David Nieburg initially had no plans to start growing herbs under glass or plastic, he had a full time job in horticulture. However after spotting the growing popularity of herbs with exposure via TV chefs and gardening shows, David and his wife Jo decided to grow a few herbs on an acre of land to finance home improvements. As the herb sales took off, Jo was only too happy to leave her job and become a grower! Space and infrastructure quickly became an issue so David and Jo joined forces with David?s father, Matt Nieburg who owned and ran a established nursery which specialised in growing African Violets, a crop which was slowly becoming less popular.
Country Plants and Herbs was established, and now produce around 800,000 pots for garden centre customers and 1.5 million pots of Garden Mint which is grown for another grower who supplies supermarkets with pots of growing herbs.
The most popular varieties are the standard herbs that you would hear any chef talk about, Parsley, Chives, Garden Mint, Rosemary, Common Thyme, Oregano, Sweet Basil, Coriander, Lavender Hidcote, Sage and Tarragon French.
Charlotte Christian, from the company explains that here are also some more ‘exotic’ varieties on the go at Country Plants and Herbs, “Chocolate Mint is one of our more popular mints after the ?biggies? like Garden and Spearmint. The chocolate link attracts a lot of interest as you can imagine! Berries and Cream is a relatively new variety to us and our customers are still getting to know it, so that one sold a good deal less than Chocolate mint. Strawberry mint is an interesting one that we will be growing for the first time in 2014. We sell 25 varieties of Mint altogether.”
Other varieties include banana, chocolate, eau de cologne and pineapple mint, blackcurrant or pineapple sage and lemon curd thyme are growing alongside the more traditional herbs. Many of these varieties have actually been around for quite a few years. Others have been found by people on their global travels or have appeared as sports on existing nurseries. These varieties are often then developed by specialist companies who try to promote the best attributes of the new variety. This may be scent and or growth habit.
The company has recently completed a major redevelopment, replacing the original poly tunnels with a new greenhouse so create around an acre-and-a-half of glasshouse space.
“We have always had year round production as we already had some glass prior to replacing the tunnels. The new glass significantly improves our infrastructure, allowing us to produce not only more but most importantly better quality. The garden centre market is seasonal with sales peaking during the spring. The new development will allow us to better handle the huge peak rather than producing all year round,” said Charlotte.
The main end customers are garden centres which the company supplies both directly and via wholesalers. “We deal with both local customers who collect from us, to garden centres all around the UK. The mint for the supermarket side is supplied to a local company who then supply in to supermarkets for national distribution.”
In the future Country Plants and Herbs are looking to further enhance their growing reputation as one of the premier suppliers of herbs to top UK garden centres.? Increasingly this is not down to ?just? growing the best plants but also to provide effective Point of Sale material and a great all around service.