25th June 2019

Respected gardening duo Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson hand control of the Garden Centre they established over 40 years ago to their loyal team.

Set within Hopetoun Woods between South Queensferry and Linlithgow, not far from the north-bound start of the Queensferry Crossing near Edinburgh, the well-known garden centre - which includes a well-stocked gift shop and Orangery tearoom - has until now been a family business. Owners Dougal Philip and his wife Lesley Watson are renowned in the gardening world. The couple regularly judge the showgardens at the Royal Horticultural Society’s shows at Chelsea and Hampton Gardens and Lesley has also been a regular presenter on BBC TV’s The Beechgrove Garden.

Dougal first established the business in 1978, initially setting up the garden centre in the Walled Garden at Hopetoun House and it moved to its current purpose-built facility, New Hopetoun Gardens, after 20 years. He and Lesley, who were originally landscape gardeners, started off selling plants and shrubs they felt were worthy of inclusion in clients’ gardens. Over the years their garden centre has grown and flourished, earning an outstanding reputation for the quality, range of choice, friendly service and expert guidance it offers.

The team at New Hopetoun Gardens - affectionately known by customers as ‘The Plant People’ - looks after 18 individually themed gardens that the centre boasts as well as the Orangery tearoom. Customers can see how plants and shrubs will grow, develop and thrive in typical Scottish conditions while they enjoy the delightful woodland setting and indulge themselves in the tearoom and giftshop.

Dougal and Lesley have always been keen to protect the future of their business, which they have nurtured for so many years, for the benefit of their staff and thousands of customers across Scotland. Now, following the transfer of a controlling interest of the company’s stakeholding to an Employee Ownership Trust, New Hopetoun Gardens’ future is ensured, while Dougal and Lesley will continue to work for the business, supporting its current team of 37 staff as they gradually taking more time off over the next five years. Their fellow director and co-owner Morag Macrae has worked closely with the couple to ensure the future success of the business.

Dougal and Lesley had been considering their long-term succession options for New Hopetoun Gardens for a number of years. Their priority was to find a solution that would enable the garden to continue to thrive and benefit its devoted team of employees and loyal customer base - 7,000 people regularly receive its informative newsletter by mail. They realised the employee-ownership business model represented the perfect solution, both for Dougal and Lesley’s exit plans and for the future success of the business. It would enable them to meet their objectives of ensuring continuity and sustainability for the business by passing control over to their team, whom they knew, would maintain the outstanding reputation New Hopetoun Gardens has earned over many years.

As Dougal Philip says: “We’re delighted to have had the opportunity of handing over ultimate control of our business to our wonderful and valued team. We’re extremely grateful to them for their dedication and hard work over the years - they’ve been instrumental in the great success of New Hopetoun Gardens and the loyal customer following we’ve built up. They have shared our vision for the business 100% so it’s fitting that they will now be able to build on that and reap the benefits going forward. We wish them continued success for the future and have every confidence in them and we’re delighted that they are happy for us to continue giving them our input for several years.”

There are around 110 employee-owned companies operating in Scotland, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners and statistics consistently demonstrate that employee-owned businesses outperform their non EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, improved business resilience during times of recession, and increased productivity brought about by higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing.


We just can’t stop gardening

We’ve been gardening as a family business in Edinburgh for over 40 years. The first 20 were in the Walled Garden at Hopetoun House and since then at our custom-built New Hopetoun Gardens. We started in 1978 as landscape gardeners, offering for sale only those plants and products that we believed were worthy of inclusion in your garden. Today this is still the guiding principle behind our offering.

We have always been determined that we should be able to show you how the plants we sell will grow and behave as they get older. You can see that the products we offer for sale and our garden centre still reflect this founding ethos.

Our people are continually learning new things about gardening and our management team between them have worked with Dougal for over 140 years. That’s one of the reasons we can call ourselves the Skilled Plant People. Come and see if we can help you with any garden problems you have.

Besides being a shop window for you to explore, our themed display gardens are our laboratory for us to experiment with plants and products. Dougal and Lesley regularly judge the showgardens at the Royal Horticultural Society’s shows at Chelsea and Hampton Court, so they are continually discovering new things to bring to New Hopetoun Gardens. Lesley has also been a regular presenter on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden TV programme.

The Plant People – Garden Plants & Expert Advice

 New Hopetoun Garden Centre Edinburgh is run by gardeners – for gardeners. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the choice and variety of the garden plants we offer.

We can’t hide it – Garden Plants are our passion. But unlike other garden centres, we don’t simply sell you a plant and take your money. We really do care about our plants, and that’s why we do everything we can to make sure they perform in your Scottish garden, so you can enjoy them as much as we do

Reasons to buy garden plants at New Hopetoun:

  • * Garden Plants and Expert Advice
  • * We GUARANTEE our hardy plants for 2 years
  • * All our plants are ‘Garden Tested’ – they’ll earn their place in your garden and will perform well in local Scottish conditions
  • * We always carry a large selection of popular and more unusual plants for each season of the year
  • * We work alongside local Scottish and UK growers to offer the healthiest choice of seasonal garden plants we can find. We are proud that 95% of our plant sales are grown here in Britain