Ex-engineer launches new cottage plants business in Northumberland

Garden gives Northumberland man new lease of life and has led to him setting up a composting business

Andrew Davenport
Andrew Davenport

During years of office working, passionate gardener Andrew Davenport dreamed of being outdoors.

Now, after taking voluntary redundancy after 30 years as an electrical engineer, he is fulfilling his dream of following a gardening path for both pleasure and business.

He has a quarter-acre garden at his home in Bingfield in Northumberland, off the A68 six miles north of Corbridge.

After leaving engineering, Andrew set up a business called QR Composting Solutions.

This was based on a “quick return” method of making compost pioneered in 1935 by Soil Association stalwart Maye Emily Bruce, but which had faded into the horticultural background.

Andrew wrote a book on the technique, which involves using a solution of dried herbs in water, which is sprinkled as a fast activator on layers of a compost heap. In favourable times such as spring, this can produce compost in a month.

Now he has taken his composting interests a stage further, by using his own compost, mixed with four tonnes a year of composted municipal garden waste, spent hops from the Hadrian Border brewery in Newburn in Newcastle, leaf mould and charcoal.

He is using this growing medium to launch a new venture, called Gardener’s Cottage Plants.

He has now built up a stock of around 3,000 plants at his garden, many propagated or grown from seed from his own specimens.

Phil Straughan with the first bag of Greenleaf compost to be produced
Phil Straughan with the first bag of Greenleaf compost to be produced
 

He is specialising in around 50 types of herbaceous perennial and herbs.

Andrew is also offering wild flower such as bird’s foot trefoil, betony, bistort, common valerian, corncockle, corn marigold, cowslip, bloody cranesbill, herb robert, ox eye daisy, ragged robin, sweet rocket, teasel, tansy and yarrow.

They are on sale at Northumberland National Park’s Once Brewed visitor centre on Hadrian’s Wall.

Andrew is also using recycled plant pots.

He says: “I don’t like the idea of the criminal amount of plant pots which end up in landfill.

“Nurseries and growers have a responsibility to reduce the senseless waste of billions of plant pots which are discarded without a thought.”

His plant pots are filled with what he describes as “living soil - a soil fuel web.”

He says:“Our plants are grown in a live environment with beneficial organisms rather than lifeless sterile conditions.

“This means that the plants are more robust and customers suffer fewer problems with diseased plants. The plants also take more readily to the soil as they are already in tune with it having the right organisms to help the plants feed and survive.”

He has also developed his own labelling system with QR codes which refer the gardener to the comprehensive information supplied by the Royal Horticultural Society on their freely available plant selector database.

“Our plants are propagated on site, using where possible our own seed or propagation from mother plants grown in the garden,” he says.

The nursery at Bingfield is open 4pm-8pm Sunday-Thursday and 8am-8pm on Friday and Saturday.

Telephone 01434 672 594 or go to www.gcplnats.co.uk

Andrew also runs a gardens maintenance business.

He says: “When I was an engineer I was working in the garden as often as I could. Now I have a life which revolves around gardening.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer