The Fairweather Family
The Fairweather's team is a friendly group with a shared vision of delivering a great service to our customers.
Fairweather's Garden Centre was established in 1961 by the late Christopher Fairweather and his wife Aline. Patrick Fairweather, the eldest son, caught the horticultural bug from his parents and naturally took over running Fairweather's, where eventually his wife Steff came on-board to manage the cafe, Steff's Kitchen.
It's come a long way since selling plants in baked bean tins in the 60's and the Fairweather family strives to keep it more than just a garden centre, it's a unique place to visit in a historical part of the New Forest.
All our knowledgeable plant team are keen gardeners and know how to look after and nurture plants, which means our plants are healthy and we can provide you with expert advice.
Aline Fairweather the matriarch of the Fairweather family and founder of Fairweather's Garden Centre is still very much involved in sourcing you the best quality plants from local specialist nurseries.
Garden Centre Team
Our team in the shop have been with us a long time! They pride themselves on sourcing products that they know you will love and need. Planning is done in advance and we attend shows to bring you the latest and trending items including furniture.
The wonderful team in our cafe are passionate about the food that's cooked and served. Our menu is planned using local produce from Patrick's Patch and by supporting our local suppliers. Our chef inspires to cook fresh and seasonal recipes along with traditional family favourites.
Our Head Gardener Rachel is supported by a team of wonderful volunteers. Together they ensure a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables to our cafe, engage with local school children who visit and have fun making crafts with the children who attend our Potting Shed Club.
Role - General Manager/Plant Buyer
What got you into gardening? - My mother was a florist in London, and I enjoyed learning about the flowers she used from a young age. It then progressed into outdoor plants with a keen interest in herbaceous nothing more exciting than waiting for those plants to emerge from the soil in Spring.
What do you do in your spare time? - I walk a lot with my Spaniel Charlie and like to swim when I can. I have a passion for books or maybe an obsession and can’t leave a bookstore empty handed. I also enjoy learning new things and recently finished a course in Psychotropic Plants.
What is your favourite flower and why? - Lily of the Valley is my absolute favourite. As a child we had a whole flower bed full of it and I couldn’t wait for the tiny little white bells to emerge followed by the most captivating scent. I even chose it for the buttonholes for my wedding.
What Seasonal Plant would I add for Summer? – Rudbeckias have starry flowers which are robust, they are long flowering plants that shine in borders, containers and prairie-style plantings. They can also look attractive through winter. The stems and distinctive rounded seed heads persist well, providing food for birds and shelter for wildlife.
If you didn’t work for Fairweather's where would you be? - I would probably have been a doctor or psychologist I enjoyed learning the Latin names which linked with learning the Latin plant names, but I prefer working outside so maybe a job relating to the environment.
Role - Chief Gift Buyer/Assistant Manager
When do you start buying the gifts to sell throughout the year and where do you source them from?- We do most of our buying a year in advance travelling to Europe and London! It can be quite interesting getting our heads round buying Christmas for the following year at the beginning of January!
What inspires you when creating displays, especially for Christmas? - I have always loved Christmas even before I joined Fairweather’s and have had a ‘themed tree’ since I left home, picking up ideas from magazines and the best department stores in London! Our building at Fairweather’s inspires us to bring natural decorations into the displays wherever possible.
What did you do before you joined Fairweather’s? - For 20 years I worked for an independent film company working on a variety of films and videos for television and big corporate companies.
What do you do in your spare time?- I read a lot of home design magazines and books and love to watch television programmes like Grand Designs.
If you didn’t work for Fairweather’s, where would you be or what would you be doing?- If I could choose to do anything it would be interior design, even if I wasn’t very good at it!
Role - Epos Supervisor
What do you do at Fairweather’s? - I am the Epos Supervisor, and my main job is to maintain our till, pricing, stock, and back-office system. I also the buyer for a lot of the sundries like tools, chemicals, and bird care. My other responsibilities include being the duty manager, making and printing signs and prices and looking after the on-site responsibilities of our reward card loyalty scheme.
What do you do in your spare time? - I like relaxing at home after work, but I do have other interests and hobbies. Photography and video, including editing on PC. I have various cameras and equipment. I’m no expert but I find it fun. I enjoy playing snooker and pool.I used to play in a local pool team but now I tend to only play snooker every few weeks or so. I’m not very good but I enjoy it.
Where would you be if not at Fairweather’s? - I like to think I would have been a network engineer.
What do you enjoy about working at Fairweather’s?- I enjoy that it is a small family run business where you can feel useful and not just be another number. It makes the job very varied.
What do you do to help staff and customers?- Even though I’m not great at plant advice. I like to think I’m good with the other things people buy for their gardens. Like furniture, tools, and parasols …etc
Do you grow anything at home considering you don’t have a garden?-Yes, I have kept cactus for years. Probably because they are easy to look after. I do try to grow chillies most years with various degrees of success, but I always seem to over water them!
Role - Front of House Manager in Steff's Kitchen
What did you do before you joined Steff's Kitchen?- Before joining Steff's I owned and ran a 10 Bedroom guest house for over 10 years very successfully.
What food do you like to cook? - Anything and everything. I like to try out new recipes and tweak them one of my most favourite is a paella so many flavours in one dish to enjoy and so adaptable
What would you be doing if you didn't work at Fairweather’s? - If I wasn't at Steff's, I'd probably be looking for something similar as I love the buzz of serving and meeting the general public.
What do you do in your spare time?- My hobbies are cycling and walking. I look after Patrick and Steff's dog Chickpea when they are on holiday and we enjoy taking long walks in the New Forest. I really enjoy gardening and oof course cooking!
Have you any exciting plans coming up?- Travelling! Next year I'm off on a long holiday for 11 weeks visiting Dubai, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. I like trying lots of different foods and getting to know the area and cultures. I will be taking something with me from Fairweather's with our Logo on. Just like a bear on a school holiday adventure!
Role - Plantarea Supervisor
What is your favourite summer perennial? - One of my all-time favourites is from the Salvia family and that is Amethyst Lips due to the fact they flower for such a long time and attract lots of pollinators.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? - I enjoy spending time in my own garden which is very full of the many plants I have purchased over the years. I also enjoy willow weaving and challenging myself on new creations.
Where is your favourite walk? - My favourite walk is in Dorset it takes me through woodland with glimpses of farmland and the coastline. There’s an abundance of wildlife and if I’m lucky you often get a glance of deer or birds of prey.
What’s your favourite flower and why? - My favourite flower is the herbaceous hibiscus which has a large exotic flower that you would expect to find in an tropical jungle.
If you weren’t in horticulture, what would you have liked to have done? - I think if I had not chosen horticulture, I would have found myself working with animals in some capacity.
Role - Head Gardener
What do you do as Head Gardener in Patricks’ Patch? - I plan the growing of crops through the year and how the garden is going to look. With the super volunteer team, I carry out the plan and we harvest and grow year-round in a never-ending cycle! Whilst this is going on I organise regular school group visits and run our monthly Potting Shed Club for children. So, the children get to help and see a real productive garden.
What do you enjoy the most in your job? - I love sharing the garden with so many different people - from the volunteers to the school groups, special needs groups and garden visitors. It's a lovely place and so many people come for different reasons, it's always interesting to chat with the visitors. And of course, I like sharing the produce - it's very satisfying to take a massive wheelbarrow full of super-fresh veggies to the chef first thing in the morning.
What is your favourite vegetable to grow? - Legumes are my favourite at the moment to grow and eat. They are prolific and I like the fact some of them can be dried for use in the winter months. We always grow borlotti beans which are delicious in winter stews, this year I'm growing cannellini beans and a runner bean which will dry like a butterbean.
What is the most important message you pass on to school groups? -That they are part of nature and nature needs to be respected. This year we created a special Butterfly Garden for our school groups to spend quiet time in observing pollinators at work. Our other main message is to respect the soil.
Did you always want to be a gardener? - Probably - can't remember that far back! It suits me very well. As a child I was very keen on identifying wild flowers, probably inspired by summers spent on Bodmin Moor. I've come full circle now because after years of gardening I'm finding myself drawn back to the wild flowers again.