With a combined total of 103 years’ experience, two Hillier Nurseries innovators are retiring. Alan Postill, with 60 years of Hillier experience and the title of one of the UK’s greatest plant breeders, and Nursery Manager Dave Hooker, who has worked for Hillier for 43 years, are passing on the baton to the next generation of horticulturists.

Over the decades, Hillier has been responsible for numerous plant introductions, many of which have become essentials in British gardens, and master propagator and plant breeder Alan has been responsible for a great number of these.

The acquisition of Rosebourne follows a period of growth that has seen Hillier move from 12 garden centres in 2019 to 19 garden centres and an online shop currently, this acquisition brings the group to a total of 22 garden centres.

Having joined Hillier at the tender age of 15, starting his career at the Chandlers Ford nursery on August 24th 1962, Alan has worked with a long list of notable propagators and plantsmen. He is rightfully recognised as one of the world’s number-one experts in his field.

Looking back, Alan clearly recalls his first day when he met Arthur Stevens, who was the site foreman at the time, as well as skilled propagator, Victor Pawloski. Alan had previously studied at Millbrook Farm and Garden School for four years and was among two or three students who joined from the school each year.

Alongside Alan, fellow longstanding Hillier Nursery Manager Dave Hooker is also retiring after 43 years. Dave worked in the nurseries alongside Alan and has passionately ensured that the team remains trained, passing on his incredible knowledge and expertise for both the plants and nurseries at Hillier.

Dave also oversaw the development of much of the Brentry and Woodlands sites, and his presence among the nurseries and the skills that he has taught will always be felt.

As Hillier says goodbye to two members of its nursery team, it also welcomes a new member, Gill Dowling. Gill has worked in the industry as a Propagation Supervisor for over 25 years and brings with her a wealth of knowledge in propagation as well as extensive experience developing, multiplying and trialling new varieties and bringing them to market. Gill has settled into the nursery team incredibly well and is already starting to work on important projects such as propagation in peat-free media.

Alan and Dave have both shared a wish to stay in touch and intend to visit the nursery and offer any support that Gill and the team may require to ensure that the Hillier skills are passed on to the next generation.

To mark Alan and Dave’s achievements and dedication to the company, Chairman Robert Hillier and Director of Property George Hillier hosted a congratulatory lunch attended by other past members of Hillier staff and the board to say thank you for all they have done for Hillier.

When asked about his time spent with Hillier, Dave replied, “During my time at Hillier, I have seen many great changes and have watched the industry really develop. I have always appreciated working within a family business, and it’s been a very enjoyable 43 years.”

Alan has specialised in all forms of propagation, including grafting, root cuttings and growing from seed, and has introduced numerous popular plant species.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ was named after Alan’s wife and is a splendid and very hardy form of Daphne that Alan raised in 1982. It is evergreen or semi-evergreen with large, showy flowers and an absolutely delicious fragrance.

Alan also developed the beautiful Choisya x dewittiana ‘Aztec Gold’ a decade ago to mark his 50th anniversary at the company, and it was launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. The golden form of the Mexican orange blossom is an evergreen shrub that is designed to be resistant to winter weather damage and produces white flowers in spring or early summer and autumn.

Both are testaments to Alan’s expertise and have proven very popular since their introduction.

In reference to Alan and Dave’s incredible achievements, Robert Hillier commented: “After 60 years as a propagator, Alan must rank amongst the most skilled propagators that there has ever been. Generous and patient, he is always keen to pass on his skills and still takes pleasure in seeing a plant grow roots. Dave leaves us with a great legacy on the nursery, where his attention to detail and desire to make systems and processes as simple as possible will be with us for a long time. I can only imagine how many millions of plants Alan has propagated or Dave has grown over the years, as well as the joy those plants have brought to gardeners and the legacy they have left in British gardens”.