Torrential rain and howling winds did little to dampen the spirits of the ornamental growers from across the South West of Wales who attended the latest in Horticulture Wales’ series of sessions to promote collaborative working.
The morning meeting, headed up again up by collaborative business consultant Simon Michaels of f3, saw business owners from Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire – ranging from alpine plant and daffodil growers, through to garden centre operators and producers of cut flowers and Christmas trees – discuss some of the key challenges they face and explore ways where working in partnership, such as joint-purchasing and sharing availability information and stock-lists, could lead to real business benefits.
Our event was staged at Fronawel Alpines nursery on the outskirts of Carmarthen, where the husband and wife team of Eddie and Vicky Cooper were kind enough not only to put on a delicious (and much-needed!) range of refreshments, but to also treat everyone to a full tour of their long-standing business.
Growers for more than 30 years, the Coopers moved to the one acre nursery, situated in a 2.5 acre field just five miles from the town centre, from their previous base at a nearby site nearly a decade ago to enjoy closer links to the main road network, ensuring it was easier to deliver stock to customers.
The family-run firm built up its success growing and selling alpines and rockery plants to garden centres across the South West of Wales, as well as along the M4-M5 corridor into England. However, major hosepipe bans across England in 2005-06, and the subsequent knock-on effect on the wider gardening industry, led to the couple contemplating whether they needed to diversify into other areas of growing.
This resulted in the launch of another side of the business, Perlysiau Penrhiw Herbs, which has particularly taken off in the past couple of years. Producing popular, in-season culinary herbs such as mint, coriander, thyme, rosemary, chervil, sage, and parsley, the couple now sell in large quantity to a major wholesaler in Cardiff which supplies the catering trade. On a smaller-scale, the couple also grow and sell vegetable plants, including tomatoes and cucumbers.
The Coopers’ nursery, which is located just off Blaenycoed Road on land more than 600 foot above sea level, currently brings together 12 polytunnels, one acting as a propagator heated by an oil-filled radiator to grow vegetables, three for alpines – which are potted from autumn onwards – and eight for herbs grown in raised beds. Because of the climate and favourable conditions, the nursery is also able to grow saxifrages completely outdoors, without the need for an initial spell in a polytunnel.
In addition to its alpines, herbs, and vegetables, the nursery is also home to the Coopers’ long-standing tree hire venture, where they rent out shrubs, bay trees, topiaries and the like to brighten up weddings, exhibitions, corporate events, and other special occasions – yet another string to the bow of an extremely impressive horticultural operation.
South West Wales Ornamental Growers News Updates: