With demands for just-in-time delivery on plants, shrubs and trees from contractors and landscape architects increasing, Frank Sandford, Sales Director at Boningale Nurseries, discusses the renewed focus in the industry for contract growing – the most efficient and cost-effective way of producing quality and quantity.
Like many large amenity nurseries, Boningale, one of the UK’s largest nurseries and environmental horticultural specialists, grows the majority of its stock each year based on trends and calculated predictions for general sale.
This traditional method of production means that last-minute orders might have to be sourced from elsewhere, either in the UK or abroad, if the nursery at that time does not have the variety and specific size required in stock to complete the order. This not only makes the process more time consuming, it also adds to the overall costs and could mean the contractor might have to compromise on the specification and selected varieties of plants at certain times of the year.
But with contract growing, the guess work is taken out of the equation. Clients get to order the plants to a specified budget, leaving the nursery to produce the plant material they require on time and grown to the required specification, quality is also assured.
Quite simply, it is the most efficient and cost-effective way of producing high-spec plant material in the quantity needed and for the quality demanded.
Whether planting is required for a new business park, open space or housing development, well-thought-out schemes provide much-needed visual appeal.
On the home property front, it has been well documented by industry experts, including those at the Landscape Institute, that good landscaping can help new homes sell quicker because of the kerb appeal it offers.
As the quality of fixtures and fittings inside a house gives the prospective client a visual clue as to the lifestyle aspirations they can achieve, so does the outside space. A well-designed space will maximise every square metre, enhancing the look and feel of the environment.
We have more than 30 years’ experience in the sector but have witnessed a marked increase in the quality and variety of plants being specified in recent years, as landscape architects, contractors and house builders work together to prioritise the importance of creating a good first impression.
This partnership with nurseries and contractors allows everyone to have a say in the creative input and design at the planning stage of the planting.
By taking a detailed audit of the site and soil, the landscape architect and contractor can design concepts and contract growers can use their wealth of expertise to advise on suitable plant varieties or help to source suitable alternatives when a stock line is out of season or simply not looking at its best for the time of year that it is required.
This planned approach saves time and money but crucially it is proving to be a key sales differentiator for house builders.
However, there are frustrations in the current competitive tendering system used by many housing developers. Some contractors have commented that the system is open to abuse, which could see them losing out to cheap competitors who go on to cut corners and erode the quality of the landscaping; down-size trees, and shrubs, substitute plants for cheaper alternatives and short change the client on ground preparation.
These practices lead to suspicion in the supply chain and causes difficulties when professional contractors are trying to gain the trust of clients and designers who might have suffered from such shoddy procedures.
But by building relationships and understanding between like-minded parties who can and will deliver a quality project at a competitive price, these problems can be easily avoided.
The importance of good planting schemes goes beyond aesthetics. With plant specifications now playing an integral part of the eco-rating of a building, contract growing also ensures the project receives the correct varieties needed to achieve the BREEAM rating.
We are proud of our green record. We hold the ISO 14001 EMS accreditation and have also produced a leaflet that is aimed at contractors and landscape architects who are keen to maximise their ecological credits.
This 20-page “Plants for Wildlife” catalogue, which was developed with globally renowned WYG Environment, sets out for landscape architects hundreds of approved plant species and varieties that encourage ecological diversity and attract myriad wildlife to new-build sites and green urban spaces, including green roofs.
When Boningale was contracted by Frost Landscapes to grow, supply and deliver 10,000 plants for two roof terraces at the new, £188 million City of Birmingham Library last year, Boningale growers spent 12 months producing a “schedule of plants”, which enabled the contract to be completed to specification, on time and within budget. This made a direct contribution towards the architects’ aim of achieving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for the scheme.
Aidan Lane, Commercial Director of Frosts Landscape Construction Ltd, confirmed that the benefits of contract growing on this scale were easy to see in the quality of plants we delivered to the Library of Birmingham.
We also supplied 17,000 contract-grown plants for Eastside City Park, the first park to be created in Birmingham for more than 130 years, spending eight months carefully cultivating and supplying herbaceous perennials and shrubs for the 6.75 acre space that sits alongside Millennium Point.
As more businesses realise the benefits of contract growing, Boningale is in a stronger position to help contractors and landscape architects achieve the look they want by ensuring we can grow what they want.
Although we supply hundreds of thousands of plants every year and are capable of fulfilling last-minute requests and orders, we find that the client is far happier when they are in more control and have ordered in advance.
It makes sense to go down the road of contract growing because it has been proven to work time and again.
It provides clients with a real point of difference from their competitors because it demonstrates solid management practice and collaborative strengths, especially when the grower works closely with the landscape architect and contractor.