Behind the scenes at Happy Plants in Formby
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 February 2020
Formby is full of fascinating people, including the members of one family with a growing passion for the environment.
Alan Porter is never quite sure what he's going to find when he returns home from holiday. Last time he took a break with his wife, Katherine, his daughter and son had changed the name of their long-established family business.
Suddenly, Formby-based Porter's Fuchsias had morphed into Happy Plants, a change which Natalie revealed to dad via a t-shirt bearing the new name. She and her brother decided the old name didn't reflect a business selling a staggering 14,000,000 plants a year to garden centres throughout Britain when only a tiny percent were fuchsias.
Alan accepted the logic and the company, set over two sites totalling eleven acres, has since won national awards for excellence and innovation.
There are two reasons why Happy Plants is a pace-setter in the horticultural world. The first is that the new name appeals to younger people, often living in apartments without gardens. They have gone mad for house plants.
Natalie said: 'The interest is massive. Young people love them. They become like pets or children. I even heard of someone who had a yucca they'd called Simon!
'Because my brother is 30 and I'm 27, we see the business from a younger perspective. This extends to labelling as well. I work in the industry and I don't understand some care instructions. Over-complicated labels alienate people so we keep it simple so they can look after the plants, which then thrive and they become repeat customers.'
Another fundamental change has concerned plastic usage. The industry gets a bad name because the huge amounts of black plastic used for pots because it can't be recycled at reprocessing plants. This has led to most facilities banning all plastic garden pots - not just the black ones.
In response, over the last three years Happy Plants has increased its use of recyclable materials from six per cent to 97 per cent.
This has been done through a combination of initiatives including swapping the use of polystyrene containers for green plastic made from recycled pop bottles and scrapping the use of pots with black pigment and introducing distinctive blue ones. Plants trays are also now made from recycled cardboard.
'The added bonus is that many of these can be used over and over again,' said Natalie. 'And the green plastic acts as a UV filter and it's transparent so you can see the healthy roots system.'
The one downside is that many reprocessing facilities have been slow to change their blanket ban on plastic plants pots. 'That means many pots are going in landfill when they could be recycled,' said Natalie. 'That's quite frustrating but we are determined to get the message out there.'