You’ll find Annton Nursery on Peake Rd, Tamahere near Cambridge, where Stephen Burton leads a team of green-fingered employees in a business that began in the 1980’s when his mother started raising cymbidiums as a way to “earn a little extra pocket money”. “Mum started off selling cymbidium orchids at our gate when us kids were young and then moved into ferns and different seedlings as well”, explains Steve, “and it grew rapidly from there as we started growing native New Zealand seedlings under the Keep New Zealand Green scheme”. In 1987 when the government pulled the funding for that scheme pretty much overnight, the family turned their focus to being a specialist supplier to retail garden stores “and we’ve been on that track ever since”.
On a much larger, new site since 2005, the business is reliant largely on technology to supply garden centres around New Zealand, with machines in place to elevate soil, aid with potting, trim young plants and more. “We focus on supplying retail outlets with a mix of perennials, trees and shrubs,” says Steve, “and technology is essential to keep up with demand and keep prices for plants at a level that consumers can afford.”
He says that trend-wise, after the easy-care, minimalism of the early 2000’s people are returning to a love of colour, “and that is both general colour to brighten their garden and foliage colour as well. Colour that lasts year round is really wanted at the moment, and if that’s easy-care and gives a colourful result with a minimum of work then it’s a definite bonus. Vegetable gardening has surged in popularity again as well, but predominantly colour is back with no signs of going anywhere in a hurry.”
Steve regularly attends the California Spring Trials, which is a collection of the world’s biggest breeders in one place displaying their latest products on offer. “It is always a really exciting place to be,” he says, “and a great international event that people travel from all around the world to attend”. The one product that got him really excited this year – and that he thinks New Zealand gardeners will fall in love with – are a new range of verbenas, “which is called the Wicked Series. They are bi-coloured flowers rather than just being red or blue, with more than one colour in each and every bloom”. It is this passion for innovation and colour that has really seen Annton Nurseries bloom, and that growth can only flourish as the years go on.