Chris Evans, manager of Dundry Nurseries, set up Butterfly Garden 11 years ago to hold educational sessions for people with learning difficulties. Last week he received the British Empire Medal at his garden centre in Cheltenham.
The British Empire Medal became part of the national honours list in 2012 to recognise people who have made a difference to their communities.
Dame Janet Trotter, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, who awarded Chris his medal, said: “He is truly an inspirational man. Whenever I come here I get the sense that this is an inclusive, wonderful place.”
Chris explains the background to Butterfly Garden:
“I am (by birth almost) a horticulturalist, the third generation on a site, established in 1947 by my grandfather.
“His early business was built on a platform of seasonal trade with Woolworths, when that company was booming and was a big player in garden retail. His main work was with bedding; his plants raised in wooden seed trays filled with home produced John Innes. At the peak of his connection, he was serving 5 stores and turning around in the region of 20,000 trays each spring.
“My father joined the nursery in 1963 and as a family we were moved onto the site. As a young boy, I was mesmerised by the magical antics of both men and even at nine years of age was certain of my future.
“I joined them both in 1974, entering the trade at a time when garden centres were really starting to happen. We put up glass, stepped up production and I went out to chase garden centre contracts across a fifty mile radius.
“My commitment to horticulture is as strong today as it was on that very first day, the magic has never faded and the daily adventure still calls.
“In 2002, by chance a new phase of the journey started. I was visited by a small group of youngsters with autism who wanted to start a garden and I suggested that I might spare them a little time each week to pick up a few basic skills.
“Inside of a month there were two dozen of them and today The Butterfly Garden (which is our self contained charity) has more than 150 people of all ages and with a wide range of disabling issues attending. The provision is free and has no paid personnel it is open every day and offers a wide range of activities.
“This project and my connection with it was celebrated recently and I was awarded the B.E.M.
“I have been very fortunate, I was brought into a trade that from the outset, I loved and was gifted an extraordinary opportunity to try my hand at something else which brings further joy.
Everyday I celebrate with my guys and remember the moment, when I was given my first seed.”