A garden centre has found the greenhouse it had added to its planteria to increase visual interest is proving a good place from which to sell more exotic plants. The Hartley Botanic structure was bought to house and grow more unusual plant species and provide a talking point for customers. However, instead of being a purely visual draw, the greenhouse has proved to be a driver for commercial returns and tapped into a demand for more exotic plant and flower species.
Beetham Nurseries, near Milnthorpe in Cumbria, installed a Hartley Botanic Victorian Grand Lodge greenhouse at its nursery to help service growing demand for rarer plants. Since then it has experienced a considerable increase in customer interest and sales.
Examples of some of the rare and unusual plants that Beetham Nurseries has been able to retail include Telopea, various types of Protea including 'Madiba', citrus fruits, nectarines, peaches, lemons, mandarins, apricots, Musella lasiocarpa (Chinese banana) and grapevines.
The greenhouse allows these plants and fruits to be available for longer throughout the year and considerably extends the growing season. The garden centre, which also grows many of its own plants, is calling the new sales area "The Conservatory Collection".
Hartley Botanic is the RHS's recommended supplier of aluminium greenhouses and glasshouses. The Victorian Grand Lodge greenhouse at Beetham Nurseries measures 3,366mm x 8,146mm and does not include artificial heating.
"In recent years the demand for exotic plants, succulents and edibles has increased," says Beetham Nurseries nursery manager Alyson Woods. "This can likely be attributed to two things - the number of gardening programmes that now feature rare and unusual species of plants and an increase in the number of chefs that are now using more exotic produce. The glasshouse in our traditional retail plant nursery has not only become a talking point for our customers but has also enabled us to supply a selection of plants and fruits from around the world that you wouldn't usually find in a garden centre."
Hartley Botanic managing director Tom Barry says: "Beetham Nurseries are tapping into their customers' desire for more interesting and unusual items to grow. We find that both nurseries and gardeners alike are increasingly looking for quality greenhouses in response to this demand for more exotic plants and fruits.
"Succulents and the propagating of tropical species continues to be a developing trend and this has clearly influenced greenhouse and glasshouse sales. Whether for an individual plant collector or commercial garden centre, owning a greenhouse means horticultural fashions and tastes are not limited by the British weather."
With indoor retail space limited, developing outdoor areas to sell plants that have to be grown indoors is a good use of space, adds Barry.
Top trends highlighted
Indoor gardening is among the top trends highlighted in 2017 Garden Trends Report: Grow 365 by Garden Media Group, a marketing company that tracks US national gardening trends.
"The appeal is simple," says creative director Katie Dubow. "When growing indoors you control the conditions instead of Mother Nature controlling you. Millennials are flocking to the indoor gardening trend because it's easier. Gardening indoors eliminates the challenges of unpredictable weather, poor soil conditions, pests and weeds."
Of the 60% of people in the USA who are already growing indoors, Dubow points out that 37% are millennials. The Garden Media Group report notes that gardening indoors, under lights, is projected to grow by 6.3% each year through to 2021.
In a further profile-boost for the sector, Indoor Garden Design's Ian Drummond's RHS Chelsea Flower Show discovery zone display will look at the benefits plants have on the psychological, emotional and general health of house occupants. Drummond's new book, At Home with Plants, was published by Mitchell Beazley last week.