Consolidation is accelerating in the nursery sector, with Volmary, Newey Group, Glendale and Dummen all recently taking over growers.
Volmary now runs Delamore after their sales teams combined. In June, Dummen Orange bought Costa Rica-based unrooted cuttings grower Florexpo.
Newey Group, the UK agent for Dummen, bought Eagle Plants in June and is set to announce another acquisition this month to carry on broadening its range. Newey has bought New Forest Plants, New Place Nurseries and Roundstone over the past two years.
Delamore managing director Wayne Eady said linking with German grower Volmary will double the number of plants it offers and enable investment. The 55-year old Delamore brand, which has a royal warrant, will remain.
"Being part of a European player is an advantage," he added. Delamore could remain local but have better IT, genetics, research, technology and logistics. The firm is using fewer suppliers but growing customer numbers and Eady expects a quick 20 per cent sales gain.
Eagle Plants manager Jason Eagle explained that he set up the company five years ago with the vision not to compete with the mass market and has largely achieved his goals. But "with that comes an additional workload. We got to the stage where we needed to kick on and develop, and either invest or partner with someone like Newey Group."
He said Newey Group gives a "better opportunity to expand and develop within the group than a small business", using its infrastructure, production and distribution. It also gives a "launch pad to kick on", particularly supplying smaller and medium-sized perennial growers whom they previously struggled to reach.
Glendale bought Mahood in November 2014, Merediths in July 2013 and Coblands in 2006.
Growers say the contracting number of retail sales points means it is difficult to know how much to grow. But the amalgamations of growing businesses also means retailers have fewer growers from which to choose.
Blue Diamond bought Newbridge Nurseries in 2015. Growing arm Barnsfold Nurseries was not for sale and now supplies Blue Diamond centres as part of the deal, and other retailers.
Industry comment: very tough in the mainstream
Will George, chairman, Nursery Business Improvement Scheme
"It's very tough in the mainstream so the nurseries that supply the big retailers are going to have to go together and the smaller nurseries are going into internet and other sales. The market is polarising. Some niche growers are moving away from supplying just garden centres - fruit tree grower Blackmoor is doing more mail order and Kirton's Hairy Pot Plant Company is looking at National Trust and English Heritage outlets."