Hillier Container Trees Aid Contractors during Lockdown Dilemma

March 2020 will be remembered for a very long time as the month the UK went into Lockdown.  It seems an age ago in many ways, but in others it’s like recalling last night’s surreal dream. 

We began receiving calls from very worried customers trying to complete landscaping projects whilst facing an impending Lockdown - with no idea of what the future may bring.  Although there was an air of increasing uncertainty before the announcement, nobody had encountered a “lockdown” before, so plans for planting trees were still being made and implemented.  

One of our sales people recalls continuously ringing customers with impending deliveries to check their trees were still needed.  One particular client confirmed their delivery the evening before as well as the morning of the delivery, only to ring back an hour later to say their site had been closed with immediate effect – the lorry had been loaded and was half way to their site, and had to be turned away!  Many clients were faced with similar dilemmas.


The challenge: 

Over 1500 field grown trees had been lifted, waiting in the yard for impending delivery to various sites around the country before the traditional planting season came to an end.  Root-balled and bare-root trees now had nowhere to go, and clients had a problem - they had purchased trees, but had no way of planting them.

Hillier Nurseries, worked with our customers to find a solution:- our purpose built container tree unit came to the fore, with options to containerise their trees until the end of the summer or keep them on irrigation lines, in good condition, ready to be delivered at a few days’ notice.

Root-balled trees were transported to our specialist container tree unit and put on the irrigation system while the situation was assessed.  Each order was then discussed with the client and a plan agreed to nurture their trees - either potting them up or leaving them as root-balls, on a drip-line, in readiness for a new delivery date to go to site.

The sheer numbers involved presented Martin Hillier, manager of Hillier container trees and company Director, and his staff with a significant challenge, but one that they rose to.  Necessity is the mother of invention!  In quick time, a system was organised to receive multiple artic loads of field grown trees each day for several weeks and process them whilst maintaining social distancing. 

Great Staff Effort: 

  • One team created spaces within the 75 acre site
  • Another team offloaded, untied canopies, forklifted the trees and secured them to the network of post and rail supports
  • A third team followed behind linking all the new arrivals to the irrigation drip lines

The result of this quick action meant that all the trees that had been lifted for abandoned sites were saved.  They all burst into leaf and continued to thrive - waiting for each site to come back on-line as and when it was possible.  

Enlarged Capacity

The new trees added to the huge numbers already potted throughout the winter - over 30,000 trees - ready for sale from late summer onward.  Some planned contract pots, sadly, had to be postponed as resources had to be re-directed to overcoming the challenges created by the Covid-19 virus.

British Grown: Bio-security

The nursery had already experienced a busy 2019/20 season and a high demand for future orders from customers attracted by the fact that Hillier grow their own stock.  This has meant customers have been able to purchase British Grown trees with the highest levels of Bio-Security. 

Brexit Uncertainty

To other customers, Brexit uncertainty has prompted them to pre-order our unrivalled British Semi-mature tree range, in order to secure stock for projects they have won.  There is concern that prices for such trees from nurseries within the EU will be subject to price increases from increased red-tape and logistical delays causing unacceptable delivery costs.

Environmental Choice

  • All our tree production is peat free - a specially mixed compost of sylva wood, bark and green waste
  • Our irrigation is self sufficient - through rainwater harvesting, we have a 35,000 cubic metre reservoir
  • Home grown trees means fewer tree miles = smaller carbon footprint

Life rekindles after Lockdown

As signs of the virus are becoming more under control, sites have been opening up.  It was a joy and a relief to see the first of the trees we had been nurturing finally being delivered to their intended locations – and all in great condition!

2020 will be seen as another historic year in our 156 year history.  We have learned much from previous generations surviving periods of World War and global economic problems.

Flexibility and a strong focus on our customers' changing needs has always been key.