"It is all mail order that we are sending out at the moment and, surprisingly and fortunately, we are about the same regarding turn-over compared to last year - which was our best ever year", says Heather Goddard-Key of Fibrex Nursery. Since last week, they and all other "non-essential" businesses in the UK were ordered by the government to close their doors - in the fight against COVID-19. As this pelargonium nursery is now heading into their peak season, challenging times are ahead of them. "But so far so good."
And here’s me (Heather), in with my show plants that will be looking fantastic soon and have no shows to go to.. 😥— Fibrex Nurseries (@FibrexNurseries) March 23, 2020
Sadly not all of us were here today so we weren’t all able to give you a wave. #indinurserieshour pic.twitter.com/7r2DiVrUl8
Heather in the greenhouse
Closing the doors of the nursery
In the UK, the nursery business falls under "non-essential" and to fight the coronavirus, all shops selling these non-essential products had to close their doors since March 23. Also Fibrex Nurseries had to close the doors of their nursery, based in Warwickshire, a place where they usually sell a lot of pelargoniums to the general public. "From the first of March till the end of August, we usually open our doors to the general public."
However, the doors are not only closed for the public, they are for their employees as well. "Our employees cannot come to the nursery anymore. At least we are lucky that the nursery is our home and that we continue growing and caring for the plants."
Throughout the season, Fibrex Nurseries attracts a large number of people from across the country, checking out their large variety of different and exclusive pelargonium varieties. They hold the National Collection of Pelargoniums, which means that they have the largest collection of pelargoniums, over 2,000 different species and cultivars. On top of that, they also hold the National Collection of Hedera - consisting over 354 different types, with the majority being from the Hedera helix family.
Tweet posted on Twitter page of Fibrex Nurseries on March 24. "Just a few of the varieties added to the website today for mail order..‘Richard Selby’, ‘Berkswell Bolero’, ‘Mrs May Last’ & ‘Shrivenham Crown’ "
People in the UK are urged to stay home and are only allowed to go outside for the "essentials". Fortunately, mail orders are still allowed to work. "The government realized that people, if they cannot leave the house, need something to keep them going - so good for the mental health. On top of that, it keeps several 'non-essential' businesses afloat, including us", says Goddard-Key.
So, in order to continue sales, Fibrex Nurseries now sells all plants through mail within the UK. And fortunately, they have a lot of experience in it. "We've done mail order for nearly 30 years. Now, however, we only deliver within the UK as it takes too long to get the product to the European countries we usually supply to, with all current delays at the borders."
"We are lucky to be in a business that makes people happy. For many British people, gardening is a hobby that gives them joy."
Fibrex is a family business and as their nursery is in their garden and no employees are allowed to work, they are making overtime to get all plants packed and out for delivery.
So far, the sales are satisfying, Goddard-Key tells us. "When comparing this year with the turnover of last year, we are on about the same level. And last year was our best ever year!"
Challenging weeks to come
However, the pelargonium season is just at its beginning. The coming weeks will be crucial. "The COVID-19 crisis comes at the worst time of the year for us. Most sales occur these coming 4 to 6 weeks, and with the exhibitions being cancelled as well, where we usually sell a lot and receive many orders, we have to see what sales will do. So far, we are pleased, but the effect of this all we will know by autumn. In the meantime, we try to get the most out of social media and we will do our utmost best to bring our varieties to the public in these hectic, lonely and terrifying times. "