The Fuchsia Centre (Thornton Nurseries), Reservoir Rd, Thornton, Leicestershire LE67 1AN is open 7 days a week 10am – 5pm
John and Nita Smith started to work full time on the site opposite the reservoir in 1963. John took part time work as a postman to subsidise his income while bringing up a young family and growing catch crops such as strawberries and asparagus fern for the floristry trade. John was encouraged into horticulture by his father William (Bill) Smith. Bill was a miner at the Bagworth colliery and in 1948 he had his neck broken in a roof collapse. Bill was brought to the surface of the colliery on the winding wheel which stands outside the nursery.
The business grew, expanding each year with more greenhouses added and soon Hilltop Nurseries as it was known then was establishing its name for specializing in growing fuchsias for the wholesale and retail trade.
Son David joined the business in 1976 and the nursery expanded again into growing houseplants on contract. In the late 80’s the reservoir was opened to the public for both walking and fishing, encouraging more visitors to the village and subsequently the retail plant sales became and integral part of the business.
In 2001 David’s wife, Sue opened the coffee shop such was the demand from walkers, cyclists and gardening enthusiasts.
The third generation Ben (David and Sue’s son) joined the business in 2007 after gaining a computer science degree. This enabled them to expand their website and increase their internet sales.
Further expansion of the site has seen the inclusion of a 5 van, certified Caravan & Motorhome club site, with water and electrics, in a field just below the garden centre. A perfect location with the reservoir opposite, Ratby Burroughs to the south and Bagworth Heath to the west – all areas of outstanding beauty, full of wildlife; ideal for walkers in particular.
The nursery still grows over 85% of what is sold at the nursery and John Smith (86 in 2017) has been a panelist on Radio Leicester’s gardening programme ‘Down to Earth’ since 1969.