Alan Bloom, founder of the Blooms of Bressingham family nursery in the U.K., has died at age 98 in his home Bressingham Hall.
Creator of the six-acre Dell garden at Bressingham where he pioneered the use of hardy perennials in “island beds” in the mid 1950s, Bloom was also responsible for breeding and introducing a wide range of nearly 200 varieties of perennials. His Dell garden was developed between 1953 and 1962 and eventually contained more than 5,000 species and varieties of perennials from all over the world.
From 1962 on, his energies were put toward a completely different pastime, collecting old steam traction engines and locomotives, which were then being put on the scrap heaps of Britain. With a team of paid and volunteer workers, this was the beginning of what was to become The Bressingham Steam Museum, one of the largest live Steam attractions in Britain. Opening in the early 1960s, the garden and Steam Museum became a unique visitor attraction and, though much enlarged, still runs today. Bloom wrote many books on plants, particularly perennials; steam; an autobiography; and even tried his hand at novels, in all around 30 books.
When he left school at Cambridge he worked on other nurseries in England before returning to help his father, Charles Bloom, on his nursery in Oakington, Cambridgeshire, before starting his own business in the same village in 1926. The nursery was primarily wholesale, and Blooms Nurseries became one of the largest of its kind in England by the outbreak of World War II in 1939. During this period he put the plant business into mothballs and bought a farm in Burwell adjacent to Wicken Fen. As his contribution to the war effort, Alan cleared the Fen for food crops, his achievement recognized by a visit to the farm from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Returning to his occupation as nurseryman, Alan sold both Burwell and Oakington and moved to Bressingham in Norfolk with his young family in 1946 to establish a nursery in this quiet village. Fulfilling a long-felt desire to be a “pioneer,” he needed little encouragement to move his family to Canada in 1948. Later he was to say it was the biggest mistake in his life. Moves to Vancouver Island and then Ontario were not a success, and he had to return to rescue the failing nursery left behind under the responsibility of a manager. Alan rebuilt the nursery, and by 1955 it became one of the largest perennial nurseries in Europe, during a time when perennials were far less popular than today. He was also joint founder of the Hardy Plant Society and its first chairman.
His sons Adrian and Robert joined Alan in the nursery and farm business in 1962. From 1970 on he took an ever-decreasing role in the business, spending his time with his steam interest and propagating his beloved perennials. Alan was awarded both the Victoria Medal of Honour (V.M.H.) and the Veitch Memorial Medal (V.M.M.) by the Royal Horticultural Society and a M.B.E.
Alan Herbert Vauser Bloom Born was born on November 19, 1906 in Over, Cambridgeshire, England. He died on March 31, 2005 at the age of 98.