Supporting the blood bikes – take two!

For the second year in a row, our Wincanton branch raised funds for local blood bike charity, Yeovil Freewheelers EVS.

During 2019, just over £1600 was raised through a combination of collecting tins at the tills and visits from the blood bikes. The animated reindeer Christmas display that proved so popular in the previous year once again attracted plenty of donations.

Branch Manager, Alex Provis said: “The Yeovil Freewheelers charity provides an important, lifesaving service which is fully funded by the public and local businesses.

“2019 was perhaps an unsettling year for many people, so we are very grateful that our customers were still eager to donate. A big thank you to everyone who donated, no matter how small or large.”

YFW Blood Bikes is run by Yeovil Freewheelers (EVS), an Emergency Volunteer Service which supports Yeovil District Hospital, Dorset County Hospital and the community hospitals across the region by providing emergency courier services for blood, platelets, blood and tissue samples, medication, breast milk, documents, X rays, CT scans and equipment. It is estimated that the charity saves the NHS over £200,000 a year.

Founded in 1978, Yeovil Freewheelers EVS is the oldest operational blood bike group in the UK. All riders are unpaid volunteers.

Plymouth christmas card winner

Christmas Card Competition – Plymouth

We were delighted to be involved with Radio Plymouth’s Christmas Card Competition again this year.

The challenge was for primary school pupils in the Plymouth area to design a festive card and send it to Radio Plymouth for judging. The radio station was inundated with hundreds of amazing entries and the team found it really tough to choose a winner as the standard was so high. In the end, the winner was announced on air. Alex, 10, from Leigham Primary School won a fantastic Otter Christmas tree for his school. The tree was decorated by the team from our Plymouth branch. Kate from Otter and Neil from Radio Plymouth went to unveil the tree and meet Alex. All Alex’s classmates will take home a pack of ten Christmas cards created from his design.

But there was more! With so many entries, two runners-up were chosen too. Mia, 8, from Pennycross Primary School and Rio, 10, from Tor Bridge Primary received a goodie bag and two packs of Christmas cards printed with their marvellous designs.

Congratulations to Alex, Mia and Rio and well done to everyone who entered the competition this year.

Locally grown tree for Ottery St Mary town centre

Locally grown tree for Ottery St Mary town centre

Festive cheer was brought to Ottery with one of our own Christmas trees – grown less than two miles from the town centre.

The tree was put up outside the library in Silver Street by a team from the garden centre just in time for the town’s late night Christmas shopping event.

Ottery resident Richard Coley, who makes sure a tree goes up every year, teamed up with representatives from Otter to help decorate and add the all-important fairy lights.

Branch Manager John Giblin, who was on hand helping to hang the baubles, said: “We were delighted to supply a homegrown tree again this year and to support the late night shopping with a central point for festive carol singing.

“Last year we had a bit of a challenge due to extreme winds, but I’m glad to say that this time round, the tree went up without a hitch!”

The Nordmann Fir is known for having very little needle drop, so Ottery’s tree will look good until the day it is taken down. It was grown on the company’s site for 10 years prior to being cut, providing shelter and food for wildlife.

John added: “We also have beehives on our Christmas tree growing site and the bees make great use of the pollen produced by the fir trees, using it to feed their larvae.”

Otter’s policy is to plant a new tree for each one cut, meeting sustainable aims. When the Ottery tree is taken down in the new year, it will be recycled through the local council’s recycling scheme.

Santa’s Grotto award – thank you for voting for us!

We were delighted to learn that Santa’s Grotto – Magical Kingdom – in our Ottery St Mary Garden Centre secured the runner up spot in the Best Seasonal Event category in the Primary Times Star Awards as voted for by parents of children aged 4 to 11 years in Devon.


Creative Director, Sabine Jary said: “We’re so pleased to have received this accolade from the readers of Primary Times. Our Magical Kingdom has been bringing the magic of Christmas to local families for many years; it is lovely for the hard work of everyone involved to be acknowledged in this way.”

Local parents were informed of the survey in Primary Times, a family friendly magazine that is delivered directly to primary schools across Devon. With a distribution of 59,000 copies the magazine reaches 307 primary schools in the county.

The specially designed online survey appeared on the  Primary Times website from July to October. Questions in the survey were formulated to incite open and honest replies from readers. The results are truly organic, with the winning awards given to the attraction that gained the most reader nominations in a particular category.

Readers were quizzed over their favourite family attractions – places that they can visit for a full day out and for a half day out; indoor play centre; outdoor play centre; party venue/entertainer; free local family event; best seasonal event of the year; local fair, show or festival; best value for money attraction; best family holiday or break in the South West and the readers also chose an overall winner.

Linda Edwards, Publishing Editor at Primary Times said: “We are so grateful to our readers for their valued contribution to our Reader Star Awards. The results are incredibly insightful which allows us to take a glimpse into the minds of local people, discovering what the children enjoy most. We would like to applaud all the individual winners and runners-up of each category and congratulate them on their success.”

You can read more about the Primary Times Star Awards at

Who grew the tallest sunflower?

Our Torbay Garden Centre helped with a sunflower growing competition run by the Baby and Toddler group at St Andrews Methodist Church in Shiphay, Torquay. The competition was the brainchild of Fiona Kirollos.

Fiona explained that she studied plants and environmental issues at university and as she comes from a health background, she felt this project was just perfect to get the children involved in.

Seeds, compost and pots were donated by our Torbay branch, and the competition began in earnest back in July with an impressive 35 entries.

In early November, Mo and Oscar from Otter went along to the church to present certificates and prizes to the winners.

  • First prize: Harry Stevens (2). His sunflower measured 237cm.
  • Second prize: Lara Varol (18 months), Maddie Kidd (12) and Lois Kidd (9) whose combined efforts grew a sunflower 234cm high.
  • Third prize went to Arlo Bearne (26 months) and Ollie Armstrong (6) and Izzy Armstrong (3) at 195.58cm and 195cm respectively.
  • Fourth prize went to Jezabel Barden (21 months) and Tobias Barden (3½). Their sunflower grew 167.6cm high.

Fiona says next year they’d like to start arranging the competition earlier in the year and if there is enough interest, they will open the competition up to other groups in the Bay.

“Gardening has so many benefits; not only for our children’s physical health but their psychological wellbeing and development. Studies have shown that gardening has a significant effect on our overall happiness and for children, a hobby involving fresh air; being away from computer screens and mobile phones; interacting face to face with friends and family and nurturing a plant can have huge benefits. Gardening is a wonderful activity, promoting patience, resilience, manual dexterity, problem solving and nurturing skills.

Introducing gardening at an early age in a fun way could be the start of a lifelong hobby so we chose the sunflower competition as sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and have always been attractive to children due to their height and bright dish sized flowers.

It was only with the support of Otter Garden Centres that we were able to trial it this year so we are very grateful to them for all their support and for sparing the time to award the prizes and certificates; it made the event very special to the children and their families.”

St Andrew’s Methodist Church Baby and Toddler group has been running for many years and is a thriving group which runs sessions on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning for 0 to 5 years. The group’s focus is to promote friendships and to have fun and is run a committed and lovely bunch of volunteers, Jean, Judith and Nicola, who aim to care for all that walk through the door.

A huge well done from all at Otter to all the children who took part and we hope you and your families will be inspired to grow more sunflowers next summer!


Good luck to Hannah from our Taunton branch!

We’re very proud of team member Hannah Taunton who will be representing GB in the World Para-athletics Championship which is being held in Dubai from 7th to 15th November. Hannah will be competing in the 1500 metres in the T20 category. Hannah’s personal best of 4 minutes 39.36 seconds currently ranks her third in the world in her category. This will be her debut in the Championship.

Hannah grew up in Taunton and attended Castle School. Coached by Charlotte Fisher, Hannah is well known as a runner locally having previously won the Taunton 10K and half marathon. She’s been a member of our plant area team at our Taunton garden centre since September 2016. Her colleague Abbie Lee says she is a truly inspirational young lady!

Everyone at Otter would like to wish Hannah the very best of luck. Fingers crossed for a medal!

Food Drink Devon Awards

New Silver Award for our Jams!

We are delighted to have had Silver award success at the recent Food Drink Devon Awards. The awards event, which celebrated Devon’s finest food and drink producers, hospitality and catering businesses and specialist retailers, was held at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay. Keeping the excited crowd in check – presenter Kerry White from BBC Radio Devon.

The room was filled with such an array of talented food and drink specialists; on our table we were fortunate enough to have the team from Tambapanni – we were so pleased when they won the Best Street Food award. Other winners on the night included Eversfield Organic, with the Best Producer award. We were delighted to see Otter Vale on the winners’ podium too as we stock some of their wonderful chutneys.

For Otter Garden Centres success came in the form of a Silver award for our Victoria plum jam. The jam was added to the range last year and the fruit for the jam was collected locally to Ottery St Mary.

The silver award-winning jam joins our other winners; raspberry and strawberry which have been awarded gold in previous years, blackcurrant jam and marmalade, both silver winners.  You can find out more about the awards and the Food Drink Devon organisation by visiting their website:

Supporting the Show!

We recently sponsored the Bishopsteignton Village Show, which was held on the 7th and 8th September. This was the 24th village show, showcasing the horticulture, culinary, domestic and creative skills of the local people.

Over 100 villagers entered around 400 exhibits. These included photography, handcrafts, fresh produce and flowers grown in village gardens. Floral Art displays were a stunning sight to behold. 250 children’s paintings were on show – and the children thoroughly enjoyed the inspirational ‘Vegetable Lego’ table where they got very inventive with cucumbers, carrots and fruit – building cars, spaceships and other creations. After they’d made their creations, they enjoyed eating them!

We were delighted to be involved as sponsors with the Village Show for the first time. Several of the team from our Jack’s Patch garden centre enjoyed visiting the event and partaking of a cuppa and cake, pictured is Jack’s Patch team member Dan Williams. Refreshments were provided by the Lunch Club ladies.

Food & Drink Devon Awards Finalist

We are delighted to have been named as a finalist in the Producer category of the Food Drink Devon Awards, especially as there were a record number of entries this year.

The products we entered were our new lemon & lime marmalade and Victoria plum jam. The plum jam was made using plums collected locally, so we are doubly proud of this product as being a true example of local produce. Both were made in the restaurant kitchens in our Ottery St Mary garden centre.

250 products were tasted before being given one of three awards: platinum for a perfect 100% score, gold for 90-99%, and silver for 85-89%.

Over the past few years we have been delighted to be awarded golds and silvers for our preserves, with our raspberry jam regularly proving to be a top performer.

We look forward to learning how our new products fared at the awards ceremony on Monday 7th October. The ceremony is being held at the Imperial Hotel, Torquay and hosted by BBC Radio Devon’s Kerry White.  Wish us luck!

At the Chelsea Flower Show

The highlight of the gardener’s calendar, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a hugely popular event.

It’s the place to go to find out about new plants and gardening ideas. Visitors can see swathes of beautiful colour in displays of The Great Pavilion. Then – of course – there are the amazing show and artisan gardens which this year included the Back to Nature Garden co-designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Andrée Davies and Adam White. Another 2019 showstopper was the D-Day 75 Garden, featuring a life-size stone statue of D-Day veteran Bill Pendell MM.

Many visitors to the show love shopping too! There’s always a huge range of gardening goodies on offer, from practical accessories to garden art.

Otter Garden Centres is pleased to be an ongoing sponsor of the delightful show stand of Robert James.

Robert Ellis and James Copplestone have worked together for 30 years or so from their workshop in Bridport, Dorset, making beautiful bronze statues inspired by their love of literature.

This year the show stand featured Watership Down and Beatrix Potter characters alongside much-loved favourites from Alice in Wonderland. Any of these would be a lovely addition to any garden.

We think the stand looks great, and the plants from Otter look fabulous, too. It is lovely to have a presence at the amazing Chelsea Flower Show!

To watch a video showing the highlights of the 2019 show, click here.

Robert James Show Stand Robert James Show Stand Robert James Show Stand


Robert James Show Stand