Bananas grown in Wickford

About 20 ‘hands’ of ripe bananas were grown in Wickford in 1961.

The man responsible for the achievement was Mr John Bilewycz, Nursery Manager at Garden Beauty Products Nursery in London Road.

John, a Ukrainian, came to this country in 1947, and began work as a labourer at Garden Beauty Products. He was the son of a Ukrainian farmer, who had studied at agricultural college in his own country. His expert knowledge lead to promotion within the firm to Nursery Manager.

The Managing Director of Garden Beauty Products Nursery, Mr Ronald Mayes described John as one of the finest growers in this country, whose advice and opinions are often sought by other leading growers.

The banana tree was imported from the Canary Island about three years before and bore its first fruit in 1961.

At the time there were nearly two acres of glasshouses at Garden Beauty Products Nursery with a staff of 15 people rearing about 200,000 plants each year.

Source: Wickford Times, Wednesday July 26th 1961

John Bilewycz with the ripening fruits
From the private collection of Mrs D Bilewycz
John Bilewycz and the banana tree
From the private collection of Mrs D Bilewycz
The banana trees in the Garden Beauty Products greenhouses
From the private collection of Mrs D Bilewycz
The Garden Beauty Products glasshouses
From the private collection of Mrs D Bilewycz
The banana tree flowers and growing fruit
From the private collection of Mrs D Bilewycz

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  • In late 1940 while I was working at Ramsden Bellhouse nurseries, Tommy Sowerbutts, the manager, grew a Sport Chrysanthemum which was a lovely pink. He named it “Ramsden Beauty”
    Garden Beauty Products purchased this lovely plant to grow in their nurseries. The simple things in life seem to have gone but there are the memories !

    By Barbara Gerrens nee Turnbull (13/08/2020)
  • My father was Ron Mayes & my mother Peggy had the florist in the arcade called Garden Beauty Products.

    By Fenella Mayes (15/02/2018)
  • Garden Beauty Products had a shop in the High Street, next to the old saddlers, under the bridge going towards Market Road, in the late 1940s. It was a part of the Mayes family of which Wickford was famed,

    By bobcroot (23/12/2015)
  • Bananas! During my early childhood in the war (1940s) my mother would describe them. When finally the war finished the Wickford greengrocer showed me one and I was disgusted at how small it was. I cried out, “But it is so tiny, I thought they would be as big as the marrows mum grows in the garden”.  

    By Lorraine Taylor (15/03/2015)

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