Encouraged by his Grandmother, my nephew Sean Dunn, The Managing Partner at the Boma, grew up gardening from a very young age in our hometown of Port Elizabeth South Africa. His gardening passion stayed with him through school and his hobby turned in to a weekend and holiday job at the local garden centre. Assisted by his parents he built a small nursery in their back garden and sold plants to the garden centre. A young and dynamic businessman was in the making.
Determined to continue with a career in horticulture after school, my husband and I decided to sponsor Sean through horticultural college in the UK, where he achieved a Higher National Diploma in Garden Centre Management at Pershore and Writtle colleges. Soon after he qualified we decided to look for a garden centre in London with the hope of acquiring it. We came across the Islip Street garden centre in Kentish Town and eventually persuaded the current owner that Sean was the right person to take over his business. The owner was not well and it was a badly neglected and rundown site.
Little did we know what hard work it would be to fix the site and build a reputation. On the first day of trading in October 2002 our turnover was £15, which we promptly took down to the Oxford Pub on the corner and drank! It has taken massive dedication and hard work by everyone involved to develop and grow the Boma. Our first delivery was done on our first Saturday of trading by my husband a professor and our friend who was a global investment director managing billions. The roof of the shop was full of holes and rain poured in. You had to use an umbrella to stay dry in the toilet. Having owned and sold a successful corporate travel business, I lay in bed for many nights thinking “Oh my, what have I done”. This was most definitely more of a lifestyle change than I had anticipated!
Our first task was to find a new name for our garden centre. Being that the shop was is such disrepair that it looked like a shack and taking in to account our South African backgrounds, we decided on “The Boma” which is a Swahili word and nowadays is often used in African game-parks to describe the central meeting point in the game lodge. We set about slowly rebuilding the site whilst retaining a rustic and simple design. Situated in front of the notorious Peckwater Estate we received amazing encouragement from the residents as the Boma evolved into a urban jungle paradise.
From the beginning we decided to concentrate on what we know well – plants. Our plant area is different to most garden centres. We don’t do the traditional A-Z for shrubs but rather display them as if they were planted out in beds and borders, with a separate area for shade plants. This helps our customers to imagine what they would look like in their gardens and what plants work well together. We select our plant suppliers carefully for quality and variety suitable for London gardens and terraces. Our buyers design a range of pots suitable for the London market of varying materials, colours and sizes.
We soon learnt that many of our customers in London needed help designing, planting and maintaining their gardens and so our Garden Services department was established in 2003. We now offer a range of sought after services from Consultations where we will visit your home and give you advice in your garden, Personal Shopping where you will have a dedicated horticulturist assisting you in the garden centre to ensure you make the appropriate purchases, Regular Maintenance where we maintain your garden throughout the year, Garden Makeovers where we can either tidy up your existing garden or create a new look and Soft Landscaping such as turfing, fencing and raised beds.
The real advantage of the Boma is our people. Our Garden Centre is staffed with committed, friendly and knowledgeable horticulturists. They are all passionate about plants and love their jobs. They love gardening and want to share their experience with our customers. Our Garden Services division is managed by experienced and college trained horticulturists and our gardeners have many years of experience in gardening and maintenance. I believe passionately in treating people equally and with respect and insist that anyone who works for the Boma must respect our principles and our values. We are a happy young company offering opportunity to learn for all who work for us.
We love plants, we love gardening and want to share our enthusiasm with our customers.
Director (& Auntie), August 2013