Born in New Brighton, he joined the family cotton trading business, after leaving school. Whilst travelling overseas on business he developed an interest in uncommon plants.
He built a house and developed a plant nursery on 60 acres of land, which he purchased near Ness in 1898, and parts of the garden were open free to local villagers
He sponsored plant collectors, such as George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward, to travel to countries around the world, including China, South America and Africa, to bring back specimens to the gardens. Notable plants from those collections are many species of rhododendrons, magnolias, azaleas, sorbus (National Collection), birches and others.
In 1903 he opened a nursery, Bees Nursery, at Ness where he sold plants grown from seed. This was later to become Bees Ltd.
His daughter Lois Bulley gave the gardens to Liverpool University in 1948.
Today Ness Gardens are a major tourist attraction and botanical research centre.