Nursery space diverted to supply landscapers

Whiting Landscape is betting on the strength of the Midlands housing market by turning over an eighth of its nursery space to growing specimen shrubs for landscapers.

Whiting Landscape: shrub nursery created to supply plants for landscape architects working on housing schemes (Whiting Landscape)
Whiting Landscape: shrub nursery created to supply plants for landscape architects working on housing schemes (Whiting Landscape)

The 16-acre nursery in Bromsgrove has historically only grown containerised trees and a few large specimen shrubs. But early this year, seeing potential in the growing housing market, the company - which reported turnover of £7.75m in the year ended June 2014 - decided to invest £70,000 in growing ornamental shrubs in fiveand 10-litre grades for the amenity trade. Whiting hired two new production staff and grew 25,000 shrubs in the first year, and intends to offer a further 35-litre shrub grade as well from next year.

The company mainly grows trees for its own projects, focusing on the private commercial sector. But the new facility will mainly sell to the trade, which is a "brand new venture for us", explained managing director Maurice Murphy.

"With the increase in new house construction predicted for the next few years we believe there will be an increased requirement for high-quality specimen shrubs," he said. "As we had the land and skills available we considered this was the right time to make the investment."

Murphy said the company is "delighted with the way the business has picked up in the last 12 months". He added: "Our core construction business is on target to record a record sales figure for our current financial year and the maintenance business continues to grow on the back of our strong construction performance.

"We are finding major investment into the Midland region, which is resulting in many infrastructure projects. We have a record number of new sites in development giving us many opportunities to produce ecology and landscape schemes for our valued clients."

A Landscape Institute Midlands evening event held at Whiting last month was attended by more than 60 landscape architects, who toured the specimen shrub nursery and watched a tree pit preparation and planting demonstration at the semi-mature tree nursery.

Murphy noted particular interest from the guests in groundcover roses, Photinia 'Little Red Robin' and Whiting's selection of five-litre grasses, as well as containerised hornbeam and Taxus hedging. Landscape architects are increasingly demanding high-quality specimen shrubs and hedging as well as more native species, he said.

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