Bill Chase of Deelish Garden Centre speaks to Mary O’Brien about transplanting to West Cork 40 years ago and growing a business from the ground up.
Forty years ago, Bill and Rain Chase moved to West Cork. Bill, an American and student of psychology and Rain, an Australian with a creative streak, kind of fell in to horticulture. “We started with a rundown farm in Rosscarbery and studied our way through the early stuff,” explains Bill. “The intention was to grow some veg for sale and consumption.”
On a side note, Bill recalls asking one of his neighbours to try a cucumber they had grown. “She came back to me and said ‘I boiled the damn thing for two hours and it still tasted like rubbish’,” laughs Bill. West Cork was obviously not quite ready for the cucumber!
So, tomatoes and lettuce were grown for sale. “It felt too much like a factory line…we were growing veg and bagging it in plastic for sale — not quite how we imagined a life living off the land,” explains Bill. We also had a small herb nursery including culinary and medicinal plants.
The couple sold up in Rosscarbery and went to Glengarriff where “it was so beautiful but we couldn’t figure out how to make money there,” says Bill. The couple started growing perennials in Glengarriff and it was while making a delivery of plants to a garden centre in Skibbereen — ‘Deelish’, that a possible business opportunity presented itself. The owners of Deelish were moving to the UK and needed to sell the business. Bill and Rain took a chance (“our whole life is a game of chance”, exclaims Bill.) and took over the garden centre.
Thirty years on, the couple has created one of the most reputed nurseries in the country for specialising in rare and unusual plants. “The growing climate is ideal here,” says Bill. The family business, which now has son Noah on board also, as well as Hollie and Karol, has 3000 varieties of plants growing in the nursery, with 300 plants unique in Ireland at Deelish. Plants from online sales are delivered as far afield as Belfast.
Deelish Garden Centre also stocks Chase Organic Seeds and a range of organic sundries such as insecticides, fertilisers and composts.
Deelish Garden Centre is situated on the banks of the River Ilen, one mile west of Skibbereen town on the old Baltimore road ~ fully signposted from the N71.
Open: 10am until 6pm Monday through Saturday and 2pm until 6pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Phone 028 21374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.deelish.ie.