Speculative growing reaps rewards as demand for bedding plants increases

Growing more plants speculatively appears to be paying off for plant producers that are looking to raise prices next season because demand has been so high this year.

Cambridgeshire-based young-plant supplier Delamore is unusual in growing not just for orders, and the gamble has paid off, according to managing director Wayne Eady.

He said: "The past three weeks have been absolutely frantic. Today it's been difficult to keep up with the calls. There is a lot of last-minute buying, particularly of fuchsias, and Surfinia and Bacopa, which can be turned from plugs into plants within four weeks."

But even Delamore may not have enough to supply the market. Eady said: "I don't know how much of our surplus we will be able to carry forward. But the demand can only be a good thing. With pre-orders for April looking strong it could be an incredible run-up to Easter, which could lead to growers being able to strengthen their pricing."

Dorset-based Golden Acres Nurseries also increased bedding production by 12 per cent this year.

Operations director Simon Edwards said that 9cm hanging-basket plants are selling well and he struggled to find hanging basket containers for the garden centre side of the business last week.

But Edwards said, despite the current demand, it would be difficult for bedding growers to have a "bumper year" as "no one holds a high level of stock anymore and they sell early".

Sales director Chris Meredith of RA Meredith, which grows bedding and nursery stock to order, said the company is experiencing "no wastage" compared with the "considerable wastage" of recent years.

The company offered 6cm baby bedding for the first time this year. "People are getting more into allotment-style gardening because of the economic climate. The ready-for-planting range, including brassicas, peas and beans, is popular."

Kinglea Plants sales manager Chris Harding said its grow-your- own lines are "going like hotcakes". He said the baby starter plants and new seed kits, containing herbs, tomatoes, chillis and pepper, were going particularly well. He has seen no evidence of plant shortages.

Harding said: "We're definitely not running out. All our orders have been up year on year so we programmed to grow more again this year."

Quality Ornamentals sales manager Paul Brooking said: "There will be some plant shortages but they won't be dramatic. There's buoyancy in plant sales and it will continue as long as the sun keeps shining."

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