1987- Chapel Cottage Plants is named after our home which can be seen in the centre of this picture. This picture was taken back in 1987 a couple of years before work started on the site
1989- The company was founded offering a range of perennials in 1 litre pots. Chapel Cottage Plants was founded after inheriting 18.5 acres of land called Chapel Fields.
Only 1 acre of land was made available to start with because of the lease for the current tenant farmer.
1989- In our first production year, 70,000 perennials were potted into 1 litre pots by hand.
Youngest son Nicholas was involved from the age of 6 to help with the development of the business, helping out during school holidays and weekends.
The photo on the left shows our first ever "potting machine" with Ann and Nicholas filling pots by hand on the top of an upturned water tank!
1989- Our first large order was ready for delivery to Altons Garden Centre in Essex.
All orders at the time were sent out in Whte, Chapel Cottage branded correx trays with a large 8 x 6 inch florapic bed card stapled onto the front of every tray.
After visiting a number of larger garden centres and retail nurseries, all of our stock had sold out by the Autumn
1990- In our second year, production was carried out on a 1 acre strip of land that was brought back from the tenant farmer. This made a big change from working in the front yard of Chapel Cottage,
Investment into a new Bouldin & Lawson tray filler allowed us to fill 24 1 litre pots in a single movement.
Output more than doubled this year to around 150,000 1 litre pots.
1992/1993- After its assembly, we used a small glasshouse on site to propagate our own stock in polystyrene seed trays. Every tray was seeded by hand.
We started to employ a small number of local workers on a part time / seasonal basis
1994- Our first full time meber of staff was employed, Rod Fox.
Rod reamined with the company for 24 years before retiring in 2018.
Work continued on our small plot of land with all plants transported from potting machine to bed in potato boxes on the back of a Ford tractor
1995- This year saw sales of 1 litres reach 1 million pots with sales mainly in the south and east of England.
Our first full time van driver was employed, Cyril Scotcher. Cyril worked for us for 17 years delivering plants all over the country before retiring.
1998- We gained the full 18.5 acres of land back from the tenant farmer to further expand the business.
Later that year, our stand won Best In Show at the Eastgro show. This show was held each year at different venues across East Anglia however no longer takes place.
Later that year in November saw the arrival of youngest son Chris.
1995- Work commences on a new new 5 acre site across the road from our current site to allow for further expansion of product ranges.
2000- Chapel Cottage Plants becomes a limited company.
This year we see the introduction to our 2 litre range of perennials. These were also grown in square-round pots and packed 6 to a tray.
2003- Nicholas becomes a full time member of staff and is a driving force behind the business attending trade shows and visiting customers.
By 2003 we had expanded across 15 acres of the site and whilst we had predominently open beds, we now had a number of multi-span tunnels to allow for better overwintered crops.
Work began on a potting/production shed to house our potting machines.
2004- We invested in 2 new Javo potting machines for our 1 and 2 litre ranges. Additionally 2 pricing machines were purchased to allow for automated pricing and bar-coding to now take place for customers
2006- We completely removed the large Florapic bed card from the front of correx trays and invested into our own bespoke 1 litre labels.
After gaining some feedback, we felt that the large bed card was an expensive and unnecessary addition when we could have our own bespoke large labels produced that offered just as much information on them. Our labels remain under the same eye-catching and easy to understand format to this day.
2010- Sales of 1 litre burst through the 2 million mark!
An additional 7 acre site was purchased to cope with further expansion. Owing to the success of the 1 litre range, we needed more room to cope with growing demand.
2011- We have been sending out customer brochures ever since the year we started however, in 2011 we published our first fully illustrated reference guide with images and varieties of all the varieties we supply.
We still follow a similar format to this day with the reference guide being ideal as a one stop shop for all perennial plant information.
2014- We make the decision to discontinue our 2 litre range and replace it with a 3 litre range. This decision was made as we thought there was too much similarity with the 2 pot sizes however a 3 litre range would be slightly bigger and allow us to introduce some new, more unusual varieties.
Our 3 litre range now encompasses more than 250 varieties.
2015- Sales of 1 litre pots now hit 3 million
2015- Work begins on our brand new propagation unit.
We now produce around 2.5 million seed raised and 1 million cutting raised plants in here every year, heavily reducing our reliance on young plant imports and allowing us to become more flexible with production batches.
2017- Investments are made into our potting and production facilities with the total revamp of our potting shed. A new 1 litre Javo Super-Mega is purchased for 1 litre production, capable of turning out up to 30,000 pots per day.
We purchased a Javo bark topper for our 3 litre production line to allow us to top each pot with bark, aiding with weed control and holding moisture inside the pots.
New conveyor systems move compost bales from one bag tipper into each potting machine automatically.
2018- Work begins on a new 9 bay multi-span tunnel for our 3 litre production. This will be used specifically to overwinter crops making them available earlier in the season.
Winter of this year saw us completely fill this tunnel with 3 litre product, predominantly British Grown, early season lavender, which is a fast growing market for us.
Youngest son Chris also joins the company this year.
2019- Investment into a bespoke new ERP system form Growflo allowed us to better manage the day to day running of the business. The system encorporates everything from ordering to accounting and has brought a number of outdated processes we were using into the 21st century.
A webshop ordering platform has also reduced the reliance on availability lists and allowed customers to order more easily.
2019 saw the introduction of new grey, kerbside-recyclable, 1 and 3 litre pots. After much media attention, the industry decided it was necessary to make the change from traditional black plastic to a new, more eco-friendly pot that could be recycled at kerbside rather than just at specific specialised recycling centres.
2020- We have made great progress over the last 31 years, however this has not been without it's challenges. This year in particular has been very hard for the whole industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. After a flying start the season was brought to an abrupt halt at the end of March.
Despite loosing some stock in this period, sales post lock-down were far greater than anticipated and things look much more positive going into 2021.
The site now sits close to capacity, with changes constantly being made into new innovations and technology to make us more efficient so we can continue supplying great quality perennials.
Today we now enjoy a growing customer portfolio of around 1300 independent garden centres, along with a number of the UK's larger retail chains and multiple groups. Productions has now hit upwards of 4 million plants per year.
2021- We went into the year with yet another lockdown across the UK. Thankfully garden centres were allowed to stay open throughout England, deemed as 'essential retail'. As a result of millions more gaining an interest in gardening throughout the pandemic, sales boomed from February through to September.
Despite sales being strong from the start of the year, we found time to construct the new production shed which now houses all of our seeding machines and tray fillers which were taking up valuable growing space inside the prop house.
2021 also saw the construction of a new shade house/netted tunnel that's now being used to house 1L grasses and other plants that are vulnerable to being attached by birds and rabbits.
The tunnel has been constructed to a spec that means we can easily change from the net top to a polythene sheet should we have the need to increase our winter protected areas.