Organic plants to be sold at Dutch garden centres-but not at British garden retailers

Dutch garden centre chain Intratuin is planning to sell organic plants. Research by the chain found 38 per cent of Dutch households want to buy organically grown bulbs while consumers want ornamental plants, fruit and vegetables, bedding plants and perennials, so it has launched the Intratuin BIO-concept.

Chief executive officer Peter Paul Kleinbussink said: "Everything we do starts with greenery and in it we weigh constantly whether it can be different - more efficient, less stressful and healthier. Therefore, it is really obvious that we come up with a biological plant line. On top of our broad green range, we now offer our customers the choice between sustainable cultivated plants and biological plants. The organic green product range will be further expanded in the coming year."

Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer said: "I wonder if British retailers might follow suit. It would need support throughout the supply chain. Offshore propagators and EU young plant companies would have to have chemical-free production in place, not just plant finishers."

Soil Association horticulture head Ben Raskin added: "When I was at the Welsh College of Horticulture 12 years ago we started growing some organic plants but there was not a market at that stage. We were struggling with the right compost but there is now a better range and a couple of nurseries do it, mostly on a small scale, Caves Folly being one. Delfland mostly grows plugs. There isn't the supply at the moment and I don' know if there's the appetite in English garden centres to do it. It's tough enough getting them to go peat-free.

"In cut flowers there's been a massive increase in organic production and that could flow over to ornamentals. With food there's the health aspect - people are going organic because they're worried about health. They are less concerned with plants in their gardens, though there is the wider wildlife aspect."

Delfland Nurseries' Gill Vaughan said it sells organic vegetable plants online and in its own shop but does not supply garden centres. EU regulations may mean organic ornamentals can only be marketed as "grown to organic standards", she added.

Vaughan suggested that there could be a future market for organic plants sold by retailers. "I think people are getting more twitchy about pesticides," she said. "The RHS Perfect for Pollinators scheme describes plants that insects like to visit but are not guaranteed free of insecticides. The website says you shouldn't spray plants in flower because of pollinators but some neonicotinoids are quite persistent so there is a question mark over systemic insecticides in flowers. If that becomes a public issue through Monty Don banging on about it there will be a demand."

Caves Folly said it supplies the National Trust retail arm with peat-free and organic plants along with some small craft shops as well as the royal household, but it no longer supplies Garden Organic at Ryton.

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