The British tradition of crafted metalwork lives on among suppliers of trolleys to the garden retail market. Here, supermarket trolleys fall down, literally, lacking the capacity for large, unwieldy items, and through having wheels unsuited to the often rough going of some outdoor planterias.
One of the longest established in this area is Castlefield Products, which in recent years has expanded into overseas markets through appearances at the Horti Fair trade show in Amsterdam.
The latest range of plant trolleys for nurseries and garden centres is the Kingston-E Balancing Trolley, a lightweight, two-wheeled tipping model with a roomy 895x610mm basket. Its chunky 250mm wheels can be in either cushion or pneumatic form and are said to be robust enough to last the trolley's lifetime. Wider puncture-proof areas can be fitted to withstand gravel surfaces.
A choice of finishes - hot dipped galvanised, electro-galvanised or powder paint coated - is available and coin-operated security locks can be fitted. Priced at around £70, this puts it head-to-head with other two-wheeled trolleys designed with the garden centre in mind.
These include the GC1 and GC2 trolleys from Partington Engineering, two models from general horticulture supplier Fargro and Roll Containers' GCR1 Classic. As well as the wire-cage basket format, this last is available with a solid polypropylene tray, priced at £10 extra.
WS Barrett of Boston, Lincolnshire, takes a different approach to trolley design for the garden centre with its four-wheeled model. Looking like a low-slung version of the conventional supermarket trolley, the basket folds up to allow close stacking when not in use, while the freely-rotating front wheels make for easy manoeuvrability.
Castlefield's Gainsborough MkII garden centre trolley also has the four-wheeled format, and comes with the option of a braking system, allowing the trolley to be left unattended on sloping sites.
MAKING LIGHT WORK OF SHIPPING
The Danish trolley has been the standard means of transporting pot and bedding plants from growers to their customers across Europe for more than 30 years. But while the industry has been adapting to the new RFID-enabled trolley format, Danish-based supplier Container Centralen has been pressing on with a further innovation.
It is currently trialling a series of new light-weight plastic shelves in the trolley pool, with the aim of rolling them out across the sector in the future.
Chief executive officer Tonny Vangsgaard Gravesen says: "Unfortunately, the quality of the shelves in the system today is very inconsistent due to a huge influx of illegal low-quality shelves.
"Container Centralen has been working on the development of new plastic shelves for some years now, and from this month several hundred shelves will be tested in real life flows in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Denmark, involving users in all parts of the supply chain."
The new shelves will be significantly lighter than the plywood shelves currently in use, making them easier to handle and less costly - financially and environmentally - to transport.
Vangsgaard explains: "We estimate that each container does eight round trips per year, from grower to auction to wholesaler to retailer and back to the grower again, averaging around 600km per round trip.
"So the workers in our industry will be lifting approximately 336,000 tonnes less per year. It will also lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions."
Filippa plant nursery in Denmark is taking part in the trial. Owner Soren Bech says: "Having shelves that weigh only half as much as the current plywood shelves is a huge improvement."
Another enhancement to the standard Danish trolley comes in the form of the Danish Trolley Jacket. Designed to better preserve plants in transit without adding weight, these tailored zip-up jackets from LBS Horticultural Supplies are available in two formats.
The standard model is made of a PVC mesh reinforced at the edges and includes a dispatch pocket. A more heavy-duty format is made of an ultraviolet-stabilised woven material with extra-strong zips.
The firm also manufactures its own Danish-style trolleys, but points out that they cannot be used in the Container Centralen trolley-pooling system.