Belfast Telegraph

Streetview: Walkers Seeds and Paints

By Ron McBride

Spring is in the air. Miniature daffs in pots lift the spirit and visiting a gardening shop, with all its potential for improving your garden, can be fascinating.

To rush past would be to deny oneself a sense of surprise and wonder, for here is a shop founded 50 years ago by Robert Walker. Today it is managed by Noel Walker, aided by Victoria, John and Gary. The premises, like many in towns, have expanded both backwards and sideways from the original front room of a dwelling house to create a surprisingly large business.

The shop front is bright and the window display is certainly interesting enough to draw in customers. Inside is an old-fashioned display of vegetable seeds, bulbs, seed potatoes and plants. At the back, in the original large garden, there is a compact garden centre with a wide range of plants. The lateral expansion created room for a massive display of farm and industrial paints. The days of delivering peat to Essex and returning with paint are, however, long gone.

Walkers have long-established links with the farming community and their sphere of influence covers the Ards Peninsula and beyond. Trade has a seasonal aspect but the mild climate of the peninsula gives growers an extra month or so at each end of the season, boosting trade. The company has a strong reputation for vegetable and herb seeds and package their own brands under licence. Walkers provide commercial enterprises such as PYO farms with seeds. Thirty varieties of seed potatoes are sold and the huge explanatory chart of their characteristics is interesting.

Media influences are felt mainly through TV and radio gardening programmes, one noted trend being the increase in people buying large pots for planting potatoes and boxes for sowing herbs and mixed leaves. In a time of recession the company has maintained its level of business by providing quality produce and varieties which are not easy to find in large chain stores or typical garden centres.

Local primary-school classes visit on occasion and pupils are introduced to the fascinating world of planting out seeds. A few budding gardeners may be among them. Some customers are themselves third generation, attracted not only by the ‘old-fashioned courtesy and service’ but also to the older varieties available, be they roses or gooseberries.

So, be it a fence or shed in need of painting, a lawn to be reseeded, or you are wondering which potatoes to plant and when, or can imagine planting dozens of bulbs, then pop into Walkers for expert and friendly advice.

Just pottering in it is an experience but, remember to plant your ‘earlies’ by St Patrick’s Day!

Walkers Seeds and Paints

90-94 Frances Street,

Newtownards,

Co Down

BT23 7DY

Telephone: 028 9181 3971

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