60 Seconds With

“You fight fire with water, not with fire” – 60 seconds with Rachel Doyle, Founder & Executive Chair, Arboretum Garden Centres

By Business & Finance
16 April 2024
Rachel Doyle, in a yellow blazer and patterned top, smiling as she holds her book 'My Tree of Life' in a garden setting

Rachel Doyle is Founder & Executive Chair of Arboretum Garden Centres. Arboretum started in 1977 as a part-time business, run out of Doyle’s back garden near Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow. Arboretum Kilquade has just reopened at the National Garden Exhibition Centre in Co Wicklow following a €4.5 million redevelopment and Arboretum Urban Green, a version of the brand’s offering aimed at city centre gardeners, opened on the first floor of Chapter’s bookshop on Parnell Street, Dublin last year.

What was your first job?

While in secondary school, I worked in a grocery shop at weekends. After doing my Leaving Cert, I went to London and worked in a large hotel as a chambermaid. But my real passion was always gardening.

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field? 

I inherited my Dad’s green fingers – he grew everything, all kinds of vegetables and fruit. He also reared pigs so there would be extra money for Christmas. Everything was recycled – the pigs ate the scraps and the small potatoes – ‘sustainability’ was a way of life then.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Growing the Arboretum business, along with my husband Frank, from the ground up. When Frank retired 10 years ago, we felt it was time to handover to our sons Fergal and Barry, who were Directors and shareholders in the business. Succession planning involved huge decisions with endless meetings, but thankfully it’s been a success.

I think it was important that we got expert advice and made decisions based on our strengths and weaknesses. Now our sons have a 45% share each in the business with Barry in the CEO role and Fergal as CCO. I hold 10% and Executive Chair. We all get on very well which definitely helps. I’ve also written and published my first book this year – My Tree of Life – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

No, I believe if you have weighed up the pros and cons, once you have decided, don’t look back and give it your all.

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Follow your dream so that you love what you do.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket; I used two banks and would get them to come to my business for meetings – have them on your turf!

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

Love what you do, inspire your team with that passion and always give credit where its due.

How do you handle adversity?

You fight fire with water, not with fire. Stay calm when others are flapping and angry, use a soft voice and kill with kindness. It works.

How do you relax?

I love my garden and really enjoy it. I also love cooking and meeting friends.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

To support Fergal and Barry and the team as they take Arboretum to new heights. They are very much steering the ship and they bounce ideas off me.We’ve just completed a €4.5 million state-of-the-art refurbishment of Arboretum Kilquade, Co Wicklow. We’ve invested significantly in sustainable technologies to future proof the business, including rainwater harvesting to water the plants and solar panels for heating. We also opened our first city centre shop – Arboretum Urban Green – above Chapters book shop on Parnell street. The future is exciting.


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