History Of Poplar Nurseries

Poplar Nurseries is a family-run business now spanning three generations...

Poplar is proud to have been at the heart of the community for over 80 years. Our roots are firmly established in nursery production and growing, with Eric Cowan founding Poplar Nurseries initially producing plants outside and cucumber and melons under glass.  We have diversified over the years and now welcome thousands of visitors to Poplar a year, but we still continue to be innovative and forward thinking.  Read a little more about our history...

Our Story

Poplar Nurseries was started in 1938 by Eric Cowan.

Eric was a seed grower and the nursery was down Great Tey lane opposite to where we are now.

He bought the site of where Poplar is now in 1947 to carry on his seed growing.

He was known for his sweet pea growing. Row upon row he grew 8 miles, all for seed.

Martin Cowan came into the business inheriting the 3rd largest block of mobile glass locally to develop his passion of growing chrysanthemums in 1972.

Chrysanthemums growing in the greenhouses

In the late 1970’s with all the foreign imports of cut flowers it was becoming more difficult, so he started selling a sleeve of flowers help yourself by the gate for £1 and some days selling 20 sleeves a day, which was very good money for those days, pointing him in the direction to go retail.

Poplar started growing bedding plants to sell retail and then expanded in supply for three councils, Colchester being one of them in the early 1980’s.

Poplar Nurseries became widely renowned for our hanging baskets.

We started delivering to pubs and hotels from London to Norwich as a call for our service grew.

This is one of our larger delivery vehicles making deliveries around the East of England.

In 1987 Poplar suffered quite badly with the hurricane being one of the tunnels that was decimated.

Matthew, Martin’s youngest son joined him in the business in 1998 and became MD in 2010 has grown the business for the 3rd generation which we are very proud of. Mandy, Matthew’s wife started the Farm Shop in 2010 which has been a great success. We are looking to expand this further. Here is Martin and Matthew Cowan at the Poplar Nurseries 80th birthday celebrations.