Seema Kennedy, the MP for South Ribble, met with local horticultural growers on Friday 13 May. Organised by Preston NFU, the South Ribble constituency has the second largest number of horticultural growers in the country, playing a key part in the area’s infrastructure. The visit was kindly hosted by Lovania Nurseries at Tarleton, Preston. The visit started with a tour of the nurseries shown around by directors Celanie Ball and Charmay Prout, alongside head of operations Jonathan Marquis.
Head of operations at Lovania Nurseries Jonathan Marquis with Seema Kennedy MP, Charmay Prout and Celanie Ball
Lovania Nurseries was founded in 1980 by Len, Keith and Celanie Ball and the name ‘Lovania’ was taken from the last ship that Len Ball was stationed on during World War 2. HMS Lovania was Len’s last ship that wasn’t sunk during action in the Mediterranean, so the family thought it was a good name for the new business. Thirty six years later the business specialises in ornamental plants, including alpines, bedding plants, flowering plants and bulbs. They supply more than 30 million plants to over 1,200 businesses every year which includes many of the national retailers and garden centres. They currently operate on 12 sites, spread over 45 hectares of glasshouses, and employ more than 100 people.
The company has won a string of awards recognising their achievements. These include: Protected Ornamental Grower of the year in 2014 and 2016, Lancashire Red Rose best family business and best medium business 2016, and HTA Best Plant Display Award for 2011 – 2014 at the National Plant Show. And at Chelsea Flower Show this year, Lovania won a Silver-Gilt Medal.
Alan Titchmarsh with Lovania Nursery's Marketing Manager Rick McKeever after the business won a Silver-Gilt Medal at Chelsea Flower Show
Jo Oliver, NFU Preston’s group secretary, said: “The tour of the site allowed Mrs Kennedy to see the business operating at the height of the season and was awash with fantastic summer plants. Mrs Kennedy and the group were all extremely impressed and the business is a real credit to the whole team at Lovania.”
A discussion followed the tour with Mrs Kennedy chatting for over an hour with local growers about the current issues in the industry.
The introduction of the National Living Wage is an area of concern for many in horticulture, with growers not opposed to the introduction, but worried that the proposed government increases are leading to unsustainable businesses in the future.
Mrs Kennedy asked for growers to contact her with specific examples and she would write to ministers highlighting the matter. The proposed turning off of the Alt Crossens pumping stations and the condition of the highways was also discussed.
Following the visit Mrs Kennedy said: “It was great to meet local growers and farmers to get a better understanding of the issues that they, and others in their industry face. Lovania Nurseries is a wonderful family business and it is great to see it thriving.”