Nursery stock Grower of the Year

Winner: Lovania Nurseries

Nursery stock Grower of the Year, Lovania Nurseries - image: Lovania Nurseries
Nursery stock Grower of the Year, Lovania Nurseries - image: Lovania Nurseries

Its goal was to launch a nursery to supply garden centres with alpines with all the trimmings - attractive labels, excellent point-of-sale materials, that kind of thing. Lovania, set up more than 30 years ago by Len, Keith and Celanie Ball, almost saw its opportunity sink when a large alpine nursery supplier - and customer to Lovania's sister company failed - and administrators refused the Balls' final cash offer.

During the talks, however, the family looked into the profitability of alpines and identified a strong demand, in particular from garden centres. So Lovania resolved to set up its own alpine nursery, with challenges as tough to crack as hard-bargaining administrators. None of the team, for a start, had ever grown alpines before, nor had they dealt with garden centres.

But when a 3.2ha salad nursery with glass came up for grabs, Lovania jumped. The team levelled the ground, laid irrigation and took off on study trips around Europe to get to grips with the latest handling and transporting gear. They mapped a layout for the site and, having recognised the importance of slick packaging and merchandising, got the look just right.

Lovania opened for business with a merchandising service that included teams going into stores and setting up smart benches to drive sales.

Orders from 300 garden centres were secured for the 2010 season including leadering players Tillington Group, Hilliers and Garden Centre Group. In all, the new operation turned over £2,17m on alpine sales alone in 2010. In 2011, the operation recorded sales of £3.3m to 420 garden centres.

Final flourishes came from best stand awards at the HTA National Plant Show and at Four Oaks Trade Show. This kind of industry recognition capped a great 18 months for Lovania.

Highly Commended

Palmstead Nurseries

Finalists

Majestic Trees

Tendercare

Viking Nurseries

XL Horticulture was founded in 1993 and their XLpoly brand has been at the forefront of "smart" polythene innovations from day one. Most of the nursery stock growers in the UK use XL covers but the XLpoly range includes specialist films for soft fruit, bedding plants, vegetable plants and flowering crops.


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