Review of 2019

Here is a summary of the news stories that we have published on Gardenforum during 2019.  Wyevale disintegration and the expansion of other groups, the environment,  supplier consolidation and people in the news. 

2019 has been dominated by the breakup of Wyevale and greater awareness of the environmental impact of business, while Brexit seems to have had little impact on Trade. 

Each year has its unique pattern.  This year good weather produced an early sales surge in March and April and the rest of the year was spent attempting to hang on to early gains.  By the end of November sales are still about 6% up for the year.


The general consensus is that the break-up of Wyevale has been good for the UK garden retail industry.  3 major new groups have been formed and new vigour has been added to the supply side.  There has also been praise for the way its owners, Terra Firma, have protected the interests of employees, customers and suppliers.

Blue Diamond bought 16 larger stores, Dobbies added 37 large and medium sized stores, while British Garden Centres added 39, many of them smaller garden centres.  Hillier acquired 5 sites, 5 closed and 8 were sold to developers.  The rest were sold in small groups to other garden centres.

In January Blue Diamond reported how sales had leapt 50% in the first group of centres it acquired.  In October it announced record profits and offered some shares for sale.

In December Dobbies said its underlying sales were running at £300m a year, close to Wyevale’s but with half the number of garden centres.

Supplier consolidation and expansion

  • Smart Garden bought Briers from administrators in February
  • Fleurie Nursery, one of 3 growers belonging to Tristram Plants acquired fellow Farplants producer, Star Plants.
  • Agrumi announced that Folium and Flos Plants will be taking over its wholesale nursery on November 1st.
  • Ken Chen, owner of Newbridge Pots, took control of Leighton Buzzard and Willington garden centres.
  • The charitable trust Kettler GB broke ground in June on a 3,000 sqm. building that will double the size of its operations at Redditch. The £2 million state-of-the-art facility opened later in the year.
  • Swan Retail announced their acquisition of Touchretail, a provider of retail systems.
  • Stax Trade Centres announced in August that it had purchased hardware and ironmongery manufacturer P. Smith and Co. Ltd, maker of security products under the SECURIT® brand.  It followed this up with news that it had become the sole distributor for SBM and Primeur.
  • Further companies changed their route to market. T&M became the distributor for Sipcam and Neudorff revealed that DLF Seeds would be distributing its garden products with immediate effect.
  • Building has begun at Bransford Webbs on a new 18,000m2 production area, which will consist of 49 low polytunnels.


In February the government started consultation on proposed changes to regulations on waste and resources that will affect many companies.  These included a plastic tax, consistency in household recycling collections and packaging reduction.

Garden centres survived a potentially uncomfortable expose in ‘The Trouble with Garden Centres’ on ITV by Chris Choi.  Revealing that the industry is being proactive despite continuing to sell peat.

  • In November The HTA committed to a Sustainability Roadmap that it hopes the different voices in horticulture will unite behind.
  • Defra announced the sale outdoor use of metaldehyde, the active ingredient in many slug pellets, would be banned from July, only for it to be overturned in the high court. However, most retailers have stopped selling the product.
  • Industry moved rapidly away from black plastic pots to a colour such as taupe which is more easily recovered for recycling.
  • Growing Media Association sets out road map timelines towards sustainable growing media.
  • The battle to ban glyphosate or not continued across the world, with no definitive conclusion. Several countries including Germany, have threatened to ban the use of the weedkiller.

Brexit and politics

Brexit has been good for the industry.  Together with biosecurity fears of imported disease, it has fuelled the drive to buy British grown plants.  UK nurseries cannot grow enough to satisfy potential demand. 

Suppliers have managed the volatile exchange rates.  But growers and garden centres have been put under pressure by increases in the minimum wage.

The first bank holiday in May 2020 has been moved to Friday 8th to celebrate VE Day in Europe.

Other events

  • Smart Plant added Thomson & Morgan to its growing list of companies that use it to provide customers with advice.
  • Expansion by the discount retailers continues at the expense of the DIY chains. At the beginning of the year B&M said it was to open 56 new stores during the year. 
  • In November, John Lewis opened a concept store experience at Southampton where specialists will advise on everything from wine and gardening to interiors and technology.
  • Haskins moved Snowhill into a temporary structure, while the garden centre was demolished at the start of a £15m redevelopment that will complete in spring 2020.
  • Notcutts continued its £40m upgrade to its existing garden centres. It added a 300 seat restaurant to Ditchling GC plus additional concession space and refurbished Booker Garden Centre.  At the end of the year it announced that Nicky Dulieu would be stepping down and replaced by Bridget McIntyre as chair.
  • Hillview Garden Centres were put up for sale in January. It then sold two sites, Billing Garden Store in Northampton and Pavilion Garden Store in Wolverhampton, to the charity Shaw Trust.
  • Caulders bought two garden centres, Cumbernauld and Kinross, from Dobbies increasing their estate in Scotland to 7.
  • Hillier Nurseries completed a major redevelopment of the despatch facility at the company’s nursery in Hampshire in March. Then, in July, it shocked the industry by announcing that it would not accept any new orders for delivery after December 2019, from non-Hillier garden centres unless through a contract growing agreement.
  • Cherry Lane garden centres opened nursery No. 3 in April to supply ‘Grown by Us’ to its 13 value driven garden centres.
  • Plans were submitted for an 8500 sq m. Blue Diamond garden centre on the Elveden Estate, while updated plans were submitted for the 53 acre outlet village and garden centre near Tewkesbury.
  • Peter Seabrook opened a new restaurant at Peter Beales Roses’ garden centre in Attleborough in East Anglia. The breeder also launched the Thorncroft clematis collection.
  • The parent company of Cotswold Outdoor, a concession holder on several of the largest garden centres, agreed a CVA. Later, in October, Bonmarché with concessions on as many as 20 garden centres entered administration.
  • Administrators were appointed at National Polytunnels Ltd in November.
  • Following its 2014 developments, which proved an unmitigated success, Highfield Garden World in Gloucestershire announced plans for a further extension.
  • Directors of New Hopetoun Gardens, Lesley Watson and Dougal Philip found a novel way to preserve their business after they retire. They transferred it to an Employee Ownership Trust. The move secures the future of the business they have built over 40 years.
  • Choice Marketing announced the addition of 3 new garden centre members in July. This brings the total number of centres within Choice Marketing to 45.
  • Stewarts Garden Centres started building a state-of-the-art agri-tech nursery, part of a £5m redevelopment at Broomhill garden centre in September. 
  • Trebaron Garden Centre at Newton-Le-Willows near Warrington was sold to Newbank Garden Centres, increasing the number of garden centres they own to five.
  • In December, Griffon Corporation has announced that AMES had bought Apta, to add to its purchases of Kelkay, Anchorfast and La Hacienda.
  • In October work started on a 40,000 sq.ft. extension of Selby Garden Centre.
  • YouGarden, the multi-channel garden retailer whose revenues have grown 35% pa for the last 5 years, completed an MBO with the backing of Kester Capital. While, The Internet Gardener ceased trading and issued a notice of intent to enter liquidation.
  • After a devasting fire in April 2018, Klondyke announced the opening of a brand new Strikes Garden Centre and restaurant at Stokesley.


John Strange, founder of Keydell Nurseries, unexpectedly passed away in July after many years in the trade.

Garden centre pioneer Michael Cooling, an early pioneer of soil-less composts, died in February.

Mike Dunnett, a well-known and greatly respected industry pioneer, who was MD of Blakedown Nurseries died in March.

Roger Llewellyn, whose family owned Ace Equipment, passed away on the 1st September.

Highlights from People news during the year

  • SBM Life Science Ltd appointed Nick Walton as the new Head of Business for the UK and Ireland.
  • Sarah Squire was appointed Chairman of Squire's Garden Centres.
  • Hillier Nurseries appointed Adam Dunnett to its board of directors.
  • The HTA has appointed James Clark as Director of Policy and Communications.
  • In March Kingfisher announced the departure of Veronique Laury as it published another fall in profits. The parent of B&Q and Screwfix has named Thierry Garnier to replace her as CEO.
  • Former Briers CEO, Jackie Eades, joined Fallen Fruits as commercial director at the end of May.
  • Notcutts announced that Nicky Dulieu would be stepping down as chairman, to be succeeded by Bridget McIntyre as non-executive director and chair designate with effect from 1st March 2020.
  • The HTA has appointed botanist and broadcaster Pippa Greenwood as HTA horticulture manager to support grower members
  • Antony Harker, formerly of Tong and Kelkay, stepped down as MD of Ames UK having acquired a stake in part of British Garden Centres and a number of their properties.
  • Boyd Douglas-Davies, CEO of Hillview garden centres was appointed as HTA President to succeed Adam Taylor.
  • Choice, the buying and marketing group of 42 independent garden centres, recruited Terry Maywood, a former MD of Blacks Leisure Group as non-executive chairman.
  • Rainer Schubert was appointed as Burgon & Ball UK managing director.

Go to to read all this year’s people news.

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