Alter-natives wholesale plant nursery

 

 

About Us

Page updated 11th July 2015 by Ian Fox.

We are a Grower Direct Nursery selling direct to the public and trade from our garden centre in Whangarei.

We sell a range of about 600 speices/cultivars of natives, exotics and edibles in our Garden Centre.  We grow most of the stock we sell on site.  

Many of the native plants used for revegetation are grown from locally harvested seed which we collect. 

The Whangarei site is very popular with keen gardeners and people doing reveg.

 

History: (Current year at the top)

2015:  Now in July (as I write) It has once again been a very busy year with sales direct to public increasing significantly as more and more people get to know about us.  We have been focusing on increasing our selection and this has helped a lot.  We decided to cease the sale of vegetable seedlings after having a year of sales in our new site has shown that sales of these had reduced to less than half compared to when we were in Port road.  Almost all other product lines have increased in sales.  Work on the development of the nursery infrastructure has continued, but we still have plenty to do to make the site the way I would like it.  May was very wet and June was so dry we turned our irrgation back on. It's the first time in 12 years of irrigating in June and July.

2014:  Wow, What a year.  We relocated to our new site in Kioreroa Road, where we can grow and sell from.  I had expected a drop in sales with our relocation and with our reduction of plant stock (for our relocation year) however sales were great in all areas of the business.  We had a number of new staff join the team.  Candace Stevenson who had worked for us 6 years earlier returned as a landscape designer.  Kathy Mortimer who once worked for NRC for about 20 years joined us in sales and also works on designs for farms and lifestyle blocks.  We also had staff additions in the production crew.  Our landscape designer Katie Hilford left in August to have her first baby.  Relocation of plant stock from the Waipu yard took a lot of work.

2013:  A year which was very busy.  Our busiest year to date actually.  A lot of time was spent planning for the relocation of the Waipu production nursery and the Port Rd (Whangarei) to the new all in one site at Kioreroa Rd (Whangarei).  The year was so busy we dropped the ball a number of times with clients getting not so good service due to a number of new staff with a lack of training and myself working to many jobs at once.  Production got behind a bit and with plant sales through the roof we brought in a lot of stock.  Overall we had an increase in sales of 57% on top of the previous years sales.  To say we were busy is an understatement.  During 2012 I had tried to sell the business and the exercise of was interesting with results which I should have been able to predict. Prospective buyers came in 2 forms, those with money who did not want to do any real work or be very involved in the business and those which wanted to immerse themselves into the business and learn any areas they may have been short in. Unfortunately the later group of people did not have any or enough money. So the business has been removed from sale. A new plan forward was developed and I have started to implement it.    Developments in the PVR'ing (like a plant patent) of plants selectively breed by Alter-Natives is also gearing up with the first release likey to occur later this year or early 2014.

2012. A year of ups and down in many ways.  Sales fluctuated greatly month to month when compared to the previous year and sales did not follow very closely to the usual seasonal cycle.   A heavy work load at the management end (running 2 sites and off site works) coupled with aproaching the 10 year mark in the job I (Ian) was rather 'over it' and the business was put on the market. This is the first year in business where we have not had substantial growth.  One contributing factor was due to a Ian wanting out.  This was partially brought on by another business opportunity which was shining rather brightly for some time before coming to a sudden death. Our Native Plant Fund gave away 4800 plants and NRC had withdrawn is contribution due to other commitments for the year.  We trialled another fund program in October which will be formally launched in spring 2013. We had some staff changes out and in.  Jo, our Sales Manager left after almost 5 years, Glenys, our landscaper and sales person left, Danial production supervisor left (returning to Switzerland).  Reilly (my son) left school and joined production and Katie started as our new Landscape designer and sales manager.  She has done an excellent job with increases in sales and positive customer feedback about her. Our range of exotic species greatly increased and a lot more larger grade plants were being produced.

2011. A year of many changes and dramatic growth.  Higher than normal rainfull over December to March meant planting jobs started early. We opened our new nursery at 129 Port Road Whangarei in early May.  Our plant range started to widen with a range of fruit trees, exotics, vegetables and flowers.  It was a great year with an increase in sales by 39% by YE March 2012. It must mean we are doing something right.  Our Native Plant Fund gave away 9,000 plants. 

2010. Production increased to 350,00 our range increased to 240 species.  Our Native Plant Fund was expanded to include Far North District and Rodney District.  NRC increased funding and we gave away 9300 plants to environmental projects.  Sales had a big jump upwards as we took on bigger projects over a wider area from Kaeo to Auckland.  Staff numbers increased to 4 permanent full timers plus myself and my wife Cindy part time, along with up to 10 casual staff for projects.

2009. We produced 200,000 plants with 190 species being produced.  Autumn planting started early.  Our Native Plant Fund gave away 7,500 plants to worthy projects.  NRC contributed $3000. We also started a relationship with Project Crimson which means we now grow 1000-2000 pohutukawa each year for their projects.  Open hours were still 6 days a week and with changes to production techniques we had 2 full time staff along with casual staff for planting projects. 

2008 Production was up to 170,000 plants with 145 species. Revegtation planting took off with many jobs booked in during February and March. We planted almost non-stop from May until November.  Sales for the previous financial year (ending March 2008) was matched by October 2008 (just seven months).  Northland Regional Council contributed $2000 towards our Native Plant Fund so we gave away 6000 plants, plus another 2000 to other community groups. We increased open hours to 6 days a week and put on 2 full time staff and 2 part time staff.

2007 was our biggest growth period with double the production to 120,000 plants in 120 species and our sales almost tripled.  It was also the year we started the Alter-Natives Nursery Native Plant Fund where we gave away 5000 plants for revegetation. It was a great success. We had 4 part time staff working 20 - 30 hours each.  We started set open hours 5 days a week.

2006 We kept on growing and also started planting landscaping jobs.  Production increased to 60,000 plants and the species range was about 80.  Staff was increased to 3 part timers. We were open by appointment only.

2005 was a better year.  Production increased to 30,000 plants and the species range went up to 60. We started advertising better and did a few months of selling product at the Saturday growers market in Whangarei.  Towards the end of that year we employed two part time staff memebers.  We were open by appointment only.

In autumn 2004 there were 15,000 plants (mix of 40 species) ready for sale in small grades.  As we had no client base we threw about 5000 of them away as they became very messy and root bound because we couldn't sell them all.  We were open by appointment only.

Our Beginings:

In April 2003 Ian and Cindy Fox brought a bare block of 3ha and set up the nursery while living for 1 year in a 36 square metre garage. At the same time Cindy went to work in town and Ian built a house and ran another business. We had no staff and often worked by torch light in the evening during winter.

 

Ian & Cindy Fox, owners of the nursery with kids Connor 17, Reilly 14 & Jade 3.  Ian & Cindy founded the nursery in 2003. Photo taken Dec 2010.

Ian Fox, as an owner who works in the business I am responsible for the direction of the businesses growth and development but also do many other equally important jobs such as: administration, marketing, landscape planning, revegtation plans and consultancy, planting, plant delivery, general fix it up person, seed harvesting, and any other job either nobody wants to do, or don't have the skills to do.

I have a "Can Do Attitude" which has grown the business to where it is.  But behind every good man is good woman and I must not forget the support that my wife Cindy gives me.  In addition a good team of staff whom i trust and appreciate are an integral part of the business.

Candace Stevenson has rejoined our team in April 2014 as a landscape designer.  She had worked for us in 2008 in the production side of the business and left to gain further qualifications in landscape design and gained experience with other nurseries.  She is very skilled with exotic species and popular with our clients. Her hand drawn designs are beautifully done.  She works closely with clients to acheive the outcomes they want.

Katie Hilford joined the team in July 2012.   Her role is sales and landscape designer. Katie is a creative designer with a 'no worries' and 'can do' attitude.

Katie is away on Maturnity leave from late August 2014 until early 2015.

Debbie Oldfeild joined the team in April 2012. She has very good plant knowledge with 16 years experience working in the nursery industry. Debbie has great customer servise and is our key front person in the garden centre.  She looks after our range of dry goods as well as plant sales.
Cherylle Allison joined our team in May 2014 as a sales person and looks after plant health and presentation of stock.  She comes with 12 years experience working in Australia in the garden maintenance and soft landscping (plants and planting) industry.  She has a broad knowledge of Australian plants.
Kathy Mortimer started with us in August 2014 as a sales person landscape designer and farm environment consultant.  Kathy comes to us with 25 years experience in Land Management with Northern Regional Council.  She is artistic with landscape design and her experience with farm environmental planning is a great asset for working with farm and lifestyle clients.
Hannah Mortimer (Kathy's Daughter) joined the team in September 2014 in production and landscape labouring.  He enthusiam for plants and landscaping will see her progress in her career with us.
Steve Flood joined our team in July 2014 as a labourer looking after deliveries, machinery and yard maintenance along with some production and landscaping.
Reilly Gailey (Ian's son) joined the team after leaving school in 2012 and works as a labourer doing production, landscaping and reveg planting.
Andy Avery joined the team in May 2013 as a labourer and he does production and landscaping.
We have a few subcontractors who work for us on a regular basis, usually doing earth works.  We also employ a number of seasonal casuals work for us at various times of the year, usually in labourering roles.

Ian Fox.  I am an adventurer. I love the outdoors and have worked professionally as an outdoor instructor, instructing in abseiling, top rope rock climbing, caving, flat water kayaking, bushcraft (tramping, camp craft, on and off track navigation) along with team development games and school/ youth camp management.

I love to get outdoors or underground and find my places of inner peace are deep in the bush or a remote spot along the coastline or on a mountain top. The smells, sounds and sites of the forest are pleasing, I suppose that is why I like to work with plants.

Photos:

Above: Caving, having just imerged from a duck (swimming underwater through a hole in the rock). A spot i've been in many times. Photo taken Jan 2007.

Top Right: On the Crater rim of Mount Tongarero (while on a 4 day off track trip).  Taken March 2004.

Right: Me with my oldest son Connor (17 at the time) on top of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  We had 9 days on the mountain including staying a night at the crater, (very few people do).  Photo taken 25 December 2010.

   

 

 

 

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