The Polish nursery stock industry maintains a balance between the past and the future
Author: Dr Audrey Gerber

Working to its strengths the Polish nursery sector focuses on a wide range of products that are suitable for harsh winter climates. This specialisation, together with geographical proximity, positions the industry for the attention of the large markets of Eastern Europe.

 

Every year, the Polish Nurserymen Association publishes a catalogue, Katalog roślin, which provides descriptions and photographs of more than 2,000 plants produced in Poland, including many innovative, locally bred products. This useful resource is available in printed form in Polish and Russian and is also accessible as a searchable internet database https://www.e-katalogroslin.pl/. Yet this only covers part of the wide range of hardy nursery stock that is available. To facilitate B2B introductions and sales for its members, PNA annually distributes a Polish nursery stock reference book: the Katalog Szkółek. This provides detailed information on Polish nursery businesses, their full range of products, and their services, and includes a useful Polish-Latin and Latin-Polish dictionary.

 

Growth in export sales

Recognition and respect for the quality and range of Polish hardy nursery stock has led to an increase in exports over the last decade. The most important countries, by value, importing from Poland are the Russian Federation, Germany, and the Netherlands. Worth close on €300 million, this export trend has been accompanied by a steady increase in production area since 2002, with conifers dominating a more than 50% increase in open-area production. The AIPH International Statistics Yearbook further differentiates the products that contribute to this growth in export sales. Although garden roses are the second largest export product, when measured in terms of production area, this area has actually declined slightly over the last ten years. The biggest growth comes in production area of avenue trees.

The average size of a Polish nursery is about 2ha. Only 15% of nurseries are larger than 5ha, and these alone produce nearly 60% of the total industry value. As businesses increase in size they naturally turn to technical developments that support more efficient practices. Most Polish nurseries are family owned and run, and represent the commitment and ambition of generations of nurserymen.

 

Traditional dominance of conifers 

The traditional dominance of conifers in the Polish nursery industry was quite obvious at the 2018 edition of Poland’s premier tree nursery trade fair Green is Life, with dozens of stands displaying high quality and variety. Iglak’s trade stand at the show displayed many of the 126 species of conifer that the nursery produces, including Thuja, Picea, Pinus and Juniperus. “Our main focus at Iglak”, explained Patryk Wójcik, “is to keep the family tradition of taking pride in producing a good quality product”. Iglak nursery was started by Waldemar Wójcik, and today his sons Robert and Patryk share management of the business.

This second generation nursery business, has been producing conifers since mid-1990s, and the nursery now covers 40ha. Spread across 5 sites, Iglak supplies natural forms as well as shaped and grafted plants to local garden centres, contractors and public institutions. Of their 150,000 units produced each year, approximately 70% are exported. Iglak nursery buys in approximately 80% of their stock, and propagate or graft the remaining 20% themselves. The volumes and species for each year’s production is a 50:50 mix of pre-orders and decisions based on the previous year’s sales orders.

Iglak nursery is managed with a combination of traditional production techniques, and new methods that reflect market preferences for sustainable production. The soils tend to be sandy, with a deep clay base; a combination that provides the free-draining conditions that conifers need, with deep retention of moisture that limits the frequency of irrigation. Weed control is an essential task of open ground production. In young plant production areas, weeds are controlled by manual removal, which minimises the use of chemicals. In the vast areas of larger plant production, mechanised and targeted sprays are used for maximum efficiency.

 

Learning of the latest product trends

A dynamic nursery sector that responds to changing market trends runs alongside traditional nursery production in Poland. In response to the increasing demand in Poland for perennials, Panek Nursery expanded their production area three years ago, and now operates from two sites.

Managers Dariusz Panek and his wife, Anna, are the third generation of the Panek family operating the nursery. They are excited by new and innovative varieties of plants that enrich the nursery’s offer to its customers. Regularly visiting European horticultural exhibitions, they learn of the latest product trends, and include these into Panek’s range. Green is Life fills an important role in bringing Panek to the attention of trade customers and the end consumer – home gardeners. Panek exhibits at the show, and takes part in the Plant Novelties Competition at Green is Life, having won many awards over the past ten years.

These past award winners form the core of Panek’s many seasonal specialities, and all are tested on site for the Polish climate. Panek offers a range of “Cool Herbs”, featuring plants that can be grown indoors and used to make refreshing and soothing teas. Products in the “Spring Awakening” range are early flowering, fast growing, vibrant perennials. “Colourful Grasses” present to markets a variety of size and colour for the current consumer preference for ornamental grasses. And for the ever-increasing demand for edible plants, Panek offers potted fruit and vegetables in the “Your Plantation” range.

Panek’s range of compact plants for balconies and terraces, are delivered directly to Do-It-Yourself markets, garden centres, and supermarkets. As the size of their production changed, and the number of clients increased, Panek saw a need for improved business efficiency, and set up an online ordering platform. Each week new photos are taken of products that are available, and clients can see exactly what the plant looks like now, as well as general images in the catalogue. “Many of our customers still prefer to phone, though”, laughs Karolina Rytel, fourth generation in this family nursery. “We don’t mind – personal contact remains an important part of our business”.

 

Iglak uses both manual and targeted chemical treatments for weed control of its vast areas under production.

 

Dariusz Panek and his wife, Anna, are the third generation to manage this Polish nursery, and the fourth generation are now also involved in the business.

 

Panek’s wide range of colourful perennials are all tested on site for hardiness in the Polish climate.

 

Iglak’s trade stand at the show displayed many of the 126 species of conifer that the nursery produces.