The fuchsia’s bright for St Margaret’s Nursery

The fuchsia’s bright for St Margaret’s Nursery

The fuchsia’s bright for St Margaret’s Nursery

It’s the small touches that make a big difference at St Margaret’s Nursery.

The family-run business on the outskirts of the historic village of Titchfield specialises in bedding and patio plants and hanging baskets, and is famed across the country for its fuchsias.

Less well known are the nursery’s community connections, which were strengthened throughout the pandemic.

Established in 1984, St Margaret’s prides itself on being a large nursery that’s still small enough to care.

Excess plants are left on the doorsteps of local homes as random acts of kindness with notes wishing people a nice day, or packed into vans and delivered to local schools, charities and donation sales.

Staff take the time to chat to customers, advising them on planting or taking them personally around the nursery to find whatever it is they need.

They love creating bespoke planters and work from demonstrations on the shop floor to give people an insight into not only what plants are for sale, but how they are grown and made into beautiful displays, too.

Manager Kev Thorns says the pandemic and its long lockdowns highlighted the importance of being outside in nature, and the nursery stepped up to meet the needs of the local people.

“When lockdown started, it could’ve have had massive dramatic impact on our business, but we set up an online web store within a week or two, and we started rapidly listing all our stock.

“We brought in local temporarily unemployed drivers through connections with our staff. We had a bricklayer, a handyman, and a decorator working with us; they kitted out their vans with racking and hanging basket mounts to carry plants instead of their usual supplies, and off they went.

“We delivered all across the area and went from a couple of orders on the first day to literally hundreds every day.

“We still generate so much traffic through the online site. After our temporary helpers went back to their own jobs, we went out and bought our own van and now have our own fleet of drivers, me included. We now have 3,000 people on our system – before the pandemic, we had around 200.

“When people were at home, they looked to get outside whenever they could and so many turned to gardening. We adapted to meet that need and picked up a whole new customer database.

“Pre-pandemic, we were locally known but not widely known, and our customer base was older and more affluent. After our marketing and Facebook drive, we picked up a lot of younger customers and people who were new to gardening, perhaps with tighter budgets.

“We adapted some of our products and have now introduced things for smaller gardens and spaces – we advised people in flats with window boxes and balconies who were venturing into gardening for the first time.

“We did a massive trade in vegetables and herbs as people wanted to grow things on windowsills and in conservatories. They had never grown anything before but wanted to try out sowing seeds.

“One of the big differences between us and larger centres is that they aren’t necessarily growers, so they don’t have the capacity to grow stuff on. They buy-in and sell out.

“One of our new customers lives in a flat with little experience and knowledge, so we were able to advise them and supply pots and seeds and exactly the right amount of soil for their planters. We delivered them pre-filled as they didn’t have the space to store big bags of compost.”

St Margaret’s also works with Fareham Borough Council on sustainable planting across the borough, is involved in charity outreach work, and has linked up with community gardens – something which has grown since lockdowns eased.

A plantsman’s paradise, St Margaret’s grows 70% of its stock on site. In true Tardis style, the nursery is small at the front then opens out into vast poly tunnels, glass houses, and open-air shade tunnels.

Hanging baskets, bedding plants and patio planters are incredibly popular – and of course the fuchsias that have made the nursery famous.

As well as a huge range of stock, it’s being small enough to take the time to spend with customers that really what makes all the difference, says Kev.

“We take the time to really engage with people. It’s time well spent.

“We see the same faces coming back weekly. All our staff will go out of their way to find things our customers want and will find alternatives if we can.

“We are a large-scale set-up growing hundreds of thousands of plants, but our customers know they can have a chat, or phone us up, or get advice – and that’s something it’s not always possible to find elsewhere.”

For further information, visit their website!