A (Reasonably) Brief History of Primarily Plants
Primarily Plants began as a small wooden greenhouse at the end of our garden in the early 1990’s. Initially I began collecting fuchsias, starting with the more common and then onto the rarer, specialist varieties. Many weekends were spent driving from fuchsia specialist to garden centre with the aim of finding a new variety to add to the collection and after a while, having visited specialist growers on the Isle of Wight during a family holiday and several visits to the fuchsia collections all over the country I was persuaded that my collection may be getting out of control.
Countless mail order fuchsias littered the garden, now cascading out of the wooden greenhouse and onto specially built racks, each specimen in a one or two litre pot, with hand written label and hanging baskets full of fuchsias adorning the house the collection was spiralling out of control. Finally the constant cutting taking, heated greenhouses and the increasing difficulty of finding new varieties that weren’t already part of the collection got too much and the fuchsia collection was given away, with a few favourites remaining in pride of place.
This freed up my weekends and led me to decide that instead of collecting plants, I could grow and sell them, one thing that I focussed on when collecting and growing fuchsias was ensuring I had the best quality specimens and with few other local plant nurseries providing plants of a high quality, I spotted a gap in the market.
The fuchsia racks were converted into staging for bedding, patio and perennial plants, the wooden greenhouse replaced with a metal one and a second, larger, greenhouse erected next door to it to provide the space required. We started producing packs of bedding and patio plants, loading them into the back of our estate car and started selling them at car boot sales. It wasn’t particularly profitable and very time consuming, but the quality of our plants shone through and regular customers began to appear.
As we became known in the local community, we needed to expand and luckily, a friend of ours knew a farmer who was prepared to rent us a small patch of ground on his farm, where we erected a polytunnel and an outside standing area, providing extra space and allowing us to increase our range of patio plants as well as to start growing perennials.
Our back garden rapidly became a testing area, with new varieties in patio containers and flower beds, checking that plants sold to us as hardy were indeed capable of surviving the winter in Herefordshire and allowing us to provide accurate information to our customers.
Eventually we graduated from car boot sales and onto Hereford Retail Market, in the former cattle market site in Hereford (now demolished and replaced with a large shopping centre), battling against traders who brought their stock directly from Holland, our home grown plants stood out for their quality and our knowledge.
Just as we began to establish ourselves, the farmer from whom we’d let our small site had marital issues and we were forced to move to a second site, about 50 metres from our previous location, but without vehicular access. This led to us having to carry every tray of plants over 200 meters from the road to the polytunnel, to make things worse I had to give up his job as a fabricator and welder due to health issues which caused him to suffer from bouts of extreme fatigue and severe muscle pains which were attributed to fibromyalgia.
The extreme manual labour continued for a few years as we searched for a new location, one which we could drive vehicles onto and after a long search we brought our present site, previously the home of several donkeys, who were happy to be relocated to the field next door. We applied for planning permission to erect our polytunnels and were lucky enough to get near unanimous support from the local councillors.
This allowed us to transfer our two polytunnels from our previous site and begin trading again. The increased space also allowed us to erect new polytunnels and landscape the site to produce an outside area to allow our perennial plants to ‘harden off’ (leaving them outside a few weeks before sale so they don’t get overwhelmed when planted out in the cold garden). Unfortunately the increased space led to a new idea, which didn’t turn out to well, growing vegetables.
Seeing the unused area I decided that there might be a market in growing vegetables for sale to local customers, so I began by enclosing a vegetable patch to produce food for ourselves as a trial. Nearly every fruit or vegetable we tried to grow didn’t. The ground was unsuitable for anything that wasn’t a brassica (as we found out quickly after our first batch of carrots), the potatoes were covered with blight almost as soon as we planted them and our apple orchard produced three apples all year.
To add insult to injury the cauliflowers and cabbages that we did manage to grow were quickly spotted by hordes of local pigeons, leaving us with very little left to eat. Unsurprisingly the project was called off and we went back to focussing solely on what we do best, growing plants.
The expansion also allowed us to take on more retail commitments; a permanent position in Eign Gate in Hereford, producing hanging baskets for a number of local businesses and hotels, regularly attending garden shows and fairs and I get to talk about plants at gardening clubs, or to any of our customers who need help and advice.