Sales surge for UK's wild flower seeds

New Olympic Park in London helps to lift the profile of wild flower meadows and leads to massive increase in seed sales.

Wild flowers: boost for profile - image: HW
Wild flowers: boost for profile - image: HW

UK wild flower seed sales have increased by up to 60 per cent over the past year - a phenomenon that is being linked to the big impression made by wild flower meadows at the Olympic Park.

University of Sheffield senior lecturer Professor Nigel Dunnett, who co-designed the wild flower meadows, said: "Everything I've seen and heard, and also been told by people, is that the Olympics hugely raised the profile of wild flowers and that this has led to dramatically increased sales.

"It is, of course, worth bearing in mind that we applied our 'Sheffield School' approach to designing the Olympic Park meadows, where we place as much emphasis on the aesthetics and visual impact of the meadows as on their ecological or wildlife value. So these are 'designed meadows' or 'urban meadows' or 'pictorial meadows' and the effect is more enhanced in terms of flower density than the standard wild flower mixes."

Thompson & Morgan has reported that wild flower seed sales grew by 60.5 per cent in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Mr Fothergill's said its 2011-12 wild flower seed sales are up 40 per cent on 2010-11. Wild flower seeds represent three per cent of Mr Fothergill's range but now account for nine per cent of its overall sales.

The UK retail seed market is worth around £100m annually. Wild flowers are just under 10 per cent of the flower market, with one-third to half of the sales from mixes such as wildlife and cornfield.

Mr Fothergill's marketing manager Ian Cross said: "Interest in flowers is coming back. There's a good link into the benefits of flowers for vegetable growers - without flowers you're less likely to have bees and less likely to have pollination of beans."

Turf grower Q Lawns marketing manager Angela Lambert said of its Meadowmat wild flower turf: "In our first real year of trading last year we sold three times what we expected and there is still a lot of interest from architects and specifiers.

"The Olympics had a big-time effect. The park showed what people can do with their outdoor space and wild flower turf is a way of doing that without breaking the bank or their backs." She added that environmental awareness is also playing a part in increased sales.

Suttons Seeds said its wild flower seed sales grew by 10 per cent from the 2008-09 season to 2011-12.

Floral meadows - Popular and easy to grow

Paul Jupp, marketing manager at Nova-Flore, which produces Meadow in My Garden annual and perennial flower seed mixtures, said wild flower seeds sit in lawn care and flower seeds categories and make up eight-to-nine per cent of the market.

"The arrival of this new flowering technique in 2011 has taken the market by storm and despite the poor weather in 2012 was a huge success in the UK's leading centres, helped in part by the Olympic Park planting and some good television coverage."

Aylett Nurseries buyer Steve Parry added: "Our secret to success with the Nova-Flore floral meadow seeds was to create display areas to show what can be achieved with minimal effort. We sowed in May to provide a profusion of colour in August/September, which our customers were amazed by."

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