O’Dowd’s Show Stopping Roses
On the back of winning Best Plant Stand at GLAS, Caroline O’ Dowd explains what it takes to run a successful nursery in Ireland today and what goes into making an award winning plant display.
6 August 2015
With over 21 years experience running one of Ireland leading nurseries, Caroline O’Dowd of O’Dowd Nurseries knows exactly what it takes to manage a successful nursery during a time which has seen both highs and lows for the Irish horticulture industry. Having been established in 1994 on the back of a hobby, the business now stocks up to 50,000 roses with 480 varieties on offer and employs up to 20 people.
The nursery is renowned for its roses and the decision to specialise in them came down to a passion of Caroline’s for them. “Even though I started with bedding plants I was always fascinated with roses. My passion is roses so I believe in working with products that you love or enjoy working with where possible. So I was delighted to see that there was an opening for Irish grown roses” explains Caroline.
With downtime during winter from producing bedding plants Caroline also saw growing roses as an opportunity to provide work for staff when she ordinarily would not have had any for them. “There was also a few months in winter where I had no work for staff and I did not want to let them off either so I started growing the roses. As time went on the demand for the roses got bigger and I started sowing roses in poly bags and from there it just took off.”
Last month O’Dowd roses took centre stage at the GLAS trade show in Dublin. Not only did the stand prove a hit with visitors but also with the show’s judges who name it Best Plant Stand 2015. On the win Caroline says “It was a great sense of achievement for us and our staff because so much time and effort was put into it. It gives us pride and recognition for our hard work and motivates us to come up with new ideas and show customers that we are passionate about our plants.” Caroline stresses the importance of her ‘dedicated staff and family’ in not only helping with the stand but in driving the business forward.
The award winning design brought in elements from all areas of the business including vegetable plants, bedding plants and roses. The overall design was created by Caroline’s brother Michael of Maturetrees.com. One the design idea Caroline says “We wanted to give people an understanding of how knowledge of the land & cultivation techniques, together with a commitment to excellence can produce outstanding produce in this country.”
She adds “We all worked together to perfect the stand and it just evolved into something great with its wildflower meadow look to its horse drawn grubber with vegetables drills. We were delighted with the final product and we were pleased with the vibrant and contrasting colours within the different themes.”
Creating a stand like this one requires a lot of work that visitor or judges never see. As Caroline explains it takes weeks of preparation to ensure the stand will look its best on show day. “The week before the show the whole stand had to be put together as it would be on the day at GLAS. This took over two days and photographs were taken from all angles for reference and when we were all finally satisfied we took the stand down. Then the day before the show the stand was set up in City West in six hours by four people.”
Shows like GLAS or national trolley fairs provide a vital opportunity for O’Dowd nurseries to promote its business to both current and potential new clients. According to Caroline word of mouth is vitally important to the business. “We find word of mouth, our top quality plants and our willingness to help customers in any way we can works well for us. We are also participants in the Bord Bia Nursery Quality Programme. This has helped us to achieve and maintain high quality standards and our customers and new customers recognise this.”
On the future of O’Dowd Nurseries Caroline says that constant review and adapting to changes is vital. “Our main goal in business is to produce high quality plants and to continue to provide an efficient service and produce of excellence to our customers. This is achieved with the help of our hard working and dedicated staff. Every year we review all aspects of our business and identify areas for improvement. We pay particular attention to our product range, product quality and customer satisfaction.”