Robert Bolton and Son

We received the following message in the guest book from Budd LaRue

Hi, I really enjoyed finding this tonight. Nearly 20 years ago I was in the Robert Bolton and Sons parking lot on a business trip with a California seedsman. He was too embarrassed to call on them as we had not made an appointment, something I will always regret as small seed companies have a way of disappearing. Your pages on their activities showed that some people there have a lot of love for that business! I am sorry to note you have moved on to Wales, but I am sure glad to see you have kept the birdbrook site up!!!! Best, Budd

I emailed him back

Thank you for your comment. I am sure Bolton’s would have loved you to call in and getting so close! Sadly they sold out in around 2001 but I am not sure who to. We moved to Birdbrook in 2000 the last year they grew sweet peas and then only in one field but it was a sight I shall always remember and also the fantastic perfume.

And this is the fantastic pictures we then received showing seed production USA style

Starbuck 2005

French Marigold Harvest Lompoc

Zinnia State Fair

Hi Ann, Oh dear, so Boltons are actually gone? That saddens me. The had to be the very last only Sweet Pea seed company on earth. And one of the few UK seed companies still making seed in the UK. Here in California the company I work for pulled out of Sweet Peas in 2002, I think it was, when our competitors lowered the price to what we used to pay the farmer himself. We had over 250 acres the last year. I can imagine the impact that would have on a small firm, but the clients were different. Looking at the photos, I can only imagine what it was like at Bolton's, but although our Sweet Peas were mechanized like wheat, we still do a lot of flower seed farming by hand, just like in your photos. Did the photos come from people who used to work at Bolton's?

I love the fragrance also and miss Sweet Peas, but the truth these days is that the same amount of attention can generate far higher returns. The whole world has sped up leaving some wonderful things behind. We are growing some Column Stocks this year, they are very fragrant too, but its actually a little obnoxious, nothing like the gentle beauty of the Sweet Pea.

On our trip to the UK in 1990 I was so amazed at the scale of the packet seed selections in the garden centres. Huge. I imagine those have shrunk? I am often in the UK, but almost never near a garden centre now. When I stay out near Heathrow and I walk in the neighborhoods, well, the gardens are awful, there is almost nothing in them. Lots of immigrant families. I will bet the majority of the houses are rented, since the house prices are so high (for so little it seems to me in the UK), who would have a job that could pay the mortgage? I have friends in Edinburgh who live in a really well cared for area and the gardens are fabulous, and their friends all talk gardening. I probably need to see their children's homes to see if the next generation is carrying on. I sent a friend in London a packet of Lompoc - grown Sweet Peas this last year to put in her garden, well it wasn't a garden as I know a garden, it was the dirt behind the house, but I never convinced her. It is such a delight to see the nice gardens where they still have them. They add so much to life.

Best, Budd 

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