Overall, at our Kent-based nursery we are very grateful that it’s been another busy year for us, more remarkable perhaps, because of the crazy year that it’s been. The last covid restrictions came to an end in January and since then it’s been quite a roller coaster – the War in Ukraine, the worst drought in living memory, the loss of our much loved and longest serving Monarch, the cost-of-living crisis and political turmoil with Prime Ministers coming and going faster than the seasons.
While our trade has not been quite as busy as the previous years that were directly influenced so much by Covid lockdowns, holiday restrictions and working at home, we are still considerably busier than in 2019 – the year before the pandemic. It is probably fair to say that millions of people ‘discovered’ gardening during this time and very many of them have kept the habit. At the same time, more and more gardening purchases are being made online and specialist online businesses such as Hopes Grove Nurseries have benefitted from this and so the pandemic is still having an indirect effect.
Environmental matters are increasingly significant, gardeners are increasing planting trees and shrubs for environmental benefits as well as for the beauty of the plants themselves. At the nursery we are phasing out the older types of pots that are hard to recycle and the plastic sleeving used for packing some of our bare root plants. We are in the early stages of investigating peat free composts and have completed the construction of a 5.6 million litre reservoir (filled by rainwater harvesting) to keep our hedging plants growing well in dry summers.
Bare root plants are environmentally friendly and economical….and of the moment!
Bare root plants are as popular as ever, with the price of so many essentials going up so quickly – its good to know you can still buy beautiful bare rooted trees, shrubs, and hedging plants for a fraction of the cost of potted plants in the local Garden Centre. We are seeing customers ‘trade down’ at times, instead of buying bigger and more mature options, they are choosing the same number of smaller and cheaper plants to complete their project. Some customers are also consciously motivated towards buying bare root plants primarily because of their environmental benefits.
(for those of you who are not familiar with bare root plants….please read on!)
Sixty years ago – if you wanted to add a hedge, a tree, some fruit bushes or roses to your garden, then the only real choice was to wait until winter and buy them as bare root plants from your local nursery. The growing of these plants in containers was in its infancy and garden centres hadn’t been invented!
Over the last couple of generations, the option of buying these plants in pots…….at any time of year has become widespread. Like so many things in life, sudden servive has prevailed – customers aren’t prepared to wait for the right season these days – we buy air freighted Asparagus from Peru, French Beans from Kenya, Strawberries from Egypt and Spain, and we buy all kinds of trees and bushes in pots during the spring and summer.
Bare root plants have been in decline to the point that most nurseries and garden centres no longer stock them – they have become the realm of the specialist supplier like Hopes Grove.
Only more recently have gardeners started to ‘re discover’ these woody plants in their simplest and cheapest form…..but why now? We think because bare root plants don’t need glasshouses or polytunnels or the fossil fuels to heat them, they don’t need peat based compost, plastic pots and they require far less fertilizer and finite irrigation water in the production cycle. When they are harvested – these plants are much lighter, cheaper and easier to transport (there’s no root ball of compost!).
In short , bare root plants have by far the smallest carbon footprint when compared to pot grown, root ball or trough grown (instant hedging) stock – they are a sustainable and low cost way of establishing trees, hedges, shrubs and roses – gardeners are becoming increasingly aware of it and making conscious choices to buy them in increasing numbers.
Gardeners are choosing alternative species of topiary
In the past, almost all the topiary plants we sold at the nursery were Common Box (Buxus sempervirens) – in various shapes such as Balls, Cones, Spirals, and cubes. Over the last few years other species have become more important, especially English Yew (Taxus baccata) and Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata). Over the last year the Box topiary plants have dropped below 50% of our sales in this category for the first time as gardeners discover the benefits of topiary plants that are not susceptible to Box Blight or Box Caterpillar.
Wildlife friendly permanent displays are in
A less fussy and less manicured form of gardening is becoming more popular – where nature gets more of a chance to flourish. Permanent displays made up of shrubs and perennials, lawns cut less often and with wildflowers growing in them. Gardens that support invertebrates, small mammals, insects, and of course pollinators – are on trend.
Ten plants that are on trend now at Hopes Grove Nurseries:
- Bare root plants
- Yew and Japanese Holly topiary plants
- Griselinia Hedging plants (Continuing a long run of increased popularity!)
- Euonymus Hedging plants (often as an alternative to Box hedges)
- Native hedges of all kinds.
- Fruit Trees
- Hardy Fuchsia
- Ornamental Grasses
- Daphne shrubs
- Bird Friendly Hedging