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Business blooming . . . Increased internet sales have meant Blue Mountain Nurseries owners Rebecca and Chris Hughes are looking for two apprentices to join the business. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

A decision at the last minute to hold its autumn sale online has paid off for Blue Mountain Nurseries owners Denis, Chris and Rebecca Hughes.

The nursery is based at Tapanui and was started by Denis’ father Stan.

Chris Hughes said the business was preparing for its autumn sale as lockdown loomed.

“We decided we would take that sale online and that was extremely successful through the lockdown,” Chris Hughes said.

“It’s the circumstances that have allowed us to do what we are doing.”

“Everything was prepared for the on-site sale, then lockdown came and dictated we move to online,” Mrs Hughes said.

The business already had an online presence.

“We send stock nationwide every day and that’s mostly done through remote platforms.

“You can make it sound flash but at the end of the day it’s just mail order by new means.”

When staff returned to work at Alert Level 3 there were “hundreds and hundreds of orders sitting there”.

Not only did staff have the internet orders to prepare but they also had the usual orders that were filled at this time of year.

“They are all the pre-orders for garden centres, landscapers, councils around New Zealand and they would normally be dug and processed during what turned into a lockdown.”

The business was fortunate to have a dedicated team that rose to the challenge.

“We’re extremely proud of them

While people were in lockdown they had time to work in their gardens which was one reason why sales went well, he said.

The growth in sales meant more staff were needed and the business was advertising for two apprentices to learn the trade.

“Two is just a number.

“If we got the right people we would probably take on more than that.

“They do have to have a passion for plants and horticulture.”

The nursery grew all its stock.

“We do about 2500 crops a year of different plants right from trees right through shrubs, riparian planting for farms, natives.

“We just enjoy having different plants around usthat’s what keeps us sane.

“If we had to produce only one plant I think I would go slightly mad or madder.”

The nursery was well-known for its rhododendrons.

“A large proportion of the rhododendrons that are sold in the South Island would be propagated here.”

As well as the internet, people telephoned in orders and occasionally the nursery received a written order.

“I think you can count them on one hand, in a year.”