Container-grown trade boosted as rose company looks to future

Long-serving staff members given greater responsibility under Ken March at Peter Beales Roses.

Peter Beales Roses: March (left), Vaughan Limmer and Ian Limmer
Peter Beales Roses: March (left), Vaughan Limmer and Ian Limmer

Peter Beales Roses has increased its container-grown business from 50 per cent to 79 per cent in two years as the company looks towards the future following the death of three family members and the departure of Richard Beales in April.

Ken March is now running the business after coming in three years ago to help handover the company from founder Peter Beales to his son Richard. But Peter died in January 2013, aged 76, shortly after his wife Joan. Daughter Amanda died after a long illness in 2014 and Richard left in April 2014, looking for a new start as a rose garden designer.

March has given long-serving staff members such as nursery manager Ian Limmer, his brother gardens manager Vaughn Limmer and marketing manager Sarah McKernan more responsibility, while expanding the container season to year round.

He has also cut offered varieties from 1,200 to 1,100 and streamlined the cost base while having Vaughn Limmer plant a new rose garden, which includes a memorial area. All three have 20-plus years' experience at Beales, which has 26 staff including 14 part-timers.

Some 638 roses have gone into the display garden this year, with ultimately a 1,785-variety garden planned. A new building will go up in three-to-five years to complete the redevelopment, said March.

He added that Peter Beales passed on his "incredible knowledge", leaving the firm, even without any family members, as "world-leading experts" in the field.

"The rose market is saturated in this country so we have to do a better job breeding and positioning ourselves with other companies. Having a retail brand to compete with David Austin is our objective. They're a tremendous company and do a fantastic job rose branding and marketing so it's going to take us a long time.

"It tends to be David Austin or Peter Beales in the UK spoken of as the Harrods of rose companies and there's room in garden centres for a choice of brands." Whartons now sells Beales roses with a royalty.

March, who turned around Norfolk Lavender and Van Tubergen after working at Rochford Houseplant, Fisons and Blooms, said Beales differentiates by having old varieties as well as modern classics, with 450 container varieties - garden centres typically have 20-50.

He said: "I came here to help Richard Beales take over from Peter. That's the biggest sadness that Richard decided to leave and do garden design." Beales is "one of the longer companies to turnaround because the product life cycle is so long", added March. "It took two years to get control of things."

Sales statistics

Peter Beales Roses' bare-root/container sales (percentages):

2012: 50:50

2013: 42:58

2014: 21:79.

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