Latest Stories

  1. Response to the plant health problem

    Response to the plant health problem

    Our Group Managing Director, Graham Richardson,  has responded to the Tree Council’s Jon Stokes, who said last week councils need to look more locally to counter the potential £15bn cost of diseases such as ash dieback.

    “There can be no argument about the catastrophe unfolding with regards to the impact of ash dieback.

    However, the suggestion that the discerning plant buyer should somehow only look for local stock appears to be a one-dimensional answer to the problem. It will only result in less choice, limited availability and a much poorer UK landscape at a time when planting is increasingly considered a key component in our ambitious targets to offset carbon emissions.

    “Balance is an essential component in this discussion, for every diseased imported tree/shrub, you will find millions that are adding untold value to the landscape and subsequently much pleasure to the populous. Every tree and every shrub that is planted is incrementally adding to our appreciation for nature and wellness. This has never been more apparent than in the seismic shift in perception that has happened organically as a result of the pandemic.

    Stock from the near continent has embellished the UK landscape and private gardens since Roman times, so much so that there is almost no genetic distinction between European and UK originating species. Diseases and pathogens are naturally occurring and are just as likely to erupt on our shores as they are in Europe. Science points to windborne infection from the continent as being as likely a source as imported supply.

    The easy answer is to try and pull up the drawbridge as an attempted defence, however, make no mistake that there will be consequences in terms of supply and ultimately both volumes and range available. Undoubtedly, the answer is in a well funded and capable international plant health and biosecurity process that inspects growing plants during the growing season in situ, with a view to identifying substandard and diseased stock and growers whose methods are not exercising sufficient control. The fact that existing processes have on occasion failed us is symptomatic of process or resource failures and should not be an acceptance of not to do it all!

    UK growers are plucky souls; however, our industry is fragmented and without the natural and commercial advantages enjoyed by the climate, soil and an already evolved and centralised industry. The fact is that ornamental horticulture in the UK is never likely to command the support and influence as enjoyed by our European neighbours whose industry accounts for a significant proportion of national GDP.  Our production process is lengthy and begins well in advance of sales intelligence – we are therefore naturally cautious in the extent of home production, which, if inaccurate is just as likely to land on the compost heap as it is to achieve a profitable sale.

    I for one accept the need to incrementally increase production in line with an assured demand but being a realist fully understand the value of imports in supporting our landscape and gardens whilst commercially helping to reduce our exposure.” – Graham Richardson

    Posted 20th Nov 10:39am
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  2. Plant supply to historic York St John University

    Plant supply to historic York St John University

    We have supplied over 1,000 trees, plants and shrubs for a revamp of York St John University’s Lord Mayor’s Walk campus.

    Borders along the walk, at the front of the university’s main campus, were replanted with more than 30 varieties.

    We have enjoyed a long-term partnership with the university, supplying high-quality plants for more than 15 years.

    Included in our supply was a range of trellis varieties and three Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, along with Hypericum Calycinum, and Euonymus fort. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’.

    Over 50 Gillenia trifoliata were introduced, in addition to 40 Doronicum plantagineum ‘Excelsum’ and 10 Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’.

    More than 200 Calamagrostis acut. ‘Karl Foerster’ grasses were planted, with 160 Lavender Munstead and more than 70 Hemerocallis ‘Red Rum’ and ‘Corky’ among the colourful varieties chosen for the borders.

    Lord Mayor’s Walk forms a link with Gillygate, Clarence Street, Monkgate and Goodramgate in the centre of the city of York. Designated a Character Area, the site has been home to educational provision since the mid-19th century.  York St John University is the main feature of the area, that runs along the northern side of the city wall.

    Rob Scott, Head Gardener at York St John University, said: “We strive to create welcoming and beautiful outdoor spaces for students, staff and visitors. It’s a privilege to have this visible, central location in the heart of York and we want our gardens to stand out from the crowd. This partnership with trusted local supplier Johnsons helps us to maintain a green and vibrant campus with year-round colour.”

    We have worked with several universities recently, including creating a green buffer zone for a project between Sheffield University and a nearby infant school, and supplying plants for a £200m redevelopment of the University of Hull campus.


    Posted 30th Nov 1:29pm
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  3. Our year in review Oct 19 - Oct 20

    Our year in review Oct 19 - Oct 20

    At the end of September, we finally reached the end of another remarkable year. A year that will be remembered for weather extremes (floods to drought), the resurgence of the Brexit debate but most of all the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Following restrictions and the lockdown commencing March 23rd we experienced a slowdown in sales like never before, this coupled with daily changes to regulations, and our determination to maintain business operations at all cost created challenges that our business has never faced in its 99-year long history.

    They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I firmly believe this will prove to be the case when the crisis finally recedes, and life returns to a less restricted ‘new normal’. Much of our response has been remarkable – we adapted to reduced demand almost overnight creating new stock offers and opening up new previously untapped markets.

    Staff numbers reduced rapidly with some staff furloughed, some shielding and at least ten office staff having the capacity to work from home to allow distancing in the space-restricted office building.

    Our reaction and determination to follow the rules, coupled with a regimented sanitation regime and a naturally well-ventilated working environment have so far kept us mostly safe. Our resolve to ensure job security for all by continuing to ship and make much needed new plants throughout is a proven recipe!

    The end result in our season 2019-20 is in my opinion, more remarkable than the previous year, which witnessed recording-breaking sales of over £14m.

    Our sales of over £13.2m are our second-highest ever, and our success in reducing what could have easily been a mountain of unsold stock (otherwise known as waste) is almost miraculous when you consider the challenges. Profitability and cash generation has followed, and this creates a great buffer for the remaining challenges of the pandemic and Brexit that lie ahead.

    Unfortunately, the challenges that we still face are no less significant than the battles we have fought, the pandemic refuses to let go, and the onset of winter will be a challenge.

    Furthermore, we now face an exit from the European Union which offers little but uncertainty, confusion and increased cost. There is a misconception that a ‘deal’ will remove any potential limitations, and we will be able freely trade with our EU suppliers in an unchanged manner. This is not the case – new restrictions/regulations will limit what we can buy, will increase supply timescales significantly and will add between 5 to 10% to the cost of our plants, which might go on to have a limiting effect on what we sell.

    The challenges we face are both unique and significant, but so is our resolve and core strength. We have the utmost respect for our ‘remarkable workforce’, customers and suppliers and remain eternally grateful for your loyalty, hard work and support. None of us know what the coming months will bring but individually and collectively, we can work together to limit the impact and maximise opportunities. This is what we did in the year gone and this is what we will do in the year coming.

    With respect and gratitude to you ahead of our ‘Centenary Year’. – Group Managing Director, Graham Richardson

    Posted 20th Nov 9:53am
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  4. Meet our rising stars

    Meet our rising stars

    Firstly, a huge well done to the 13 applicants who applied for our rising stars programme, you we’re all great candidates and made our decision very difficult.

    Below are the six chosen candidates of whom we asked some questions to, here is what they had to say below:

    Andrew Nicholls

    1.What are you looking forward to within the rising star programme?

    I am looking forward to where this could take me within the company and the new skills I could learn.

    2.What is the worst job you’ve ever had? Emptying dog poo bins for York Council (this wasn’t what I was contracted to do)

    3.Favourite film? Into the wild


    Tom Chilton

    1.Favourite day at Johnsons so far?

    It has to be the responsibility of working on my own, when Eric has left me on the potting machine and when I’ve gone spraying.

    2.What do you enjoy outside of work? When I am not working, I am at my allotment – I also enjoy golf.

    3.Favourite band? Oasis

    Nedoyalko Antonov

    1.How long have you been at Johnsons?

    Directly employed since August 2017 but worked with the agency prior to that.

    2.What do you like most about working here? Love being outdoors amongst nature, seeing birds, bees and other wildlife.

     Ned is also a star in the kitchen with his international cuisine.

    Richard Csanyi

    1.Favourite hobby?

    Guitar – my favourite song to play is ‘House of the Rising Sun’.

    2.What makes work enjoyable? My colleagues, I have made good friends.

    3.What do you miss about home? I miss the great food you can get in Hungary.


    Kieran Pattison

    1.Favourite TV shows? Crime dramas.

    2.Ideal holiday destination? Would have to be Australia.

    3.What are you looking forward to the most within the programme? Learning new skills and progressing at Johnsons.

    Wiktor Zygnerski

    1.What do you like most about England?

    Love the nature, the hills, and rivers.

    2.Best thing about Johnsons? All of it, the job I do, the people here, including the bosses.

    3.Favourite Takeaway

    Chinese, Sweet & Sour Chicken

    Mentor, Ian Nelson, said: “I’m right at the end of my Johnsons career but the guys who are coming on to the Rising Stars programme are at or near the beginning. I’m a little jealous.

    It is a bit of a cliché to say that now is a time of great opportunity. I’m confident though that the period upcoming, the next 5/10 years, will offer just that for the business.

    I better be careful not to be age-ist, but it’s fact that there is a generation who’ll be hanging up their snips not so long from now and a new cohort of managers will be in charge & will be responsible for meeting challenges.

    That was recognized and had to be addressed and that’s what the Rising Stars programme is all about. Giving staff with loads of potential the managerial & horticultural skills that they, & the business, are going to rely upon.

    The partnership with Dutton Fisher, with Helen at the Personnel Partnership & Terry from Sound Safety and Johnsons is strong and between us I believe we can deliver a comprehensive, enjoyable and valuable package.”

    Posted 6th Nov 3:36pm
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  5. Nurturing the business leaders of the future...Our rising stars

    Nurturing the business leaders of the future...Our rising stars

    We are nurturing the leaders of the future through an innovative in-house training scheme.

    The latest crop of delegates for our Rising Stars programme has just been chosen, with six employees – Tom Chilton, Richard Csyani, Andrew Nicholls, Wiktor Zygnaki, Kieron Pattison and Ned Antonov – selected to participate.

    Rising Stars was first introduced by the company five years ago with the aim of developing the skillset of existing staff members to enable them to one day take on a more senior role within the business. We have made a significant financial investment in the programme to ensure its success.

    The programme was open to staff from all parts of the business and includes training experiences, technical modules, horticultural sessions, operational nursery activities, as well as the opportunity to earn a formal qualification in team leading.

    The programme is being delivered in conjunction with external training providers and includes a mixture of on-site training and external activities, including learning from supply and technology partners. Candidates work in various departments across the business and are assessed continuously.

    Mentoring the growing stars is Ian Nelson, who will draw on his experience as production manager at Johnsons to guide the delegates through the various challenges to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge they will need as managers of the future.

    One graduate of the scheme is Terry Cooper. Terry started his Johnsons career with the plant production team at Cattal; however, after progressing through the Growing Stars programme, he now works in the IT department alongside manager Darren Earle. His role includes maintaining and updating hardware and software, providing user support, system testing and cyber security.

    Terry said: “I found the program a great help and have it partly to thank for ending up working where I am today. After finishing the course, I had a better understanding of horticulture as an industry and acquired some really helpful practical skills and theoretical knowledge.”

    New delegate Andrew Nicholls commented: “I’m looking forward to where this could take me in the company and the new skills I could learn.”

    Graham Richardson, group managing director at Johnsons, said the future of the business was intrinsically linked with the abilities of the workforce.

    “Geographically we are isolated from the main hubs of horticultural activity and consequently the vast majority of relevant training programmes. It made perfect sense therefore for us to draw on our considerable experience to create our own bespoke training scheme that will help us nurture the next generation of managers and supervisors.

    “We are confident that within our own pool of employees, there is the talent to lead us towards the future.”

    Posted 6th Nov 2:21pm
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  6. Plant supply to make a garden of 'Eden' in Scotland's capital

    Plant supply to make a garden of 'Eden' in Scotland's capital

    We have teamed up with P1 Contractors Ltd and EMA Architects to make an ‘Eden’ in the grounds of Urban Eden, contemporary residential development in Edinburgh.

    EMA Architects designed Urban Eden to create a ‘leave the city behind without leaving the city’ feel, designed in a triangle of colony houses which are very much a part of the city’s history.  It’s gardens, and outdoor space is at the centre of the design with views of Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat and Salisbury available to view from the new developments.

    P1’s works included the full soft landscaping package across two phases of the development which has now spanned four years.

    Richard McMonagle, Director of P1 Contractors, said: “ P1 has had involvement in both phases of the development from an early stage, being just a stone’s throw from our Head Office it was development we were keen to be involved in. We turned to Johnsons to help our bid initially at tender stage, and this early involvement was key to winning the project, we knew that despite the contract duration Johnsons would continue to supply the high-quality stock we required to make this project a success.”

    Our plant supply included over 13,000 shrubs, 4,000 herbaceous plants and over 200 trees.

    Pollinator-friendly varieties such as lavender, nepeta and geranium were included making it wildlife friendly too.

    The residential development won ‘Large Housing Development Of The Year’ at the Scottish Home Awards 2017.

    So many housing developments have limited planting these days to maximise parking facilities, it’s no wonder there’s a decline in bees.

    It’s great to be associated with this fantastic new residential development that’s green spaces and wildlife are at the forefront of its design.

    Other Scottish projects we have been involved with include The Helix Project at Falkirk, the new Queensferry Crossing at Edinburgh, Donaldsons ,  The Event Complex The Torridon Hotel, and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

    Posted 6th Nov 1:40pm
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  7. November 2020 Gardening Reminders

    November 2020 Gardening Reminders

    Check out our latest gardening reminders for November 2020 put together by chairman and horticulturist John Richardson.

    1)  There is a current move towards ‘no digging’ on vegetable plots, which firstly involves digging the area to double depth (double digging) and incorporating organic matter throughout both areas in order to cultivate an area of really deep soil. This will encourage the increase of worms and other creatures by applying an annual top dressing of organic matter or ‘compost’ which will be taken down into the soil. Small paths should be made across the area so that it is not necessary to walk on the growing area in the future for either cultivations, harvesting or other reasons, and thus prevent soil compaction.


    2)  The recent wind and rain have caused the sudden defoliation of almost all deciduous trees. Collect the leaves and store them in a cage made of wire netting around four wooden stakes. You will have perfect compost by next autumn, and you can also incorporate the trimmings from herbaceous plants. If you intend to incorporate twigs and small branches, these are best put through a shredder before incorporation.


    3)  Be sure to check for hibernating animals in bonfires to be lit over winter.


    4)  Lift and store dahlias if not done already, alternatively, protect the tubers by a good surface mulch.


    5)  Clear out bird boxes and sterilise them with boiling water.


    6)  Plant winter bedding such as wallflowers, pansies, primulas etc.


    7)  Lift and divide rhubarb crowns ensuring that each division has a good crown. Replant when soil conditions allow.  Divided crowns will survive for at least a month in the open without further protection.


    8)  Start Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs into growth urgently if required to flower by Christmas.


    9)  Tidy up the greenhouse during inclement weather, and also prune glasshouse grown grape vines.


    10) Be ready to plant tulip bulbs after the middle of the month.


    11)  Put grease bands (available from garden centres) around the trunks of apple trees against female winter moth caterpillars which climb the trunk when hibernation is completed..


    12)  If weather is mild and the grass still growing, give the lawn a final cut with the blades set relatively high, and remove fallen leaves to prevent bare patches in the spring.


    13) Insulate with bubble-wrap and hessian those plant containers which are to be left outside over winter. in order to prevent the pots cracking in frosty periods.


    14) Thoroughly clean and grease the lawnmower and sharpen or replace the blades.


    15) Prepare chrysanthemum stools, dahlia tubers and gladioli corms for protective winter storage.


    16) On a fine afternoon have a walk around the garden and make a note of what has done really well, and also not so well so that when the time comes to replant the borders you will have a good idea of what will be successful!  Why not have a visit to Harlow Carr gardens or one of the other splendid gardens in the area, and make a note of which plants you are really motivated by?


    17) Hang protective fleece out to dry before placing in storage for next year.


    18) The earlier any winter digging can be done, the better, as this allows rain, snow, frost and ice to break down clods of soil and make cultivations in the spring so much easier.

    Posted 5th Nov 1:26pm
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