Fern nursery turns to grasses to secure sales

Climate change leads to successful business change for fern company.

Diversifying into grasses because of concerns over climate change is already paying dividends for an Essex fern nursery. World Plants owners John Webb and Barry Giles began their fern business four years ago but in 2005 the media attention and growing consumer awareness of climate change led to them to move into less water-demanding plants. The benefits of that are already apparent with fern sales down 50 per cent last year, while sales of grasses are up 200 per cent. Webb said: “We love ferns but we realised if we were going to have a successful business we needed to diversify and perhaps drop some fern lines. The talk about global warming was growing and we were worried about not being able to make a living so we trialled grasses and then increased production.” Demand has continued to rise — the nursery now stocks over 100 grasses and about 60 ferns — and there are plans to build new greenhouses on the 0.6ha site. Webb said: “I think the global warming issue is frightening for many growers because they don’t know where to go. But we think by diversifying and offering plants at both ends of the spectrum we should be fine.”

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