Bunhill: Kelways blooms

KELWAYS, the nursery in Somerset whose peonies are world famous, has been saved. You may recall how receivers were called in in December, threatening the future of the company, which provided peonies to Monet and the Queen Mother.

Now I hear Chris Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Ipeco Holdings, the aero-engineering company, has come in with a rescue offer.

Johnson and his wife Liz are no strangers to the precarious nursery business. They already own McBean's, which is to orchids what Kelways is to peonies. McBean's, at Cooksbridge near Lewes, East Sussex, was also snapped up from receivership.

Johnson says: 'I've been in engineering all my life and approach these horticultural businesses in a different, more relaxed way. It's very enjoyable. But nobody's going to get rich with these businesses.' He hopes there will be synergies between the two nurseries in retailing and marketing.

However, there is bad news for the 1,600 Kelways customers caught out by the receivership - their cheques were cashed in November but their orders were not carried out. 'There's no question of our being able to fulfil those orders. It would cost us a fortune and the money is sadly gone.'