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Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Environmental Excellence Award 2014 Runner-Up – Penlan Perennials

07 December 2014

The runner-up in our Environmental Excellence Award 2014 is Penlan Perennials, a specialist mail order plant nursery whose environmental credentials include being named as one of the top 100 Welsh companies in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) ‘Pocket Green Guide for Wales’…

Penlan Perennials logo (300px * 150px)Founded by Richard Cain back in 1998, Penlan Perennials originally opened on a 14 acre smallholding in the Ceri Valley, near Newcastle Emlyn, before moving to its current base in Newchapel, Pembrokeshire in 2010, although it still retains the land in Ceridigion to this day. Located within three and a half acres of organic, bio-diverse land that used to be the site of the old gamekeeper’s cottage on the Cilwendeg estate, the half-acre nursery focuses on producing peat-free perennial plants, specialising in hardy geraniums, ferns, and plants for bogs, ponds, or waterside gardens.

Richard, a former teacher who moved to Wales from Leicestershire, previously spent six years living in the Falklands, where he saw first-hand how organic farming really works, lessons and principles which he has endeavoured to adhere to ever since. His business is based on strong environmental values, as demonstrated by its achieving of the Green Dragon Environmental Management Standard Level Two in 2008, an accreditation it still holds to this very day.

The nursery has been peat-free and organic since inception, even though at approximately £6 per bag peat-free compost is far more expensive than other growing media. Mains water use is minimised thanks to the natural supply provided by a well within the grounds that dates back to the gamekeeper’s cottage, while dead plants are composted and used as mulch in the surrounding garden, which is home to a tremendous array of birds, ducks, snails and other species.

Richard Cain Penlan Perennials (300px * 225px)Flower (300px * 225px)

With a customer base that is predominantly mail order and tied into the business’s online shop, the nursery has cut paper use by stopping the mass mailing out of hard-copy plant catalogues every year in favour of sending downloadable PDFs to its email database, while plant pots are washed and reused an average of nine or ten times before they finally disintegrate and are recycled. Another approach the business has adopted to reduce packaging waste is, where possible, plants are packaged without pots – the end products are wrapped in old newspapers and biodegradable plastic, then placed into recyclable cardboard boxes in four different sizes.

For larger orders, Penlan Perennials uses a more expensive than average courier that offsets the CO2 generated by the deliveries. As well as the environmental benefits provided by this ‘carbon neutral shipping’, there are convenience benefits for the nursery, as the supplier, and the end customer too. All orders are automated through the Penlan Perennials website, generating all the necessary labels, barcodes, packing slips, and invoices together. Plants are collected from Newchapel each afternoon for next day delivery, with customers able to select from specific hourly delivery ‘slots’ and receive SMS or email notification on their order’s progress.

Horticulture Wales Environmental Excellence Runner-Up - Penlan Perennials

As well as its mail order and online operation, the nursery has also been an authorised supplier for the National Trust for around a decade, currently supplying approximately 50 gardens, stately homes, and heritage sites. In addition, Penlan Perennials also supplies the Woodland Trust and the Canal and River Trust, formerly known as the British Waterways and Canal Trust.

On a personal basis, Richard is keen to share his experience and knowledge with the wider industry. He is Chair of the West Wales branch of the Hardy Plant Society, and is still an instrumental figure in the Ceredigion Growers Association, where the nursery was originally based. The gardening correspondent for lifestyle magazine Welsh Country for the past decade, he also conducts as many as 50 talks a year for various gardening clubs across Wales, while for the past two years he has also been one of the judges in the ‘Welsh Environmental Reporter of the Year’ competition organised by Keep Wales Tidy.

Click here to read more about the Horticulture Wales Awards

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