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Horticulture is very much in the Bodsworth blood. 

Generations: Gwynne & Roberta Bodsworth (1st generation) and Will & Kylie Bodsworth (2nd generation)

foto2 (copy)

Company: Hedging Plants Direct, a subsidiary of Original Landscape Designs

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg

About us

In 2009, Will Bodsworth (34), together with his wife Kylie, set up Hedging Plants Direct - a successful UK mail order plant company supplying quality shrubs and container and field-grown trees and hedging.

The business is a subsidiary of Original Landscape Designs, a well-established company set up by Will’s parents - Gwynne and Roberta - to supply retail and commercial customers in the East of England with shrubs and trees and landscape design services.

Based in picturesque rural Essex, the two businesses share a 5ha production area - complete with greenhouse, polytunnels and shade tunnels. Buying in bare-root transplants predominantly from the Netherlands, the production team pot up and grow the stock on in containers.

In 2020, Hedging Plants Direct grew and sold 50,000 of its own grown container stock and 650,000 plants in total. Sales were split equally between online sales to UK gardeners and wholesale, with key lines including Prunus rotundiflora (Laurel), Photinia Red Robin, Carpinus Betulus and a range of Pittisporums and semi-mature trees.

Why did you decide to go into the family business?

Horticulture is very much in the Bodsworth blood. My paternal grandfather was a gardener for a large English country house – a job that ended abruptly after World War II, when many large estates fell into ruin. 

Forced to look elsewhere for employment, he joined the Government’s Land Settlement Association and was allocated land and several acres to grow vegetables to help feed the nation. These were sold through the Cooperative (which survives to this day) and via London’s famous Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market. When offered the opportunity to purchase the land, he did so and the rest - as they say - is history!

In 1982 my parents set up Original Landscape Designs on neighbouring land. On leaving school, I joined the family-business. I started out in the tree planting team and went on to gain an NVQ level 3 from Otley College in Landscape Practices.   

With a genuine interest in computers and technology, I decided to try my hand at selling plants online via a website.  

At the beginning I was taking orders on my laptop and mobile, while out planting trees on major retail landscaping projects – processing orders etc. in the evenings. It was soon clear there was a strong market for our online plants.

Sales grew organically and in 2009, I took the plunge and set up Hedging Plants Direct. Kylie, my wife, and I now run this business, while also overseeing production on the site. 

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy)

What was the
first thing you changed? Why?

Simple: I brought in more technology. My parents don’t use computers and when I joined the business there was no broadband on site – we had no internet!   

It’s very rural here and the broadband reach is very poor. We’ve erected our own tower, with microwave dishes, and now have excellent WiFi coverage across the site. We have the ability to communicate really well with our online customers.

I regularly take pictures of the stock to help customers understand and see what they are purchasing online. This has proved particularly important in spring 2020 when there were strict Covid restrictions in place across the UK.  

On the production side, I enjoy making regular visits to the Netherlands to see how Dutch growers approach things. It has been a great way of learning the tried and tested traditional techniques for bare root production and how to prune and standardise trees. I was lucky enough to receive input from the late Peter Dictus, which proved really valuable.  

The website is the key to the success of Hedging Plants Direct. We’ve built it from scratch – it’s bespoke to our needs and we work hard to maintain and promote it, employing social media whenever we can.

To streamline production, we also use the latest technology to automate processes, such as ordering and forecasting. Another area he has recently streamlined is the growing media; making the move from self-mix - using a 400litre compost mixer (purchased back in the 1960s!) - to Levington Advance Solutions. 

My father worked on the principle that small batches of different mixes were best - rather than one mix fits all. However, having trialled four pallets of a Levington Advance Solutions mix, the results were so impressive, we made the decision to switch over completely. We haven’t looked back and now order by the artic lorry, rather than pallet.

One area that has not changed is the Bodsworth’s continual loyalty to Osmocote. Both my father and I have always relied on it and have never felt the need to trial other products.

 Osmocote has proved over and over again to be highly reliable and delivered what we want and need to grow quality crops. While perhaps not the cheapest on the market, it saves lots of time and produces a great end result, which makes it highly cost-effective.  

Since switching to our two bespoke Levington Advance Solution mixes, we’ve seen a massive improvement in quality and our crops are far more uniform. We’re seeing less fungal issues and less mildew – particularly in the Hydrangeas. Delivered in 3m3 bags, we can move it around the nursery with ease to where the team is potting.

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy1)

What advice would you give to others who are considering to join or take over the family business? 

Working in a family business does not necessarily mean you are handed it on a plate – it’s not as simple as that. In our industry, you’ve got to keep moving forward, developing new ideas – it’s also really important to learn how to do it yourself.

I’m very different from my dad. One of his great strengths is that he is a ‘people person’ – he’s good at spending time finding out what landscaping customers want. You have to play to your strengths. My interests lie in technology and I’ve used this to diversify the business. It now stands on three legs, rather than two. We have the landscaping side which dad runs; the garden centre retail side which my mum looks after; and then Kylie and I drive forward the online business.

In 2020, when the UK was in an extended lockdown and garden centres had to close, the business would have been in trouble if we hadn’t had the online side - our website has helped keep us afloat.

In the depths of winter, if there is snow, the garden centre sometimes has to shut - but the website tends to be really busy with people stuck at home. Over Easter - often the busiest weekend in the UK gardening calendar – website traffic can be quiet but we often have queues to get into our garden centre car park. If we have extended wet weather - and the landscaping team cannot get on with a project - they catch up on jobs that need doing here on the nursery.  

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy1)

What does the future hold?

As for the future, we are looking to continue to grow the online business.   

In 2020 Hedging Plants Direct enjoyed an uplift in sales of some 40%. With our well-established online plant shop and promotions via social media, we managed to seize the opportunity to meet the surge in online demand. 

We also plan to grow more ourselves in the future – by that I mean propagate more on site and buy in less. It would be good to hold more stock; these days customers ‘want it now’ and they ‘want it big’! 

There is growing demand for lines like small evergreen trees – for examples standard Laurels with a clear stem and head on top. With little profit to be made from bought in stock, we are starting to produce our own. There is stock coming through which has been growing here for up to five years. With good money to be made with these specimen products, we are fortunate to have more land here to expand our growing operations.

Moreover, we have recently launched a new website and I have plenty more marketing initiatives planned to optimise search engines and increase traffic to the site. Seven weeks after its launch, the conversion rate (visitor to customer) is 3.82% for the new site - up from 1.68% (industry average is 1.95%).  

We want customers to come to the website not just to buy, but to learn. With this in mind, we’re beginning to film a series of videos explaining how to plant or prune particular plants.

naar_boven.jpg (copy)
kruis-zwart.png

Horticulture is very much in the Bodsworth blood. 

Generations: Gwynne & Roberta Bodsworth (1st generation) and Will & Kylie Bodsworth (2nd generation)

foto2 (copy)

Company: Hedging Plants Direct, a subsidiary of Original Landscape Designs

".jpg (copy2)
middel_2_copy.png (copy)

About us

In 2009, Will Bodsworth (34), together with his wife Kylie, set up Hedging Plants Direct - a successful UK mail order plant company supplying quality shrubs and container and field-grown trees and hedging.

The business is a subsidiary of Original Landscape Designs, a well-established company set up by Will’s parents - Gwynne and Roberta - to supply retail and commercial customers in the East of England with shrubs and trees and landscape design services.

Based in picturesque rural Essex, the two businesses share a 5ha production area - complete with greenhouse, polytunnels and shade tunnels. Buying in bare-root transplants predominantly from the Netherlands, the production team pot up and grow the stock on in containers.

In 2020, Hedging Plants Direct grew and sold 50,000 of its own grown container stock and 650,000 plants in total. Sales were split equally between online sales to UK gardeners and wholesale, with key lines including Prunus rotundiflora (Laurel), Photinia Red Robin, Carpinus Betulus and a range of Pittisporums and semi-mature trees.

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg

Why did you decide to go into the family business?

Horticulture is very much in the Bodsworth blood. My paternal grandfather was a gardener for a large English country house – a job that ended abruptly after World War II, when many large estates fell into ruin. 

Forced to look elsewhere for employment, he joined the Government’s Land Settlement Association and was allocated land and several acres to grow vegetables to help feed the nation. These were sold through the Cooperative (which survives to this day) and via London’s famous Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market. When offered the opportunity to purchase the land, he did so and the rest - as they say - is history!

In 1982 my parents set up Original Landscape Designs on neighbouring land. On leaving school, I joined the family-business. I started out in the tree planting team and went on to gain an NVQ level 3 from Otley College in Landscape Practices.   

With a genuine interest in computers and technology, I decided to try my hand at selling plants online via a website.  

At the beginning I was taking orders on my laptop and mobile, while out planting trees on major retail landscaping projects – processing orders etc. in the evenings. It was soon clear there was a strong market for our online plants.

Sales grew organically and in 2009, I took the plunge and set up Hedging Plants Direct. Kylie, my wife, and I now run this business, while also overseeing production on the site. 

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy)

What was the
first thing you changed? Why?

Simple: I brought in more technology. My parents don’t use computers and when I joined the business there was no broadband on site – we had no internet!   

It’s very rural here and the broadband reach is very poor. We’ve erected our own tower, with microwave dishes, and now have excellent WiFi coverage across the site. We have the ability to communicate really well with our online customers.

I regularly take pictures of the stock to help customers understand and see what they are purchasing online. This has proved particularly important in spring 2020 when there were strict Covid restrictions in place across the UK.  

On the production side, I enjoy making regular visits to the Netherlands to see how Dutch growers approach things. It has been a great way of learning the tried and tested traditional techniques for bare root production and how to prune and standardise trees. I was lucky enough to receive input from the late Peter Dictus, which proved really valuable.  

The website is the key to the success of Hedging Plants Direct. We’ve built it from scratch – it’s bespoke to our needs and we work hard to maintain and promote it, employing social media whenever we can.

To streamline production, we also use the latest technology to automate processes, such as ordering and forecasting. Another area he has recently streamlined is the growing media; making the move from self-mix - using a 400litre compost mixer (purchased back in the 1960s!) - to Levington Advance Solutions. 

My father worked on the principle that small batches of different mixes were best - rather than one mix fits all. However, having trialled four pallets of a Levington Advance Solutions mix, the results were so impressive, we made the decision to switch over completely. We haven’t looked back and now order by the artic lorry, rather than pallet.

One area that has not changed is the Bodsworth’s continual loyalty to Osmocote. Both my father and I have always relied on it and have never felt the need to trial other products.

 Osmocote has proved over and over again to be highly reliable and delivered what we want and need to grow quality crops. While perhaps not the cheapest on the market, it saves lots of time and produces a great end result, which makes it highly cost-effective.  

Since switching to our two bespoke Levington Advance Solution mixes, we’ve seen a massive improvement in quality and our crops are far more uniform. We’re seeing less fungal issues and less mildew – particularly in the Hydrangeas. Delivered in 3m3 bags, we can move it around the nursery with ease to where the team is potting.

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy1)

What advice would you give to others who are considering to join or take over the family business? 

As for the future, we are looking to continue to grow the online business.   

In 2020 Hedging Plants Direct enjoyed an uplift in sales of some 40%. With our well-established online plant shop and promotions via social media, we managed to seize the opportunity to meet the surge in online demand. 

We also plan to grow more ourselves in the future – by that I mean propagate more on site and buy in less. It would be good to hold more stock; these days customers ‘want it now’ and they ‘want it big’! 

There is growing demand for lines like small evergreen trees – for examples standard Laurels with a clear stem and head on top. With little profit to be made from bought in stock, we are starting to produce our own. There is stock coming through which has been growing here for up to five years. With good money to be made with these specimen products, we are fortunate to have more land here to expand our growing operations.

Moreover, we have recently launched a new website and I have plenty more marketing initiatives planned to optimise search engines and increase traffic to the site. Seven weeks after its launch, the conversion rate (visitor to customer) is 3.82% for the new site - up from 1.68% (industry average is 1.95%).  

We want customers to come to the website not just to buy, but to learn. With this in mind, we’re beginning to film a series of videos explaining how to plant or prune particular plants.

schermafbeelding_2021-04-28_om_09.56.08.jpg (copy1)

What does the future hold?

Working in a family business does not necessarily mean you are handed it on a plate – it’s not as simple as that. In our industry, you’ve got to keep moving forward, developing new ideas – it’s also really important to learn how to do it yourself.

I’m very different from my dad. One of his great strengths is that he is a ‘people person’ – he’s good at spending time finding out what landscaping customers want. You have to play to your strengths. My interests lie in technology and I’ve used this to diversify the business. It now stands on three legs, rather than two. We have the landscaping side which dad runs; the garden centre retail side which my mum looks after; and then Kylie and I drive forward the online business.

In 2020, when the UK was in an extended lockdown and garden centres had to close, the business would have been in trouble if we hadn’t had the online side - our website has helped keep us afloat.

In the depths of winter, if there is snow, the garden centre sometimes has to shut - but the website tends to be really busy with people stuck at home. Over Easter - often the busiest weekend in the UK gardening calendar – website traffic can be quiet but we often have queues to get into our garden centre car park. If we have extended wet weather - and the landscaping team cannot get on with a project - they catch up on jobs that need doing here on the nursery.  

naar_boven.jpg (copy)
naar_boven.jpg (copy1)

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