Retail plants case study: Osmocote: "It makes a huge difference."

Nurseryman David Mills, who runs a busy plant-focused retail centre, discusses the invaluable role that Osmocote plays in producing and selling healthy plants

A high volume, streamline operation, Clockhouse Nursery produces more than one million quality plants – sold through its busy plant-focused retail centre. Offering customers a huge choice of varieties at a competitive price, it attracts a loyal customer base.

Situated at Forty Hill, just inside the M25 near Enfield in North London, the five-hectare nursery has a turnover of £3million and produces 80 per cent of its own plants on site – 80-85,000 pack bedding, 800,000 patio and pot bedding, 80,000 shrubs and 40,000 perennials in two litre and above.

The nursery has a reputation locally for offering an unbeatable selection of plants. It grows, for example, 53 different varieties of Calibrachoa. 

Founded in 1928, the nursery is run by the founder’s grandson David Mills (pictured, above). He says: "We keep an eye on our reviews on social media and they are always good. Our regular customers are something different. They visit us two or three times a week. Other people’s customers visit them two or three times a year."

He continues: "We want to give them good value for money and time and time again you hear that our stuff is better than our competitors’. And one of the things that’s down to is Osmocote. It makes a huge difference. We would not want to use anything else. A lot of people tend to rely on liquid feeds but they deteriorate very quickly. Osmocote gives a nice quality."

Mills adds that he often holds stock over for two or three years. "Anything left over will pot well into the next year with no hungry look about it. We’ll grow a batch of 500 and think nothing of putting 200 of them in a 10L the following year, so we don’t want them to run out of steam when we pot them. We want them to have a bit of meat behind them."

Alongside a continuous and ambitious renovation programme, Mills is a genuine innovator constantly on the lookout for time- and labour-saving new products and technology.

To simplify the production and retail operations, the vast majority of plants are potted directly into different coloured pots according to the retail sales price. 

Levington has been the growing media of choice at Clockhouse for over 30 years. "While originally we self-mixed, we’ve switched to Levington Advance Solutions mixes," says Mills.

"We currently rely on at least eight different bespoke growing media mixes – all containing different Osmocote controlled release fertilizers and plant protection products, including Exemptor, tailored to different areas of our production.

"The more we can incorporate into the growing media the easier it makes it for our busy production team. For precision nutrition we rely on Osmocote Hi.End or Osmocote Exact Standard with differing longevities – either 8-9 month or 12-14 month. We use Osmocote Bloom (2-3 month) in all our bedding production and incorporate H2Gro granules in our basket mixes to help with water conservation. He adds that he also uses Osmocote Exact Standard High K "when the plants need a bit of a push." He says: "One year we had a lot of hydrangeas that would not flower. So we put the High K in it."

Some lines, such as Cyclamen, Primulas and Pansies, may require some supplementary water-soluble feeds. "We use Peters Professional for greening up and to boost flowering," says Mills.


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