Ex-director of Dobbies Johnny Trotter has died

Johnny Trotter, a former director of Dobbies and a true horticulturalist, died suddenly on 21st August at the age of 74.

An all-rounder in this field. He was admired for his wide knowledge as a plantsman, his experience both professionally and commercially of the industry and privately as a gardener and arboriculturist.

Combine this with Johnny as a person; kind, considerate, passionate - it meant he was always willing to help, to impart and to share that knowledge and experience with all who wanted.

Johnny had an early interest in gardening, woodlands and the countryside from his upbringing at Charterhall in Berwickshire.

After a short service commission in the Army, he established his own garden centre at Mortonhall in Edinburgh, where he built up a successful retail business before selling it in 1988. The site remains a successful garden centre as part of the Klondyke group.


Following the sale of the garden centre Johnny joined David Barnes as part of the Dobbies management team. Maybe not entirely surprising given his early days training at Waterers, the original parent company.

One of his first tasks was landing the show garden at the Glasgow Garden Festival that year, in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland. A showpiece that won several awards.

Johnny went on to be part of the management buyout team along with James Barnes, David’s son, that acquired the Dobbies business in 1994. 

 As operations director he was instrumental in the successful transition of Dobbies into a national chain. 

“Johnny was my guiding hand,” said James Barnes.   “His commitment was huge at every level. He would travel to all ends of the United Kingdom at all times of day and night to deliver the store agenda.

“He would be in the Board room one minute, the next with a tea towel over his shoulder he would be helping the cafe staff clear tables or directing traffic in the car park on a busy promotional day.

“He was always willing to help a customer and had a keen eye for detail, ensuring plants and the shop floors looked their best.”

He was genuinely loved by all those who he worked with. His leadership skill was leading by example. By getting on and doing. They all supported him and he them.

Delamore Nurseries

The Horticultural industry has always been a friendly and open one and Johnny was known and respected far beyond the realm of Dobbies. His naturally warm personality, sense of humour and youthful good looks we’re known and appreciated by all who came across him. 

Johnny retired from Dobbies shortly after the business was acquired by Tesco in 2008.  He became a non-executive director at Delamore Nurseries for a number of years and continued his passion for gardening and the countryside.  He carried out numerous garden design projects for friends and others – in fact was employed by Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s CEO, to re fashion his garden shortly after their acquisition. Perhaps even a reason for! 

More latterly he was heavily involved in the rebuilding and redesigning of the Walled Garden at Marchmont House. 


While always happy to share the knowledge he had with others, his true passion was his own garden and home at Mordington, which he and Julia, his wife, have nurtured over the last 34 years.  It now extends well beyond the gardens to include new woods, ponds, wildflower meadows and hedgerows alive with songbirds. It was here that Johnny’s love of gardening and the countryside really came to life and where his legacy lives on. 

James Barnes said, “He has been taken from us before his time and will be missed by so many.”

There will be a memorial service on September 22nd at Berwick on Tweed at 2pm.  Further details can be got from James.Barnes@hta.org.uk.

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