Located in Tiptree, Perrywood is a family-owned garden centre and nursery that has built an impressive local reputation and won awards since its owners, Alan and Karin Bourne, took over the business in the mid 1980s.
Accompanying that success has been a desire to contribute something in return to the local community. According to Debbie Wrigley, Perrywood’s communications manager, “We do lots in the local community and for schools. We’ve had local schools come in for visits and organised activities, and we run a ‘Garden Explorers’ gardening club for children in the holidays.”
Since last year, the business has also been giving away plants and equipment to nearby primary schools. “It was our retail director’s idea,” Wrigley recalls. “He has young children in primary school himself. All of us here are obviously very passionate about plants, and he was of the view that we need to get more houseplants in classrooms; that we should should try to ‘green up’ their interiors by bringing the outdoors inside, as it were.”
Wrigley thus went about making initial contact via email with schools in Tiptree and several surrounding villages, outlining Perrywood’s plan to pay a visit, meet the children, share some knowledge about indoor gardening and let the schools choose two houseplants to keep for free.
Time slots were subsequently allocated to the various schools over a two-week period and a series of houseplants were carefully selected. As Wrigley notes, “We source plants that are easy to care for, obviously not poisonous and have interesting or unusual names, like snake plants, money plants and spider plants.”
The deliveries then hit the road in one of Perrywood’s vans, its rear laden with enough plants to resemble an indoor jungle. Upon arrival, the team are typically met by pupil representatives, who are given a brief explanation about the plants they’ve chosen before being issued with care leaflets and pot covers. By Wrigley’s estimates, 94 classes and their school offices received free plants last year; this year, the focus has shifted to nine schools on the outskirts of nearby Colchester.
Wrigley has since found herself fielding requests from other schools in the area wanting to get involved. “Where we can, we’ll add them to a recommended list for us to consider next year – but we’ve got to be realistic in what we can do and the areas we can target.”
For now, though, the feedback has certainly been positive. As one testimonial by Kate Moore, headteacher at Birch CoE primary school puts it, “The plants have been a wonderful gift and having fresh green plants in our school has been uplifting. The children have taken ownership of their class plants and we are very grateful for them.”