Englefield Garden Centre - helping people with learning disabilities
Operated by the charity Affinity Trust, Englefield Garden Centre near Reading employs and works with adults with learning disabilities to help them lead independent lives. Over the past two years ICL has been delighted to lend its support donating the majority of Englefield’s growing media.
“The quality of the plants produced rival anything seen on other nurseries,” says ICL Technical Area Sales Manager, Andy Hodges. “The Englefield team produce and retail an impressive range of home-grown high-quality bedding and herbaceous plants.”
“Five of my team of 15 are adults with learning disabilities,” explains garden centre manager Austin Crabbe. “We are very much one team – everyone is treated the same. With no production machinery, all the tasks are carried out by hand which is quite therapeutic. For example, before we have a delivery of plugs, we might spend a couple of days hand filling pots and trays before turning our attention to pricking out.
“Paid employment for our employees with learning disabilities helps them to live full independent lives. They learn the same skills as the others and derive real satisfaction from producing and selling the plants they’ve produced.
“We also run workshops for local adults with higher levels of learning disability that require a greater degree of supervision. Typically, they join us for one or two days a week. They enjoy coming here and getting involved and are keen to come back!”
The Englefield team grow over 100,000 bedding and herbaceous plants a year. The bedding is grown from plugs pricked out in to Levington Advance M2 mix containing Osmocote Exact High K with a 5-6month longevity. Next year the mix will be peat-reduced with the inclusion of Fibagro Advance.
Austin and his team grow a wide range of quality pot bedding, including geraniums and Ivy-leaf Geraniums, Begonias and Fuchsias; trailing plants for containers and baskets; as well as a wide selection of pack bedding including Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Lobelia, Verbena and Antirrhinums.
Englefield’s herbaceous range are grown in a Levington Advance Herbaceous mix, with Fibagro Advance and containing Osmocote Exact High K with 8-9month longevity. “We generally grow from plugs potted in to 2 litre pots; the range includes Campanulas, Heucheras, Lobelias and Penstemons plus over 500 herbaceous from bare root,” says Austin. “Alstroemeria are a particularly popular line grown in 3 Litre pots.”
“The two different Osmocote longevities work very well, supplying all that the plants need. We’re very pleased with the quality – as are the customers – they are extremely loyal. We are very grateful for ICL’s support during these challenging times.”
Englefield also retails colourful cottage perennials, traditional roses, ‘grow your own vegetables’ plants and quality shrubs and fruit trees - all locally sourced.
“All the plants we produce are sold from our on-site garden centre,” says Austin. “Sales have gone up during the pandemic and we’re seeing a growing trend in younger customers – which we hope will continue. With people stuck at home during the pandemic, many have realised just how beneficial gardening can be for everyone - both mentally and physically.”
Nationally, Affinity Trust helps 900 people with learning disabilities lead independent lives.