We're so proud to be 100% New Zealand owned and operated, with 100+ years of growing expertise.

We chatted to Stanley Palmer whose father, Arthur started Palmers Nursery back in 1912.

Who or what was the inspiration behind putting a retail store on the front of the nursery (I believe this was the first of its kind in New Zealand?)

My dad, Arthur William Palmer grew up in Blickling, Norfolk and was employed as a game-keeper at Blickling Hall, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. He arrived in NZ from England in 1908.

In 1912, he purchased the property on Great North Road, Glen Eden. I understand at the time, much of the property was in orchard. The glasshouses were used for growing grapes.

From what I can gather, my dad was soon into growing plants in pots and annual seedlings in trays.

Apart from the occasional ‘Corner stores’ in Auckland’s suburbs, most shopping and banking was carried out in Auckland city. Clients needing plants just had to ‘go to town’. Dad obviously saw an opportunity and began a regular plant delivery service to the city using a horse-drawn wagon.

Notable city plant shops were Farmers in Hobson Street, Hopkins in Customs Street, Mackays in Queen Street and Carlton Seed Co in Karangahape Road. Eventually businesses opened in Symonds St, Newmarket, Remuera and gradually into outer suburbs.

In those days, Great North Road was unformed and became a quagmire in rainy periods. Owners of bogged vehicles would ask my dad to pull them up the Waikumete Hill with his horses!

Well into the 1940‘s, servicing Auckland’s plant shops with daily deliveries was a major part of Palmers business.

Fast forward to 1945 and the end of WW2. A tremendous building boom with generous sized blocks created an ever-increasing demand for horticultural products.

Palmers attempted to sell retail but were soon overwhelmed with cars and people as they tried to operate ‘behind the scenes’.

A decision was made to build a retail department ‘out front’ in 1958. Self-service wasn’t given any thought at that time. Deciduous stock like fruit trees, roses and some ornamentals were ‘heeled in’ beds of sawdust and when selected, needed their roots ‘packaged’ for the client. We were totally overwhelmed with cars and people.

One of the first Foodtown supermarkets had recently opened on West Coast Road. I often would drive up there to get ideas on crowd control in a retail store.

With an architect’s help we tried to work out how to cater for overwhelming crowds in a horticultural retail environment. Vainly attempting to accomplish this without a kiwi precedent led me to go to California to research garden retailing.

It was 1965. I took off from Whenuapai airport in a ‘prop’ plane. Generously hosted by members of the Californian Nurserymen’s Assn, I visited numerous retail establishments. But two or three weeks passed before seeing the type of operation we needed back in Glen Eden. Located in Sepulveda, it entailed all stock being pre-packaged, a fleet of specially designed trundlers, smartly uniformed staff and multi-checkouts. I was kindly given copies of the plans of that centre.

I returned home, and together with the architect designed the revolutionary garden centre at Glen Eden with Musak and automatic doors which first opened in 1966. The public loved it. It was an instant hit. We started with four checkouts and had to open a fifth.


Were you surprised by the success of the retail store?

Not so much ‘surprised’ as delighted!


When did Palmers start expanding beyond the Glen Eden site into other locations? Were there any other nurseries that you developed?

We were equal shares in a GC with Foodtown at their Papakura site probably from around 1970.

Australasian Nurseries had three retail stores at Pakuranga, Mangere and Lynfield. We bought them out around 1977.


What innovations did you introduce during your time running Palmers?

Glen Eden was our ‘Flagship’ branch. Maybe TV advertising could be considered innovative in those days.


When did you take over the business from your father?

It was sometime around 1965.


What year did you sell the business? Do you remember how many stores there were then?

There were just the five stores. My late brother Geoffrey and I sold the business in 1981


What do you think the reasons are for the enduring success of the brand?

Considering Palmers almost went the same way as Levenes, it is satisfying to witness not only its survival but its strong growth into many branches. I can only assume this success is due to the personal input of each franchise operator.


What are you most proud of when you think of your time at Palmers?

Possibly leading the team back in 1965-6 as we identified a gigantic problem, searching for and finding a solution to that problem and seeing the brand continuing to grow even more than 50 years later. Also, very satisfying is whether in print or on line Palmers Manual is still a major source of horticultural reference.






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