Growers bounce back after big freeze

Growers are bouncing back from the recent wintry weather, which hit deliveries and production at many nurseries.

West Sussex-based Prenplants owner Will George said: "We've not been coping with the snow very well — 80% of our over-winter production is outside and all has been covered with a blanket of snow, which helped protect it from frost. One twinspan collapsed under the weight of the snow but only had herbaceous liners in there.

"Fortunately, we do very little trade from January until mid-February — staff have been clearing the roads so we can get in and out."

Hampshire-based New Forest Garden Plants owner Matthew Dixon said: "Our staff have 3 weeks off over Christmas, which is half their holiday entitlement. They were not due back until 11 January but there was snow on the ground so they took another couple of days off.

"Sales have been non-existent during the snow unfortunately, but that's to be expected. People are still making enquiries but we have to wait until the sun comes out to get going again."

Suffolk-based John Woods marketing manager Jo Davey said: "During the snow, we were doing as much as we could to keep the stock looking good — a lot of maintenance work and preparing for orders coming in." In the first two weeks of January the nursery dispatched only a little hardy stock.

Cornwall-based Kernock Park Plants managing director Bruce Harnett said ice was more of a problem, causing "challenging times in the first few weeks of the year". He added that there "may have been a slight delay with one or two of the deliveries but not too many problems. The dispatch side is more controllable now — in peak season it would be a nightmare." Kernock Park Plants staff are putting in overtime to try and catch up half a week's lost production.

Hampshire-based Shelley Common Nursery owner John Middleton said early season sales had been "diabolical", but blamed Defra's "attack" and associated restrictions on sales because of Phytophthora ramorum, rather than the weather.

Lothian-based Pentland Plants owner David Spray said 10% of customers had asked for orders to be held but that there had been extra demand for the woodchip they produce for biomass boilers.

Spray added: "People are ordering earlier and slightly more than last year. This were not as bad as prophesied last year."


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