF Lakenheath ( Bruce manages both), while Philip controls buying. Supplying all these are 1 1/2 acres of glasshouses at Girton and Cottenham, in which the plants are propagated and brought to perfection. Nearly 20 staff from Girton and surrounding villages are employed and a fleet of five vans distributes over an eight-mile radius.
The glasshouses produce all year round. After Christmas daffodils, hyacinths and tulips predominate, while summer brings a wide variety of bedding and patio plants as well as hanging baskets. Cyclamen and poinsettias in particular are brought on during autumn and winter means holly wreaths and festive swags Most plants are grown on from "plugs", and it is a wonderful sight to see some 10,000 or 12,000 similar plants in rows, all developing perfectly in a large temperature-controlled glasshouse. Cut flowers can be found in the cold rooms where they are kept in perfect condition for up to a week. Mr Graves used to buy from Covent Garden, but now Philip orders directly from the famed international market at Aalsmeer in Holland, whose giant trucks deliver most weekdays directly to Girton.
Mr Peter Graves reflects on his 60-plus years in the business, which he joined as a 14-year-old after Girton Endowed School and Impington Village College. For two generations the core activity then had been tomatoes, fruit and strawberries. He has seen the cut flowers business grow and then wilt under the cost pressures of supermarkets. Increasingly, the emphasis has moved towards the creative aspects of floristry, in which the firm can meet individual preferences and tastes to a high standard of quality and artistry.
Mr Graves looks back on many years of giving pleasure through flowers to Girtonians. He hopes at least one of the young Graves grandchildren will be enthused to continue a family horticultural tradition which stretches back over 100 years. Looking over those phalanxes of magnificent poinsettias ready for Christmas, let's hope so too.
Address: Cambridge Road, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0PN
Telephone: 01223 276408
"Focus on Girton" is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Team of Girton Parish News, with the consent and cooperation of the organisation concerned. They do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.