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Spring fever

All around the country, nurseries are growing seasonal plants for retail through their own or other outlets, like garden centres. These are the growers who produce pansies and primroses for the winter and early spring, and then petunias, busy lizzies and quick-flowering perennials for the summer and autumn.

Raising the plants from seed requires specialist facilities, so most buy in young plug plants from someone else and grow them on for sale. These plug plants are tiny (from about 1 sq cm) but they can be timed to perfection for sale as long as their growing conditions are met. Being this accurate takes a great deal of research, but it means to grower can maximise their facilities and have the greatest turnover of stock to keep the retail outlets supplied.

One supplier of such young plants is Ball Colegrave, in Oxfordshire. They hold two open events for growers every year where they show off new additions to their range and allow growers and retailers alike the chance to see the finished product. In summer, this means planting up their trial grounds so the plants experience garden conditions. In spring, the plants are mostly inside large greenhouses, where they look perfect and their flowers can be seen up-close.

Some of the plants are sold as named mixtures of colours for 6-pack bedding and these are displayed as a group on the bench, just as they would appear on the sales bench.

Other plants on show are still at the experimental stage and feedback is always welcome as to whether visitors think they are worth taking to the next stage or whether they fail to impress.

One thing is certain, the colours are amazing. Flower size and shape is changing all the time and new introductions are always interesting to see. Tastes change, but pansies like the Cool Wave series remain hugely popular, thanks to their ability to withstand whatever the winter throws at them and the vast range of colours. It will be interesting to see how many of these new varieties are in the garden centres next spring.

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This story was published on: 15/02/2020

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