Lincolnshire’s best kept gardening secret
Lincolnshire Life regularly brings you stories of outstanding businesses in the county, whose success is often little known but whose products you admire and purchase without realising.
This month we visit Bell’s Gardening Outlet near Boston, the public face of a nursery which produces up to 50 million plants a year.
Bell’s Horticultural is a British success story which began when Isaac Bell purchased farm land for his son at Benington. Two generations on, his grandson Bernard used part of the land in 1961 to establish the nursery, raising tomato and brassica plants from seed. This venture was very successful and as demand for plants grew in the 1980s the company switched mainly to bedding plant production. The fourth generation of the family are now at the helm; managing director Robert and his brother Jonathan Bell manage the nurseries while their father Bernard Bell runs the arable farm.
One of the top 1,000 companies
Holly Bell, director of retail operations took Lincolnshire Life on a tour of the Benington site where ten acres of glasshouse production is all heated from a renewable, biomass source. “In total Bell Brothers Nurseries run thirty acres of protected production across six sites. Our customers include leading supermarkets, DIY stores, garden centres and mail order companies. We have approximately 100 staff and produce a very diverse range of plants depending on the season.”
The growth of the business has been exceptional and this has been recognised by the London Stock Exchange, which named Bell’s as one of the ‘Top 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’.
Part of the community
This is still a family business, however, which maintains a very close relationship with its workforce and the local community. “Our longest serving member of staff has been with us over forty years and we pride ourselves on the skill and knowledge amongst our team,” said Holly. “We excel in the quality of the products we grow and want to spread our enthusiasm for raising plants and gardening of all types. We work with many different community groups such as local schools and nurseries, hospices and charities to support them with floral and vegetable projects.”
Bell’s Gardening Outlet
With production on this scale for multinationals there can be an excess of plants which Bell’s began to sell through their on-site Gardening Outlet in 2012. It began on a modest scale but has become known as Lincolnshire’s best kept gardening secret because of the range and quality of their stock. It is a garden centre for gardeners now offering not only the widest range of bedding plant varieties in the county but also fruit trees, herbs, shrubs, alpines as well as accessories, reclaimed zinc ware and wild bird foods.
“We want the Outlet to be a showcase for the best of British horticulture and welcome more of the county’s enthusiastic plants people. Our plant range is not only of exceptional quality but also exceptional value.”
Events throughout the year
Customers have been particularly attracted by the programme of gardening themed events which Bell’s organise throughout the year. There are tours of the nursery, a Primrose Spectacular in February, a Pansy and Viola Festival in March and the largest range of bedding plants in the county available from Easter onwards. Bell’s farmland is one of the most productive growers of pumpkins and the Pumpkin Patch event at the Outlet in October is now in its 4th year. As one of the UK’s leading growers of poinsettias the greenhouses and garden centre are in full festive colour at Christmas. Watch the website or Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for upcoming events.
Environmentally and family friendly
The company’s ethos of recycling waste plastics wherever possible and heating with renewable energy not only makes business sense but also invests in the environment for the future. Buying local, British products reduces road miles and sustains local communities.
The expertise which makes the nursery so successful is happily shared with customers in Bell’s Gardening Outlet. There is always someone on hand to help answer gardening queries or to encourage those who are being bitten by the gardening bug for the first time. While parents and grandparents browse, there are seeding stations where young hands can plant up tomatoes and other seeds to take home and a small café offers self-service beverages and cake when refreshments are needed. There are plans in the pipeline for the café and the Outlet to expand further.