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  1. Centenary Charity Giveaway - January 2021

    Centenary Charity Giveaway - January 2021

    Centenary Charity Giveaway – 12 plant donations up for grabs throughout 2021

    We are marking our centenary with a competition where 12 lucky Yorkshire charities will have the chance to win a plant donation worth over £150 each.

    At the end of each month in 2021, Johnsons will be giving away £150 worth of seasonal plants to a Yorkshire-based charity.

    To nominate a Yorkshire charity or enter your Yorkshire charity comment on this post or email quoting ‘Centenary Giveaway’ commenting on where this donation would be planted and why you deserve to win.

    Please read the full terms and conditions listed below before applying:

    January terms and conditions 

    • The promoter is Johnsons of Whixley Ltd
    • Entrants must comment on the post or email quoting ‘Centenary Giveaway’ letting us know where this donation would be planted and explaining why they deserve to win by Friday 5th February 2021
    • The prize is open to Yorkshire charities – a valid charity number will be required to redeem the prize
    • The January prize will include the following plants: 1x Amanthele lessoniana 2L, 1x Bergenia ‘Winterglut’ 2L, 1 x Carex ‘Ice Dance’ 2l, 1 x Centranthus rubber ‘Albus’ 2L, 1 x Cornus sang. ‘Midwinter Fire’ 10L, 1x Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ 2L, 1 x Guara lindheimeri 2l, 1 x Hamamelis ‘Ruby Glow’ 5L, 1 x Heucherella ‘Art Noveau’ 3L, 1 x Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’ 2L, 1 x Helleborus nigercors, Diego Ice’ 2L, 1 x Hydrangea Alice 3L, 1 x Lavandula Munstead 2L, 1 x Leucothoe ‘Burning Love’ 5L, 1 x Penstemon Garnet 2L, 1 x Rosmarinus Officinalis 2L, 1 x Sarcococca ‘Winter Gem’ 5L, 1 x Skimmia Rubella 5L.
    • Charities based within North, West, South and East Yorkshire can apply
    • The nominator must be aged 18 or over
    • The promoter will deliver at a convenient time to the winning charity for free
    • The winner must agree to use their charity name and share photos with Johnsons for marketing purposes.
    • The promoter will contact the winner directly by email, telephone or social media depending on submission.
    • The winner will also be announced on social media on Monday 8th February 2021 please share your social media details on application.
    • There is only one prize available per winner, per month (£150 worth of seasonal plants)
    • Entries who did not win will not be contacted
    • The promoter will not take responsibility for any failure to the plant once the prize is received, replacements cannot be issued.
    • The Promoter reserves the right to withdraw this offer or amend these Terms and Conditions at any time without notice.
    • In the event of any dispute regarding the terms and conditions, the conduct, results and any other matters relating to this prize draw, the decision of the Promoter shall be final, and no correspondence or discussion shall be entered into.
    • By entering applicants agree to the above terms and conditions.

    Posted 29th Jan 10:44am
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  2. Shortage of trees and shrubs - BALI investigation into price increases within the industry

    Shortage of trees and shrubs - BALI investigation into price increases within the industry

    An investigation conducted by the British Association of Landscape Industries has revealed shortages of trees and shrubs are behind price increases within the industry.

    Last week one of BALI’s Board Directors contacted BALI regarding the current availability of trees and shrubs. He advised stock of a wide range of planting material both in UK and Europe has become limited. Native trees and shrubs are most affected and, where they are available from suppliers, prices have increased significantly in a matter of a few months.

    Having now spoken to several nurseries and wholesalers in the UK and Europe, BALI can confirm the issue and the potential to affect landscape contractors and specifiers if it has not already done so.

    There are several reasons for this shortfall, some of them obvious and others less so. While COVID-19 and Brexit are contributory factors, they are less important than a widespread increase in demand for planting material, together with historic events to which the industry has little control.

    The age of conspicuous concern for the environment has arrived. The negative impact of human activity on the planet is now being recognised by the public and, more importantly, forcing leaders around the globe to respond with initiatives that seek to tackle the problem.

    Caring for the environment and human activity are not mutually exclusive, which means many projects now include extensive environmental elements. Whether to offset the carbon used in manufacturing, to screen a new motorway junction or mitigate habitats lost to the construction of the HS2 corridor, the environment has become a bargaining tool and plants the very latest currency.

    Tree planting is a particularly popular venture. From large infrastructure projects to the government or charitable initiatives and local authority schemes, large scale tree planting is gaining traction. Due partly to the role trees can play in offsetting carbon emissions, governments the world over have set high targets for tree planting. In the UK alone, the government has set a target of establishing 30,000 ha of new woodland in England by 2025 and planting 11 million trees by 2022. HS2 is responsible for planting up to 7 million trees and even the BBC One Show aims to plant 750,000 trees during the next 12 months.

    Predictably, global restrictions on movement during 2020 led to attention being turned to domestic gardens and public open spaces. BALI’s own 2020 trade survey revealed that, despite the financial and societal pressures of COVID, domestic spending on gardens – either on mail order or overall garden projects – increased significantly. In the case of mail-ordered materials, most BALI members recorded a record number of domestic sales.

    If providing sufficient volumes of material for the burgeoning number of tree planting projects isn’t hard enough, suppliers are faced with many other issues which have been compounded in the last few years. Increasing demands on the material would put even the most robust supply chain under pressure, but growers have had many other pressures to deal with.

    Between 2008 and 2013 the world was plunged in a recession. This period of fiscal austerity had an impact on growers in England and Europe, many of whom scaled back propagation and growing because of reduced demand and lack of capital. Fast-forward 10 years, and while growers have now invested in propagation and growing ventures, the recession has created gaps in stocks of planting material which is having repercussions for specifiers seeking the largest specimens for their project.

    More recently, COVID has had an impact on the production of planting material. From shortages of labour to physically lift material from fields to missing deadlines for potting and planting stock last year, the pandemic has hampered most production operations to some extent. This has meant that lower numbers of material has been presented to market during the past 12 months, and is likely to be limited while the pandemic has a grip on the health of the global population.

    Last but by no means least, large numbers of plants were purchased towards the end of 2020 and stockpiled to ensure any interruption in the trade as a result of a ‘no deal’ Brexit did not result in shortages of planting material. This is believed to have caused a spike in demand towards the end of 2020 which skewed availability of planting material in the early part of 2021. The last-minute Brexit deal has allowed trade to continue but delays to inspection regimes mean the effect of new trading relationships is unlikely to take effect until later this year.

    Collectively, these events have resulted in a shortage of material and higher costs. Conversations with nurseries suggest this situation is likely to be more of an evolution rather than a short-term event. While many of the factors discussed are temporary, their impact is likely to be felt for several years.

    While this evolution is likely to represent a challenge for landscape professionals, who may see this development as a backward step, suppliers of planting material are keen to stress that, while supply chains have evolved over recent years, the time invested in plants to grow remains the same, as do the challenges associated with a living thing.

    To prevent disappointment, plant suppliers urge specifiers and contractors of all sizes to engage with them as early as possible regarding all orders for material. In contrast to the ‘next-day’ business models that are prevalent in consumer products, a longer order period is seen as a likely development.

    Forward procurement planning is common in many other industries where there is a need to highlight upcoming purchases of goods or services and has recently been successfully implemented by landscape contractors working on the HS2 scheme under contract growing initiatives with nurseries. Given the investment in time and money required for planting material, this model may become more common in the future, to ensure this costly investment by the grower is protected.

    The culture of next day delivery and immediate results has not escaped the landscape and horticulture industries, who have embraced supply chain developments and enabled specifiers and contractors to access a diverse range of plants. But when the commodity being sold requires years of investment and care at every stage, there is a limit to what is possible.

    This document was made possible thanks to BALI’s contractor and affiliate generously sharing their time and knowledge with BALI’s technical officer, Owen Baker.

    Group Managing Director, Graham Richardson said: “ We like many other nurseries across the UK and Europe are facing stock shortages. We are trying to keep prices and time delays to a minimum and appreciate our customers understanding of the current climate; we urge all customers to give us additional time for all orders to avoid disappointment.”

    Posted 22nd Jan 9:00am
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  3. Production at Johnsons 100 years on

    Production at Johnsons 100 years on

    2021 is our Centenary year, and a lot has changed for our business over the past 100 years, but what has changed and what remains the same?

    First off, we speak to Chairman John Richardson and his Grandson, Robert Richardson, the companies, Production Manager, about production changes during the past 100 years.

    1.Firstly, how did it all start, tell us about the first plant variety Johnsons produced and sold?

     John: It is now 100 years since Johnsons produced their first plants and I don’t remember the detail too well!! Mr Johnson minimally started on his own and grew vegetables, some roses, polyanthus, fuchsias, daffodils, and tomatoes for sale locally.

    2. John, what knowledge of production did you have before purchasing Johnsons, and what did you learn from Mr Johnson?

    John: My horticulture education was founded at my grandparents’ market garden at Rothwell and then at the Essex Institute of Horticulture, which covered most elements during the 2-year course.

    On leaving I did a year working on a market garden in Brough, East Yorkshire, followed by four years on a big market garden in Surrey. Having realized that I didn’t have enough money to start vegetable production on my own, I joined Fisons, a national fertilizer company as an advisor to commercial veg growers to the whole of Scotland.  Whilst it was a brilliant experience, after four years I wanted to get back to actual production and found that Nursery Stock was the answer as it was usually on a small scale, with the big benefit (or so I thought!!) that if you didn’t sell plants this year, they would sell for more money next year.

    Mr Johnson was an excellent tutor from day one. One of the people I have most respected in my entire life. When he retired, he built a bungalow on the site and was on hand to help if I needed additional advise.

    3.What challenges and triumphs did Eric tell you about his 43 years of producing plants before your purchase?

    John: Mr Johnson started with the minimum of assets on a small bit of land bearing a couple of dozer fruit trees. He never learned to drive and had to wait until he got his first employee before he could sell through Knaresborough and Otley markets.  His wife was a tremendous help to him, and they never had children. In the second world war, he had to grow for food products only and was also heavily involved in the regional Home Guard movement. The business grew slowly and steadily over the years, but Mr Johnson was a real plantsman, his main objective in selling plants was to make room to grow some more!

    4.When you took over the business in 1964, roughly how many plants were Johnsons producing?

    John: I estimate that it would be in the region of 150,000, many being seedlings of hedge plants and rhododendron ponticum, of which he sold 20,000 annually to Coles of Leicester as grafting stocks with a turnover of £30,500.

    5.Rob, How does that compare to current figures?

    Rob: Approx 2 million plants in pots and 1 million in the field, although we do have significant numbers grown for us on contract. We now sell over 5 million plants per year and our last turnover was 13.2 million.

    6.And what about trends? What did we produce and sell most of? And what’s popular now?

    John: The most frequently asked for plants over generations must have been hedge plants such as beech, thorn hornbeam etc., which have been grown for 500 years to use as field markings and animal enclosures.  The seed is collected in the autumn and subjected to a period of cold winter treatment before being sown in the following spring.  In recent years the number of plants grown from seed has increased, but not as much as the increase in plants propagated vegetatively in order to develop the continued expansion of ‘new’ varieties continually in demand by the public.

    With the continued expansion of plants in demand, it is now relatively common for species requiring specific propagation techniques to be grown by a specialist to order, with some significant growers not undertaking propagation at all.

    Roses and fruit trees have always been high on any propagators list, but over the last 30 years, demand has fallen to such an extent that propagation is now in the hands of a few companies.

    Hedging | Johnsons of Whixley Commercial

    Rob: There are some staple lines which are ever-popular and remain our best sellers year on year such as Lavandula Hidcote and Crataegus monogyna.

    The most apparent upward trend over the last ten years has been in perennial/grasses planting, with shrub planting (mainly deciduous utility varieties) waning as a result; however, we are starting to see a bit of an increase in genus such as potentilla that hasn’t been fashionable for a while.

    I can imagine that over the next few years there will be a revival in demand for varieties with traditional names such as Garrya’ James roof’ or Eucryphyia’ Nymansay’ at the expense of novelty varieties named after cocktails or emoji’s.

    Mirroring the recent fashion for houseplants, I can also see foliar interest plants such as fatsia, hedera, and Colocasia that mimic these effects becoming popular.

    7.Have there been more challenging years than others?

     John: I look back to the early years when we had no summer sales; all our efforts were focussed on weed control and the training of young trees and shrubs. At that time, we had retail customers come and look around the nursery and place orders for autumn delivery. This could vary from a single rose costing 25p to a York Corporation order for £250. 1981 was our most challenging year, the frost set in at Christmas and the ground was frozen to a depth of more than 20″ solid for 13 weeks until we had to make the decision that staff would be laid off. That same week it began to thaw, and we kept everyone on, but it was a further three weeks before the frost was finally out of the ground.

    2020 was also a challenging year with Covid-19 and Brexit bringing problems we have never had to face before.

    Rob: Managing the production department from June this year means that I don’t have another year to compare it to. Coronavirus has been a bit of an unknown, but no more challenging than all the other complexities that growing plants bring.

    8.What has changed most over the years?

    Rob: I would think that the biggest change has been the loss of/reduction in seasonality. Most plants are now available and can be planted almost all year round.

    From a sales/landscaping perspective, this is positive, but it does remove some of the variety and interest from what we see and do throughout the year.

    9.Rob, you’ve worked in varied roles within the business, what do you enjoy most about this one?

    Rob: I enjoy the constant problem solving that my job requires and the fact it allows me to explore lots of different disciplines at times in detail, but I think the most rewarding element of the job is the clear connection I can see with the results of my work. If I make the right decisions, we grow good plants, and I get to witness this first-hand.

    10.And finally, Rob, what does the future of production look like? (will we be getting a static shock from robots?)

    Rob: The obvious answer is greater automation, with more of the picking, packing and plant care processes likely to be mechanized particularly for commodity and large volume crops. This would involve more complex machines with a degree of intelligence. Still, most nursery processes are uniform enough not to need the differentiation ability of what I would think of as a Robot.

    However, I think automation of commodity high volume lines will allow a more precise separation of/focus on added value products that require specialist skills or labour-intensive practices. The products that don’t fit automated systems may be the ones we see less of but pay a fair price for as a result.



    Posted 20th Jan 1:09pm
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  4. Winter Interest Plants - five of our favourites

    Winter Interest Plants - five of our favourites

    Winter is full of hidden gems in the plant world from bright coloured stems to attractive buds, so we thought we would share five of our favourites.


    Cornus varieties offer great interest throughout the year but in particular during the winter months when their bare stems are visible in fiery shades of red-orange and yellow.

    For best results plant in moist moderately fertile soil in a full sun position to attain the best colour.

    Popular varieties we sell include Cornus alba ‘Sibrica’, Cornus  ‘Flaviramea’ and Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ we have a great selection from a 2L to a 10L pot.


    Skimmia Rubella is a firm favourite with their fantastic dark green elliptic leaves with panicles of redbuds showing in winter and fabulous white fragrant flowers in early spring.

    Plant in partial shade in neutral to acidic soil for best results. Avoid planting in full sun, which can cause yellowing to the leaves. A perfect addition to a patio pot or border.

    Choose varieties such as Skimmia Rubella, Skimmia Finchy and Skimmia reevesiana.


    Hellebores are compact, clump-forming perennials with dark green, leathery leaves and stunning flowers.

    A tremendous shade-loving border plant that will brighten up your garden when little else is flowering from December – March.

    It would help if you planted in partial to full shade for best results and cut back old leaves in January – February to show off new flowers.


    Hamamelis plants are covered in branches of distinctive, spider-like, fragrant flowers in red, yellow, and orange shades from January to early spring.

    Whilst slow growing this plant variety can become a large spreading shrub or small tree. A fantastic specimen plant that will make a great addition to the middle or back of a border.

    Plant in well-drained, neutral acid soil in full sun to partial shade for best results.

    Evergreen Viburnums such as tinus are a great shrub for winter interest with dark green leaves and clusters of tiny white flowers from December to April.

    A great low maintenance easy to grow shrub which can brighten a part shaded area of the garden when little else is flowering.

    Happiest in fertile, moist, well drained soil positioned in full sun – partial shade.

    Posted 18th Jan 1:58pm
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  5. Johnsons shortlisted for Family Business of the Year Award 2021

    Johnsons shortlisted for Family Business of the Year Award 2021

    We are proud to have been shortlisted for Family Business of The Year in the 2021 Family Business United Awards.

    Our 100-year-old company will have the chance to scoop the Yorkshire, regional and supreme champion titles for 2021.

    Family members who work at Johnsons include Chairman John Richardson, Group Managing Director Graham Richardson and Directors Iain and Andrew Richardson. Also on the team are Tracey Richardson and John’s grandchildren Luke, Robert, Eleanor, Paul, Shaun and Jonathan Richardson, who perform a variety of roles.

    Despite the challenges the company faced in 2020, including COVID-19, a break-in that destroyed thousands of plants and Brexit, turnover reached a remarkable £13.2 million, the second-highest figure on record. In 2020, we sold 5.3 million plants, welcomed 495 new customers, made 25 donations, completed over 10,000 quotes and made 11,000 safe deliveries throughout the UK.

    We are one of the largest commercial nursery businesses in the UK, supplying stock for high-profile schemes including the Forth Road Bridge, HS1, Royal Parks, the Athletes’ Village at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the five-star hotel Grantley Hall.

    Chairman John’s eldest grandson Luke Richardson oversees the running of the cash and carry side of the business and is a senior member of both the commercial sales team and senior management group. Thanks to Luke and his team, the cash and carry side of the business celebrated a record-breaking 2020. Since Luke took charge of the unit in 2018, sales revenue has increased by 35%.

    Robert Richardson runs the production operation, with responsibility for growing more than three million shrubs and trees annually, managing a seasonal team of up to 150.

    John’s granddaughter Eleanor Richardson is Johnsons’ first full-time staff member for marketing. She has been instrumental in raising the company’s profile via traditional and modern marketing methods, while managing the company website, social media platforms and PR.

    The company is no stranger to awards success, taking two titles at the 2019 York Press Awards – Family Business of the Year and the overall Business of the Year award.

    Graham Richardson commented: “It’s great to start 2021 with some positive news. We are incredibly proud to have been shortlisted amongst many other fantastic family businesses. It would be a great result to win, especially during our centenary year. We wish all the other businesses the best of luck and look forward to the awards evening in June.”

    Posted 7th Jan 10:51am
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  6. Helping to keep the nation planting - lockdown III

    Helping to keep the nation planting - lockdown III

    After the recent news of another lockdown in England, we would like to confirm that we remain open under the Government’s guidelines. We will continue helping the nation to keep planting, supplying shrubs, hedging, herbaceous and trees safely.

    Our business is a key supplier into the construction industry, operates as a manufacturing entity within the Agricultural Sector and supplies Garden Centres that are remaining open and are classified as ‘essential retail’.

    We are continually monitoring the Government’s advice and continue to undertake measures as recommended for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers.

    We thank you for your support and custom in 2020 and assure you of our best intentions at all times in 2021.

    Should we be able to assist in any way please do not hesitate to speak with your usual contact or any member of the Johnsons team.

    You can read our full Covid-19 notice here

    Posted 5th Jan 10:55am
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  7. What to do in the garden this January - 2021

    What to do in the garden this January - 2021

    Another year has been and gone and with another lockdown just announced there’s plenty of jobs you can be doing in the garden this month.

    Check out our January garden reminders put together by horticulturalist and Chairman, John Richardson.

    1) In rock gardens and raised beds to ensure that fallen leaves have been removed in order to prevent Botrytis as they rot down.

    2) Brush snow off conifers and heathers if there is heavy snowfall, in order to prevent branches being broken.

    3) Plant some lilies in deep pots and keep in the greenhouse ready for transfer to the flower border when the flowers develop.

    4) Make sure the hellebores have been tidied up with the removal of all the old leaves to make way for the new flowers, which will arise very shortly.

    5) When the weather is too cold to do much else, turn the compost heap sides to middle and top to bottom in order to ensure the compost is evenly rotted down.

    6) Continue to plant new fruit trees and bushes when conditions allow and apply a 12cm thick mulch of well-rotted compost to the root zone, allowing a 10cm space between compost and the trunk or stems to prevent future stem rot.

    7) Take root cuttings of a wide range of plant species by lifting the root system and selecting a few roots the thickness of a little finger and 8-10cm long. Cut the top horizontal and the base diagonal to prevent confusion. Plant in the compost a couple of cms. below the surface and cover with approx. 2cm of sharp sand. Place in a cold frame or frost-free glasshouse for the rest pf the winter. New shoots should begin to appear in early spring.

    8) Spray fruit trees and bushes with a tar-oil winter wash to kill overwintered aphid eggs. Do not spray in frosty or windy weather and protect evergreens or lawns in the area as they are subject to being burned by the spray. It will also kill moss and lichen.

    9) Prune wisterias, cutting back all but required extension shoots. The reason for the 2-stage pruning is to concentrate nutrients in the shoots to aid the formation of flower buds.

    10) Mid-winter is the best time to take chrysanthemum cuttings as they root easily.

    11) Prune established fruit trees other than damsons and cherries. Prune newly planted fruit trees to shape and reduce leading shoots by half.

    12) Dead-head winter flowering pansies to ensure they continue to flower freely.

    13) If you need to move a shrub which has outgrown its space, dig around the plant with a vertical spade to a depth of 45-60cm and then use the spade to cut under the roots from all sides until the rootball is free. Ease a piece of thick polythene under the root system and drag it out of the hole, to its new location. Once firmly in place, fill backspace around the rootball, firm the soil by treading it in, and water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.

    14) Prune out old fruiting canes on autumn fruiting raspberries down to soil level. Remove a quarter of the old branches to the base to encourage strong new growth.

    15) Before you start clearing leaves or forking over bare areas check for bulbs which have started growing and are just below the surface.

    16) Check the plant labels on plants around the garden, many will have faded or broken.

    17)Now the garden is bare, take an objective look around from all angles and consider if an ornament, seating or a structure of some sort would add to the interest.

    18) If hard weather is forecast, wrap up tender plants such as Agapanthus in bracken or straw for added protection.

    19) Mark areas in which bulbs come into flower with twigs so that future cultivations can be made safely. They will be easier to find if you wish to move them at a later date.

    Click here to view other hints and tips for the rest of the year

    Posted 5th Jan 9:34am
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