They are so much more than shops
H ow does your garden grow? With plants you have cared for from seedlings in the greenhouse and cuttings on the windowsill, or with a host of new shrubs and bedding bought from the garden centre? Do you stock up on stocks each spring and love pottering around the potting-up glasshouses in your nearest plant nursery?
Two-thirds of us visit a garden centre every year, and we certainly spend our pounds there too - the garden centre business is now a £ 5billion industry in Britain according to the latest statistics. Many of them have developed to sell much more than plants, with everything from outdoor furniture to fish and fashions.
True to its roots
A half-century of growth has taken Moulton Nurseries from a collection of old glasshouses into a thriving, busy plant centre and coffee shop drawing customers from across East Anglia. But for owner Mike Bringloe the real pride is in knowing that however diverse the offering has become at this nursery, near Acle, east of Norwich, it is a plant centre first and foremost.
After studying at horticultural
college and serving his nursery apprenticeship, Mike returned to Moulton St Mary where his father had a small plant centre. “It was terribly run down, broken glasshouses with nettles growing through them,” remembers Mike. “I spent the first three years cleaning it all up, putting up poly-tunnels and a secondhand glasshouse.”
He ran the nursery alongside his jobs as a retained and fulltime fireman until a bad accident stopped him working. “I knew I wanted to keep the plant centre ticking over so thought I would employ a manager and grow a few bedding plants. We gradually built up things, with a little shop, but it was 11 years ago when we really started to develop it by building the coffee shop which has since had two extensions and now caters for 120 covers. My daughter Samantha runs the cafe and is a partner in the business, along with me and my wife Paulina.”
Moulton Nurseries is now home to various retail outlets, including Rombah Wallace shoes, an ecoshop and furniture upcycler, as well as an extensive gift shop, garden furniture section and seasonal Christmas shop.
“We have continued to grow and
develop - I don’t even have space to place an eight-by-six shed on the site now, it is so packed!” laughs Mike.
But it is the plants that remain absolutely central to the business - with Moulton being especially noted for its hanging baskets.
“Each year my manager, Lance Cator, and I make 2,500 hanging baskets, of which 1,200 are sold to the public and the rest go to Anglia in Bloom, to decorate Great Yarmouth, Filby, Yarmouth Racecourse and numerous pubs, holiday camps and other customers,” says Mike. “Although people talk about us as a garden centre, we are very much a plant centre and we have fantastic staff who are all fully horticulturally trained; quality staff really are the key.”
Moulton Nurseries Plant Centre, Acle Road, Moulton St Mary, near Norwich, NR13 3AP; 01493 750458; www.moultonnurseries.co.uk Coffee shop; 01493 754963
Owner Mike Bringloe, pictured at work at Moulton Nurseries.
Part of the range of garden-related products on sale at Moulton St Mary.
Lines of vibrantly coloured plants at Highway Garden and Leisure, near Norwich.