Business blooms in the garden

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The Independent Online
WINNING awards at prestigious flower shows can make all the difference to a small horticultural company. Last year, the Tudor Rose at the Hampton Court Flower Show was bestowed on two small businesses, which are thriving in conditions that have seen off many firms.

John Emery, managing director of Vesutor Airplants, has always favoured the exotic. In the 1960s, he imported Afghan coats to sell to hippies. Now he grows and sells plants more traditionally found in the deserts and mountains of Central and South America, to those who appreciate no-fuss luscious blooms.

The plants are nurtured in a nursery in West Sussex. They are plants with a difference: they can live without soil, taking all the moisture and nutrients they need from the air. The scope for house plants and displays is vast, as last year's award proves. Mr Emery sees the Tudor Rose as confirmation that the plants have made it into the mainstream since they were launched in Britain a decade ago.

'At first, people thought they were gimmicks or novelties. They are not,' said Mr Emery. 'They are genuine house plants, and Hampton Court helps reinforce that. Now we sell to the established horticultural market through garden centres and mail order.

'People are not buying the plants because they want to get peat under their fingernails and propagate from them. They are buying them because they look good.'

Last year's award coincided with a product relaunch. In tune with the 'green is good' ethos of the present, the company threw away the packaging of its plants.

'We thought, 'what's the point of packaging?' and put what we used to spend on it into enhancing the product,' said Mr Emery.

For Scottlandscape - a garden design, construction and maintenance company run by brothers Robert and Nigel Scott - winning a Tudor Rose at last year's show proved a turning point. Their award-winning garden 'Waste Not Want Not' was strong on recycling, using second-hand materials such as telegraph poles to offset flowers and shrubs.

The company, based in Ottershaw, Surrey, tendered for a contract at Heathrow airport and won. The landscape maintenance contract it clinched - beating five other companies - includes such locations as the Royal Suite, VIP areas, and the main tunnel entrance.

'The areas we look after are where a lot of people first see England. It's important to give a good impression,' said Robert Scott, whose father, a nurseryman, started the business. Scottlandscape also tends the viewing deck at Terminal Two and Heathrow's roof garden.

Heathrow is a flavour of the big time, but it was the bedrock work - designing and building gardens for individuals - that kept the company going through the recession.

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