They are so much more than shops

Let's Talk - - Contents -

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.moul­ton­nurs­ 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.

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