The Burford Story

A Potted History

Since our inception, our family business has always done things a little differently. In fact a recent consultant we worked with concluded that two words could best describe Burford Garden Company – 'Something Different'.

It is true that over the years we have worked hard on our perhaps subconscious goal of creating a kind of non-corporate retail utopia, as distinct from the UK high street as you might think possible, and far from the madding crowd as they say. Our products are different, and how we present them is different too.


I travelled a lot in my youth, moving from school to school because of my father's work. I would come back to revisit education a little later in life, but first I worked in Australia, buying of all things a fizzy drinks' bottling plant as my first enterprise. This was followed by acquiring a Harley Davidson franchise, and my interest in motorbikes, albeit vintage ones, continues today.


My family first bought the old, derelict sheep farm just outside Burford in 1975, and with dad, a former submariner and 'champion' pugilist, we set about establishing a plant nursery.

Now settled in the Cotswolds, the early days were hard, hard work, with endless hours spent unloading compost bags by hand until we had saved up enough to buy our first forklift truck, and always constantly battling against the elements.

The business began to take off and soon we started to add to the greenhouses, diversifying into wider ranges of plants and pots and then, bit by bit, a decent car park for our customers. Soon we had heating and then we launched, with mum behind the stoves, our now renowned café, the first of its kind in the UK.

I met Louise in the early 1980s, just as the business was beginning to forge ahead. We married and Louise began to add her signature to the business, concentrating on sourcing unique and individual pieces for the home. Our furniture and home décor ranges followed, along with more retail space and a bigger and better car park.

We grew as a family too, with the arrival of our three children, Samuel, Tom and Eleanor. Our team at the business flourished, with the development of a management team to help me with the running of the business, and to enable me to fulfil my ambition of a belated University education and a History of Art Masters Degree.

With plants and gardening still at the core of our offer today (sourced in the UK where possible), the last ten years have seen the company develop apace, with a brand new 300-seater café and restaurant, the advent of our Food Halls, Heritage Kitchen Garden and Little Burford Children's Store, the launch of our Online Store and our enhanced House and Home offering. We have run pop-up stores in London, collaborated with the hugely enjoyable Wilderness festival, and have seen the launch of our very own Shoreditch Studio in the creative heart of the Capital. We have also forged a now decade-long ground-breaking social enterprise partnership with the Oxford-based charity Aspire, culminating in our winning of The Guardian Charity of The Year Award.

Our Burford store today is housed in an eclectic, yet beautiful mix of vintage glasshouses with timber framed sections – well maintained of course and it all works. We have the accolades to boot – Silver Gilt winners at Chelsea Flower Show, Oxfordshire Restaurant of The Year winner, and winner at the 2015 Oxfordshire Business Awards.

We employ the very best people and we work with the very best suppliers and manufacturers that can be found, supporting local artisans and craftsmen wherever possible and with a strong emphasis on British and heritage products. Our buyers work tirelessly to find those individual products that generally cannot be found elsewhere.

Of course none of this would have been possible without our loyal customers, new and old, who have always supported us. As I reflect on our 40 years as a family business, the one thing I ask my team is to remember to always say thank you. So, on our behalf of everyone at Burford Garden Company, we thank you for choosing to shop with us, now and in the future.

Nigel Johnson
Founding Director and Chairman