Seed orders dispatched following business day. Pond plant orders received today will be sent out on 30th July.

The Cost of Plants

I've been having a bit of a sort out over the weekend and shredding lots of old invoices - from 2012. 

It's amazing how much paper we were still using in those days, and how clunky our e-commerce system was. What on earth am I going to do with all these empty box files! I guess at least the shredded paper is good for our compost heaps.

The other thing which strikes me is the changing cost of things - or not. Carriage costs have gone crazy, but then that's no surprise. The cost of the stuff we sell -particularly imported gardening kit etc. - has also gone nuts. The increases in wildflower seed prices and fruit trees are less eye watering - and from a surprisingly low base.

This is pretty good news, as we want our growing nurseries and harvesters to make money. They weren't for many years, and today's prices still strike me as being very reasonable, particularly given the seemingly inexorable rises in production costs and the difficulties climate change is creating.  

What hasn't budged much - if at all - is the price of bare root native plants. I've got mixed feelings about this. Not for profit community nurseries are very much the future for small scale plant production, and it's great that so many plants are available for free from NGOs like the Woodland Trust and the Tree Council. 

On the other hand, we do need to encourage our commercial growers. We have to ensure there's a ready large scale supply of genetically diverse, good quality UK origin, UK grown native woodland trees and hedge plants. The newly live requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain are a vivid illustration of this, as baffled developers struggle to find the plants they need for their next housing estate.

Growers can in large part offset rising labour costs by investing in new production equipment, but the industry is going to be increasingly buffeted by climate change. Its effects are already apparent, with plants not grading because of drought and being impossible to lift because of incessant rain. Nurseries need to invest in expensive glass and watering systems, but even that's not going to help a contracting planting season.*

There are - unsurprisingly - too few growing nurseries in the UK, and a tiny supply of seed for commercial use. Things are improving, not least as a consequence of some well directed Forestry Commission grants, but we have a long way to go.

As consumers, we need to be persuaded to pay up for good quality UK origin native species. I'm disheartened by our relentless obsession with price rather than origin and quality when it comes to buying plants (shades of the food industry here). I see this all the time in gardening forums, as folk celebrate their latest knock down purchase.

You generally get what you pay for. I had an argument the other day with someone online exhorting people to put off their hedge plant buying until the last minute, when growers have to offload unwanted stock. Well yes, but if you plant a bare root hedge in April rather than November it's going to be a completely false economy. 

Since 2012 many customers HAVE become much more aware about the origin of the plants they buy, but that's only part of the solution. So long as there's a commercial element to plant growing there has to be a decent profit in it. 

*My confident expection is we'll be buying cell grown plants in future