Here at Cowell’s we are owned and run by passionate plant people and we pride ourselves on providing the best plants for our customers, which is why we grow as many of them as we can ourselves on-site.
This year we are pleased to announce that our production nursery is quadrupling in size!
Our original nursery was built back in 1984 and, although it has served us well, there are only so many times you can re-skin a polytunnel! Plus, growing techniques have moved on, and by rebuilding the nursery and reconfiguring the layout, we can operate more efficiently.
We have wanted to develop the nursery for a while but last year really spurred us on. Covid led to a reduced supply of plants and a huge increase in demand, so we were really grateful that we were growing our own. Growing our own also reduces plant miles so the more we can grow, the better it is for the environment.
The production nursery is located at the back of the garden centre, out of the way of customers, some of whom might not even know it exists! It is a large space and as part of the nursery re-build we have also made space for a new Goods In area (meaning lorries will no longer need to unload in the customer car park), and a large recycling area; we recycle all of our cardboard and plastic waste, we have also installed new water tanks which store enough harvested rain water to irrigate the nursery (or to bath 1000 customers!).
|The new nursery site as it was!||Working on the new access road||Our new Goods In area being put to good use||30,000 litre water tanks being installed|
Building the new nursery has been no mean feat. We began the process in Summer 2020 and have had to install LPG tanks to keep the tunnels frost-free, build a new access road, install new fencing, lighting, and security cameras.
The nursery site is now home to two 3 bay multi-span tunnels; being multi-span they allow for more floor space and a more efficient way of working as you’re not constantly moving between tunnels. The large size helps regulate the temperature and the concrete floor acts as a heat sink which slowly releases any stored warmth created during the day throughout the evening. Inside, the tunnels have drop-down curtains to section off different areas so we aren’t heating whole tunnels unnecessarily. They are also lit by LED lighting to help reduce our carbon footprint.
|Polytunnel structures in place||Concrete flooring being laid||Many hands required!||Blue sky and sunshine making the job easier|
|Skins going onto the polytunnel roof||Looking good from the inside||Lots of tarmac for the new Goods In area||Just need some sides on those tunnels now!|
Outside there are five 80m x 50m open-air beds, these are for our hardy perennials. The challenge with these is protecting them from the frost – especially after the Spring we had this year.
|Groundworks for the outdoor beds||Paths laid and hard-core ready to spread||Ground cover fabric laid and new fence erected||All finished and filling up fast!|
The jewel in the crown is our shiny new potting machine which pots around 3000 plants a day in a range of pot sizes from 9cm to 5 litre. As we write this, it's potting our last crop of summer patio and basket plants.
|Filled pots making their way down the belt||The machine creates a hole ready for the plug plant||Potting on the move||All labelled and ready to be laid out|
The nursery is run by a team of four people, and although they have one of the most rewarding jobs, it’s hard work caring for 160,000 plants every day!
We’ve had our challenges along the way, mainly from the great British weather but being garden centre owners, we’re used to that! The nursery is now fully up and running and we sold our first plant grown in the new tunnels last month.
Keep an eye out for the bright blue recycled pots in the plant area and you’ll know that your plant was grown here on site.
|Plug to finished plant in the space of a few weeks||Our popular Confetti Garden range||Patio & Basket plants looking very neat and tidy!||Heuchera crop showing off its colours|