What we do
We produce in the region of 32 million stems of cut flowers every year. We grow seasonal flowers but our crop rotation means that we are cropping 12 months a year. The crops we produce are:
Tulips are a massively popular product, and we have been growing them for many years. Recent years have seen major improvements in tulip production technology, and this has fed through to a much larger percentage of tulips sold in the UK being produced here rather than overseas. We grow our tulips hydroponically, starting cropping in early December and running right through to the end of May. To achieve this length of season we use a wide range of varieties and bulb treatments in combination with the latest production techniques. We produce around 25 million stems of tulips per annum in specially designed forcing houses. Heat is supplied by our biomass boilers making our heating carbon neutral and reducing production costs. The majority of the tulips we produce are packed here on farm for Sainsbury's and M&S, with smaller quantities being packed in to mixed bouquets by Flamingo Flowers, predominantly for M&S. Our bulbs come from Holland and we then plant them in to the hydroponic trays. The trays are filled with water and moved in to cold store for 2-3 weeks, this period allows the roots to develop before the tulips move in to the glasshouse. Once they are moved in to the forcing house they are held at around 16 degrees C. Growing from a small (0.5-5cm) sprout to a fully formed 35-40cm flower stem takes around 40 days at the start of the season but can be as quick as 10 days at the end of the season. This very quick turn around means we can fill the glasshouse several times over the course of the season, making the most efficient use of the space and heating. We usually have a range of between 8 and 12 varieties available at any one time during the season.
Our most popular product, stocks are an iconic summer flower. Well known for their strong scent and beautiful colour range, stocks are always in demand as soon as they become available. Our season runs from the end of April to the first week of August and in this time we produce around 3 million stems. Almost all of these stems are packed on farm for a number of supermarket customers. We are one of the UK’s largest stock producers and we grow over a wide area, filling all of our indoor space with stocks each season. We buy young plants in and plant them directly in to glasshouse soil. The crop then takes between 8 and 14 weeks to grow depending on the time of year. Stems are cropped daily through the season and in most cases packed directly in to sleeves and boxes ready to go in to store. The whole process from cropping to supermarket shelf can be complete within 48 hours. Freshness is key with stocks and we manage the crop to ensure that all of our stems reach the customer in the best condition possible.
Our only outdoor crop, Japanese asters have become more popular in the last few years, with impressive annual sales growth. The relatively short season runs from the end of July until the end of September. We grow around 30 acres of asters each year, over 2.5 million stems. All of these stems are individually planted and cropped by hand, so aster season is a very busy few weeks at the height of summer. Again the vast majority of our asters are packed on farm allowing us to dispatch the freshest possible bunches in to store. Asters are very sensitive to water in the field, needing to be kept wet when growing but without ever having too much water. We catch the water from our glasshouse roofs and store it in a purpose built 10M litre reservoir, this means we are self sufficient in terms of aster irrigation. We then monitor weather forecasts closely and plan irrigation to keep the crop at the optimum condition improving yield and stem quality. We have a range of 6 colours of asters and we work closely with our customers to ensure that the asters reach the store as quickly as possible after harvest.
We have been producing lilies for several years now, planting directly in the glasshouse soil after the scented stocks have finished making best use of our indoor area. Our total lily production is over 2.5 million stems, with the majority of our program made up of white Longiflorum lilies. These are grown from bulbs, hand planted through crop support wires. The crop takes around 100 days to grow and we start cropping in late June or early July, with the season running on until November or December depending on weather conditions. Our longiflorum lilies are nearly all packed here on farm for supermarket customers and dispatched ready for sale to avoid handling damage which is a big risk with lilies. Lilies are now a key part of our rotation and help us to keep our staff busy during the autumn.
Other crops and trials
We are always looking at new varieties and types of flower, both independently and in response to customer demand. One of our recent trials which we have taken forward in to production is the Rose Lily. These are a new type of premium double flowered oriental lily. They have a very nice scent, slightly less overpowering than many orientals. The flowers are very striking with large heads and double petals and they are pollen free avoiding the risk of staining from regular lily pollen. The rose lilies are grown in trays of special compost in the glasshouses and the season starts in late June. We crop through the summer and usually finish in October. We are currently scaling up our production as new varieties become available and bulb numbers expand.