Ben Gregory's Blog

Ben Gregory our Product Development Manager is currently touring Australia and New Zealand in search of new plant varieties to grow here at Wyevale Nurseries. 

Please check back here for regular updates until January. 

During the first week of December, the annual Victorian Trials week is held in the greater Melbourne area. This entails a number of nurseries and young plant suppliers opening their doors to visitors from across Australia and the rest of the world to exhibit their latest product releases, ideas and concepts
I joined Mark Lunghusen of AHS who had organised a great tour of the trials. Our first stop was to the industry ‘Trade Day’ where growers from the local area bring a selection of their looking good stock and take orders for immediate delivery. It was a great opportunity to see a snapshot of the industry in a quick stop.
Our trial itinerary kicked off by visiting Ball Australia’s new multi million dollar greenhouse and impressive trial display. We then left to move onto JD Propagators, who produce a wide assortment of trending plants from house plants to the latest shrubs. The final stop of the day was another leading shrub Propagator where we had a good look at the new product releases and a tour of the facilities.
The second day of trials included many stops with more of a focus on perennial and annuals, as well as a quick tour of Harrs Nursery who produce a wide range of colour product's for the retail market.
Our last stop of the day was at Greenhill’s where we had a look at some of the latest projects.
My last visit in the Melbourne area was to Plant Growers Australia, who are a large producer of a wide range of colour shrub and perennial products, mainly supplied to Bunnings. They also have a prolific in-house breeding project, producing many established Lavender varieties, including ‘The Princess’ which is Wyevale Nurseries promotion.
I then travelled upto the Sydney area, where I visited two leading breeders, one solely focused on producing great landscape plants that can tolerate the harsh Australian conditions and a another leading flowering shrub breeder.
Later in the day I visited one of the leading importers of New plants into the Australian market. They have recently invested in a very impressive new growing area with large quarantine facilities suitable for importing plants from around the world and satisfying Australia’s tough import requirements.
That concluded my nursery visits in Australia, where I have learnt a great deal about the industry, innovation in design and new plants aswell as the challenges supplying retail can provide. I must say a huge thank you to everyone who hosted a visit and especially Mark Lunghusen, who made alot of the visits possible.

Melbourne Nursery Visits
I arrived in Melbourne on Monday night to sunny weather & 34oc. Mark Lunghusen of Australian Horticultural Services greeted me and had a busy week of nursery & breeder visits planned for us in the greater Melbourne area.
We kicked off Tuesday with a quick tour of AHS’s trial facilities before heading off to visit Southern Advanced Plants, a large wholesale container nursery set up solely to supply Bunning stores. They produce a wide range of high quality, low maintenance and function plant products.
After SAP we visited a few retail stores including a large Bunning warehouse – the biggest horticultural retailer in Australia & Garden World, a unique, large independent garden store.
On Wednesday we visited Humphris nursery, another large wholesale container nursery, who grow a significant volume of premium grafted shrub lines. The second nursery visit of the day was to Coolwynn nurseries who are large growers of Southern Magnolia, potted Christmas trees and topiary. In the afternoon I visited Anthony Tesselaar Plants where I had an excellent tour of the trial ground by Anthony & Phillip.   
Thursday started off with a visit to Greenhills Propagation  Nursery who market their Touch of Class plant range. Greenhills are one of the largest Propagators in Australia and one of the leading introducers of new plants world wide.
In the afternoon, we visited Bundameer Nurseries, a Phormium specialist who are keen selectors of new flax varieties.
On Friday I visited Fleming’s nursery, where attempting to dodge a tropical storm we had a very wet tour of the nursery. Fleming’s are the leading producer of field grown & container trees in Victoria and put alot of time and effort into marketing their product to architects, contractors & local authorities. In the afternoon I visited ProteaFlora nursery, an impeccable nursery specialising in growing & marketing Protea world wide.
It’s been a superb week of visits, learning a great deal about Australian production, the local market and of course finding many exciting new plants! One of the most interesting things to see has been nurseries' response to the change in the retail market and the increasing influence Bunnings warehouse has there.
Next week is another busy week; I will be attending two days of the Victorian Trials week along with Mark and then more nurseries later in the week in the Melbourne and Sydney area.

For the last couple of days I have been situated in the Christchurch area, which is known for its great growing conditions with high sun hours and a buoyant climate.
27th: Today l visited Jeff Elliott of Elliott Nurseries, a true innovator and plantsman. Jeff gave a great tour of the nursery, going into great detail regarding their innovative production methods as he continues to carve his own path in the New Zealand market. Jeff is also a keen hybridiser and collector of plants from other sources, so we had a good look his latest findings!

Whilst in Christchurch I also couldn’t help but pop into a few of the local leading garden centres to view how garden retailing compares to Europe, as well as a quick visit to the excellent Christchurch botanical gardens.

25th/26th: I spent time with Ross Bayliss of Growell Plants and formerly Bayliss Nurseries. Ross is the representative of a wide range of breeders across New Zealand and has introduced many plants to the UK which we grow. I spent the afternoon with Ross touring his gardens and talking plants for both present and future with some very exciting introductions lined up for the next few years.

A few days prior on the route between Dunedin & Christchurch i popped into see friend from IPPS, Tom Ferguson, who is the production manager at Headford Propagators. Headford specialise in native plants in 7cm liners to distribution landscapers, nurseries and growers retailers. Much of the production is produced from seed, some of which is collected from across New Zealand.

8th Nov: I visited Vance Hooper and his nursery & gardens. Vance is one of the leading Magnolia breeders in the world and boasts an incredible reputation for regularly producing the finest new selections. Wyevale Nurseries are due to release his newest beauty in spring 18, named Cameo. Vance showed me his latest work across the breeding, nursery & garden.
I then went on to visit Stepping Stone Acers based just outside of New Plymouth. The nursery is set beneath Mount Taranaki, a beautiful snow capped Volcano. Due the to extremely rich volcanic soils plus moist and mild coastal climate, the area around New Plymouth is home to a large number of growers.
Jim, the production manager at Stepping Stones explained the production process from propagation to distribution for this specialist nursery nearly wholly based on export. Although approximately 8000 miles from home, it is surprising how similar the issues we share as nurserymen worldwide.
I finished off the day at a perennial breeder, who showed me their work on some classic cottage garden plants that look extremely promising for the UK market.


Monday 31st October:

I spent the day with Malcolm Woolmore who is the director of Lyndale Nurseries and Kiwiflora and his wife Trina Woolmore.

We took an in depth tour of the propagation facilities at Lyndale, the stockplant beds and the new plant trials. We viewed a lot of exciting new introductions that are being lined up for the European market by Kiwiflora.
Later that day we visited Dr Keith Hammett, the leading breeder of Dahlia (and other crops) in the world. We toured Keith's facilities and viewed current breeding trials.
We then went on the New Zealand liners, owned by Paul Turner. NZ Liners are a large exporter of Phormium to the European market.

Tuesday 1st November:

We started the day by visiting a unique nursery called Awa nurseries, who are supplying the landscape and retail market on the edge of Auckland. They are producing a large volume of interesting plants for the NZ market.

I then went on to visit one of the largest nurseries supplying the retail chain market further south. They are prolific breeders of a number of our promotional crops, we toured the nursery and viewed breeding trials that will be available in the future.

Thursday 3rd November:

In the morning I visited Dave Ogilvy at Bruntwood Nurseries just outside of Hamilton. Dave is the breeder of Phormium Alison Blackman, Phormium Taya and many other crops. We toured the nursery and viewed trials.

In the afternoon I visited Paul Handyside, of Tauranga. Paul is the breeder of Phormium Blondie and is a large grower of Phormium.

I also visited Naturally Native Plants, the breeders of Phormium Chocomint. We toured the probation units and the new trial crops.

It was a flax filled day!

Tomorrow I am visiting Vance Hooper (breeder of magnolia), Stepping Stones and a Delphinium breeder.