Growing and selling plants with Sue Beesley of Bluebell Cottage Gardens

Sue Beesley and Matt Appleby

Sue Beesley is owner of Bluebell Cottage Gardens and nursery in Cheshire.

She grows and propagates 700 different perennials at the nursery which she took over in 2007.

From an IT background Sue came into horticulture "as a complete amateur" at the age of 45. "I think one of the great things about horticulture is it's a fabulous industry for people to come into as a second, third or even fourth career", she says.

The nursery, which works in tandem with the gardens and a tea room, sells plants on site but also sells by mail order and online. Sue also exhibits at shows and is active on social media. It is a lot of work and Sue discusses how she manages the workload - a mixture of effective training, delegation and being a very capable multi-tasker.

She talks about the challenges and benefits of shows and her experience of using X (formerly Twitter). Initially reluctant, she soon found that "Twitter for me was a way of engaging with both a gardening audience online, but critically, with the media. Facebook I think is wonderful for engaging with your immediate customers and direct followers."

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She speaks about the barriers to expansion, and the specific challenges of horticultural businesses: "You need land and you need structures and land is expensive and under huge competition for potential other purposes...even if you get over that hurdle, you've got planning permission over polytunnels and structures. 

She has abandoned her own plans to build "a cracking wholesale nursery of good hardy perennials. There's huge capacity missing from the UK in that arena" due to lack of funds and a partner to share the risk. Instead Sue is expanding her growing area and she has a great interest in renewable energy which she says is a "no-brainer".

She also discusses how horticulture has not been "embraced" UK as it has in Netherlands to the UK's detriment.

Sue is also active with the RHS at Bridgewater and is vice chair of the Herbaceous Plant Committee. She became a Council member this year which is "seriously exciting" and she is "seriously impressed" with the people and the way it is run.

"What I'm trying to bring is that connection between horticulture and business and sustainability and hopefully come at it from a multi-dimensional point of view."

Presenter: HortWeek editor Matthew Appleby
Producer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor

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