James Dobbie, the founder of Dobbies Garden Centres, was born in 1817 – a time when the industrial revolution in Britain had put gardening in reach of ordinary people, giving them a wonderful new hobby.

The first seed

This was the 'hot bed' of interest in which the young James Dobbie grew up and by the age of 23 James was exhibiting flowers in local shows, going on to win prizes at the Highland Agricultural Show ten years later.

A career move at 38 saw him become Chief Constable at Renfrew in the West of Scotland, but far from curtailing his hobby, James carried on winning prizes with his beautiful pansies, phloxes and marigolds, as well as leeks and onions.

Dobbies Catalogue

A flourishing business

Started in 1845, the business thrived and James Dobbie elected to sell on the business in 1887 to his chief assistant of many years, William Cuthbertson, who took on a partner, Robert Fife, a well-known horticulturalist, now to be run under the name of Dobbie & Co. In 1865, he packeted seeds from a leek which yielded an incredible 16oz of seeds which sold out in two days. James resigned as Chief Constable in 1866 and devoted himself entirely to J. Dobbie 'Choice Seeds & Flowers' of Renfrew.

In 1894, land was bought at Orpington in Kent for seed growing and the company was granted a royal warrant.

Dobbies Appointment

In 1900, Dobbie & Co launched their mail order catalogue, sending seeds across the country – so by 1905, when the grand old seedsman died, James Dobbie's name was known by gardeners all across Scotland and England.

Sales from Dobbies' impressive catalogue continued to grow and by 1910, demand for seed prompted the firm to move to much larger premises in Portobello, Edinburgh.

Recent times

The move to the 70-acre site at Melville, on the outskirts of Edinburgh happened in 1934 where the company headquarters remain to this day.

Dobbies was acquired in 1969 by Waterers – another distinguished horticultural business based in Surrey – and the amalgamation allowed business to flourish both north and south.

David Barnes, the managing director of Waterers, then acquired Dobbies in 1984 and the business continued to develop, when David Barnes' son, James, joined the Board.

By 1992 Dobbies was focused on expanding its garden centre operations, and with the addition of visitor attractions it quickly became known as a leisure destination for all the family. In 1994 Dobbies underwent a management buyout before the decision, in 1997, to float the business on the Stock Exchange allowing additional capital to be raised.


Other more recent and exciting developments saw Dobbies join the Tesco group in 2008. With the new parent company providing backing and support, Dobbies continues to thrive and expand within the UK. Dobbies steadily opened new centres throughout Scotland and England and acquisitions continued both north and south to give Dobbies coverage from Aberdeen to Ashford.

Dobbies remains headquartered in Edinburgh, Midlothian as a separate company with a unique brand and identity.

Dobbies Garden Centres operate with their own local identity, building and developing strong links with the local communities around each centre.


Dobbies has today grown to become one of the UK's leading garden centre businesses with 34 stores throughout the UK.

From humble beginnings in 1865, Dobbies is working towards creating the UK's first national garden centre brand and continues to grow through strategic acquisition and new site development.

Dobbies Signature
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