Christmas in Yorkshire can be dark, dull and cold. But at Ravensworth Nurseries in Yorkshire, Christmas heralds a munificence of glowing scarlet poinsettias filling acres of cosy, heated glass houses.
Christmas is also a time when families get together. But for the family at Ravensworth Nurseries, this is nothing special: three generations of family work together there every day.
Fiona Dean, whose father and uncle founded the nursery in the 1960s, recalls a childhood spent at the nursery. There was a lot of hard work, but, she says, “We were lucky, because as kids we were always here, and now, our kids know that we’re here.”
Her father and uncle started with no money – they had jobs as farm labourers, and built themselves a glasshouse where they grew tomatoes to sell to passers by going to Whorlton Lido.
Carefully saving their profits, when land at Ravensworth came up for sale, they bought it and moved their families here. As the years went by, they added more and more glasshouses.
Fiona recalls childhood Christmasses spent making holly wreaths and cutting lettuces in the glasshouses. “People wanted salad with their cold turkey,” she recalls. In summer, she and her cousins, Jonny and Matthew Bradbrook, spent evenings helping to grade tomatoes. She remembers one night, poor Jonny was so tired, he fell asleep on the grader.
But then, nearly fifty years ago, someone asked for poinsettias, and the family began growing them.
The poinsettia has long been a Christmas favourite, as it flowers in December, with a rich red colour that’s ideal for festive decorations. Customers loved them, and soon, the poinsettias crowded out the lettuces from the glasshouses.
Today, the family specialises in bedding in summer and poinsettias in winter. On the run-up to Christmas, the glasshouses are a cheery sight, warm and full of glowing, bright red flowers. Teams of staff laugh and joke as they make thousands of holly wreaths, and the cosy glasshouses are a welcome refuge from the chill Yorkshire December.
The hard work through the generations has built a thriving business that makes things a little easier nowadays. Fiona says. “My son has his jobs, but he doesn’t have to do such long hours as we did. And because we have more people now, we can all get some time off.”
And when Christmas comes, the family that works together, plays together. Fiona says, I get them all together for Christmas dinner.”
And does she have a poinsettia in the house? “Yes,” she says, “I put mine in the hearth, instead of a fire. If you look down on it from the top, you see the whole of the shape and colour.”
Read more about Christmas with the family at Ravensworth Nurseries in Dalesman Magazine’s December 2017 issue.
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