Buyers switch to hardy stock

Severe winter losses trigger landscape sales defection away from Mediterranean-type plants.

Plantfest enjoyed record visitor levels - image: Greenfingers
Plantfest enjoyed record visitor levels - image: Greenfingers

Customers are ditching drought-tolerant and Mediterranean plants in fear of another killer winter like the one that wiped out many spikes and succulents last year, cash and carry operators have reported.

Despite recent hot spells, landscapers and other trade buyers were looking further ahead to this winter and expecting another big chill, they explained.

At Rochfords in Hertford, sales executive Steven Baxter said: "Drought-tolerant plants have gone out the window. We've had some hard winters and a lot of plants that were drought-tolerant or semi-Mediterranean have been wiped out"

Cordylines, which could withstand fairly low temperatures and were strong sellers, were not shifting as much, nor were olive and phormium, he reported.

The area suffered -15 degsC night-time temperatures for three weeks last winter, which had put customers on the alert, he added. Native hedging, grasses and Buxus were selling well.

In Macclesfield, the harsh winter had prompted customers to choose more hardy plants such as laurel, according to Four Oaks sales executive Mark Price.

In Stokesley on Teesside, A Hill & Sons director Simon Hill agreed: "Hardy varieties are definitely in. The historically good hardy nursery stock has the edge over the phormium type of plants. This is driven by people's bad experiences this winter.

"They seem to be going for specimen plants along their borders instead of a mash of plants," he added. "Bomb-proof" plants such as viburnum and euonymus were selling well.

Wyevale East manager Richard McKenna said: "Confidence rather than taste is driving the market, with people wanting provenance in hardiness because of the severe winters.

"They don't want the cost of replacing stock next spring. We are doing well with ornamental trees, junipers and dwarf conifers."

Tree treatment - Sales shift reaps rewards

A cash and carry that jazzed up a conventional sample fair and rebranded it a "Plantfest" sold 10,000 trees over two days.

The Greenfingers event drew record numbers of visitors and clocked up sales from 100 suppliers, said managing director Alan Beaumont.

The business, based in Kenilworth in the West Midlands, switched its approach after feedback from customers frustrated that they could not take plants away with them.

"Customers were careful with spending but the shear numbers and the amount of stock bumped up turnover," said Beaumont.

Trees came from Peter Brand, Coles, North West Plants and suppliers in Holland and Italy. The most popular was the Betula jacquemontii.

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