Blomfield Nurseries

If you’re lucky enough to own your own greenhouse, you’ll know how much effort goes in to maintaining it. So just imagine the work that goes into looking after a five-acre greenhouse in year-round production – which is exactly what the Blomfield family do. Their vast glasshouses, covering 11 acres in total, set near Whitehaven in Cumbria, produce literally millions of plants all year round.

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Anthony Blomfield grew up on the site and now heads up the business. “My grandfather started the nursery in 1949, growing salad crops for local greengrocers,” he explains. At the start, it was a three-acre site with an acre of glass, and now the site is roughly ten times its original size with cheery yellow Blomfield’s trucks delivering bedding plants the length and breadth of the country all year round. “When I first joined my parents in the nurseries, we did everything by hand between us, but things have gradually evolved over the years,” says Anthony. “We’ve taken on more staff, replaced and expanded the glass, and brought in more technology. Now we have computers to monitor conditions in the glasshouses, machines that fill pots with compost and computerised planting machines – but there’s still a lot done by hand, including all our hanging baskets.”

“We all live on site and to be honest we need to, because you’re on call 24 hours a day in case there’s an issue here or with the delivery trucks,” says Anthony. “If there’s a frosty night and something’s broken, we could lose a whole crop, and if there are strong winds we need to keep an eye on the glass – so it’s good to have the family involved and on-site because we’ve all got the knowledge to deal with it.”

Despite a lifetime of living alongside the plants, Anthony doesn’t take them for granted. “It’s lovely to see them growing on this scale and, because they change with the seasons, I never get bored of them.” In February, the glasshouses are full of primroses, then violas, and then the marigolds and begonias will begin to come through. All this is planned months in advance.

It seems that our tastes don’t change much when it comes to bedding plants. “Pansies, violas and primroses have always been popular, and after the winter we all seem to want bright colours – they always do much better than the pastel shades,” observes Anthony. “The one thing that’s changed in recent years is a bigger demand for dianthus – that’s really taken off.”

It’s all in the timing. The trickiest part of Anthony’s job is making sure each plant is ready at the right time to meet the customers’ requirements. “For example, if we have a really wet week, no one will want to buy bedding plants so we need to hold them back and keep them in tip-top condition for when the weather clears and everyone gets out into the garden again. Every plant has its own needs and it’s got to be right when it goes out to customers.”

The business has its own fleet of trucks to ensure its plants arrive at their destination in the best possible condition. “We can load up one of our trucks here and it will deliver plants to Dobbies in Ashford, Kent eight hours later. Although it’s more expensive, and more work than using hauliers, it’s worth it,” observes Anthony. Given the work that goes into growing these beautiful bedding plants, we’d have to agree.

We are pleased to offer a wide range of Blomfield’s plants at all Dobbies Garden Centres. Check your local store for availability.

Image Credit: Will McAllister

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