New Leaf Plants is a leading producer of clematis and climbing plants, supplying retailers across the country and exporting to northern Europe. In 2015, the business was bought by David and Nicole Higginson, who have since packed in "10 years of development in the last four", investing £2.25m in state-of-the-art production facilities with the aim of increasing plant production from 750,000 to 1.5 million per annum within the next five years.
That investment includes more than £1m on New Leaf Plants’ new propagation unit — a modern glasshouse facility with variable temperature zones enabling maintenance of optimum conditions for the many varieties the business produces.
The result has been an uplift of more than 40% in successful rooting, helping to significantly increase production. New machinery, including an Ellepot machine to produce the nursery’s own plugs and kit to increase the speed at which plugs can be linerised, has also boosted production efficiency. The nursery’s goal is to become 100% self-sufficient, allowing it to have total control of its plants from a biosecurity perspective.
The business has also invested in a variety of growing structures including glasshouses, Keder multi-span tunnels and single-span polytunnels, allowing the team to grow on each species in an environment that suits its specific needs.
The sales and marketing team has worked with Floramedia to develop themed point-of-sale (POS) material, which has seen sales rise at customer sites. For example, Highfield Garden Centre has seen a 35% increase in climbing plant sales by using New Leaf Plants’ latest themed POS boards. A new web shop has simplified the ordering process for customers and improved visibility of stock availability.
Product development has seen the introduction of new varieties including the multiple-award-winning Clematis ‘Beautiful Bride’ in 2014. In 2019, the grower debuted the highly scented Clematis ‘Sugar Sweet’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The business works with breeders from all over the globe but is also developing its own breeding programme.
The new owners are ensuring that the nursery minimises its environment footprint with measures that include harvesting rainwater run-off, using organic-based stimulants rather than traditional chemicals, an integrated pest management programme, peat reduction and fully recyclable pots.
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