"It is only March and we've sold out several times already," says UK Pelargonium grower Ursula Key-Davis from Fibrex Nurseries in Warwickshire. Last year, their volumes already doubled and this year, they are upscaling their production as much as they can. Two weeks ago, they started sending out the first young plants to the consumers and demand is incredibly high. "It seems that more people started gardening and they are happy to wait till their young plants are ready."
For about a year now, the UK is in complete lockdown which means that Fibrex Nursery is not allowed to welcome any visitors at their greenhouse. "Usually, from March till August, we open our doors to the general public. However, last year it wasn't possible and I do not think it will become possible later this year either." For this reason, they started to sell more plants through mail order within the UK, which they have done pre-COVID-19 on a smaller scale for about 30 years now.
Demand extremely high
Demand is and has been extremely high. In 2020, they doubled their volumes, and this year they are up-scaling whatever they can. Usually, they would export to Europe as well, but this year they needed all plants to meet the demand in the UK. And orders came earlier this year. "People already started to order in February when our plants weren't even ready. We receive a lot of repeat orders and people ordering specific varieties. They just want to be sure that they get their plants and are happy to wait when needed", Key-Davis explains. Fortunately, Fibrex Nurseries keeps all the mother plants and produces all the mother plants themselves. "In this way, we are able to upscale our production when necessary."
Mail orders on their way out of the nursery
Demand across the board
So what varieties are the most popular? According to Key-Davis, the demand is extremely high across the board. And there is a lot to choose from as 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 of over 354 different types, with the majority being from the Hedera helix family.
All hands on deck
Since the start of the lockdown, when mail-order picked up, they have been and still are making overtime to get all plants packed and out for delivery. "Due to the COVID-19 regulations, only half of the staff is allowed to come. We are a family business and, fortunately, our nursery is in our garden and we, therefore, had to do most of the work ourselves." Also this year, it is a season, it is all hands on deck. Orders are early and many people who said to come for click and collect asked us to send the plants instead." On top of that, they are doing their utmost best to upscale production to meet the high demand.
All in all, considering the situation, we are very lucky with how last year turned out for us. Also this year, we are expecting to break records, she concludes.