The FCH promotion "Christmas Tree Out, Houseplants In" could well be the mantra of the six plant wholesalers at New Covent Garden Flower Market this month. The forest of Nordman Firs has disappeared to reveal a staggering range of plants for indoors and outdoors, and no more so than at Quality Plants Exterior Ornamentals Limited – aka Quality Plants.
Founded in 1988 by the "originals" – Craig Broadley and Dave Knight – Quality Plants celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, having established an excellent reputation for reliability and top quality plant materials. The guys admit that it took time to build: "It was quite a slow learning curve. It takes time to build relationships with your customers," says Craig. "We want repeat business," so we offer consistently great service and great plants."
With the likes of event florists Rob van Helden, Paul Thomas and indoor landscapers Indoor Garden Design amongst their enviable client list, all the indications are that Quality Plants is getting it right.
The Modern-Day Plant Hunters
Quality Plants are the modern-day Plant Hunters. Every quarter, Dean (Dave's son who joined the business in 2002) or Craig journeys out to Holland and Denmark for days at a time, visiting 6-7 nurseries a day with export agents, taking in plant shows, and slaving into the night at distribution warehouses.
True, they may not be traversing the Himalayas on a yak to find their prized specimens, but the work is almost as arduous and the spirit of adventure is the same!
On their expeditions, Dean and Craig are on the look-out for new or unusual varieties, always with an eye to trends and customers' style, and introduce up to 75 new lines a quarter.
"We are always hunting for new ideas, new lines that will set us and our customers apart, and inspire our buyers," says Dean. "Sometimes that can mean re-discovering old plants that have dipped out of fashion, only to inspire our customers all over again."
The green mounds of Selaginella apoda is just one of those plants test-marketed in London by Quality Plants that have been snapped up by restaurants and bars as trendy table decoration.
Quality Plants' range includes specimen evergreen plants (standard bay trees, box balls and pyramids, giant cactii), seasonal houseplants and, above all, orchids.
"We are one of the biggest orchid suppliers in England," claims Dean. "We sell over quarter of a million orchids a year in 6cm to 25cm pot sizes. At Jewish New Year, we sell trolley-loads of pure white phalaenopsis, and even after 20 years, we discover incredible new growers and varieties on our plant-hunting trips."
Quality Plants stock cymbidiums, dendrobiums, epidendrum, oncidium and Dean’s favourite, the exotic Vanda orchids.
"Vandas sit in their own roots, and absorb moisture from the atmosphere," explains Dean. "In Asia they grow on the side of buildings, and are considered a weed. Here in Europe, they take six years to bring into flower, which is why they are relatively expensive and why they are so sought after."
What remains on the list for our intrepid Plant Hunters at Quality Plants? "The elusive black orchid!" says Dean.
Visit Quality Plants at www.qualityplants.co.uk or call Craig, Dave or Dean on 020 7978 1188.