Leeds summer planting under way at The Arium

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Whether it’s the flower tubs lining the busiest shopping street in Leeds or the creative, colourful displays on show at the city’s many beauty spots, chances are it started life at The Arium.

“Anything colourful basically comes from here. We brighten up,” said nursery supervisor Rob Paxton.

Apprentice Tara Noon tends to the daffodils grown in The Arium plant nursery near Shadwell, which has super high-tech growing methods.

Apprentice Tara Noon tends to the daffodils grown in The Arium plant nursery near Shadwell, which has super high-tech growing methods.

Leeds City Council moved its enormous horticultural nursery from Red Hall to its new home at Thorner Lane in Scarcroft, and renamed it The Arium, last October.

Read more: Grand opening of The Arium in Leeds
And with the relocation came new capabilities – a machine which can pot 100,000 plants every day has been installed, and the site includes a greenhouse which could house three football pitches.

Now the huge task of getting two million plants ready for display across the city during summer is in full swing.

Mr Paxton, 34, of Farsley, said: “It’s a massive team effort not just from The Arium but for all the parks (service). It’s nice to be a cog in that.”

At the heart of the nursery's new approach is an incredible machine capable of potting 100,000 plants per day.

At the heart of the nursery's new approach is an incredible machine capable of potting 100,000 plants per day.

He said that it is rare for a council to invest in one big building dedicated to planting such as this, with most local authorities typically offering such duties out for tender.

Whereas previously some 14 nursery staff would have stood at an assembly line potting, specialist equipment now does the job and the site usually produces around 50,000 to 60,000 plants a day – compared to the 25,000 before the move.

As a result Leeds’s parks, open spaces, window boxes, roundabouts, In Bloom entries, hanging baskets and planters, including those on Briggate, are kept full of life.

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The improved rate of production means there is more choice, fresher produce and better value not only for the city but in the shop for the general public to buy too, the council said.

Supervisor Rob Paxton tends to plants at The Arium.

Supervisor Rob Paxton tends to plants at The Arium.

Three million plants per year from over 500 different species can be produced, and The Arium is said to be biggest local authority nursery in the country.

And the changes had allowed staff to focus more on the nursery’s retail area and on providing advice.

In preparation for summer over the last three weeks, one of the site’s four Millennium Square-sized plant spaces has already been filled with species ready to reveal.

"We grow from the people of Leeds, for the people of Leeds. I think that’s something to be proud of,” Mr Paxton said.

And after working for the nursery since he left school, he added: “I think I’m rewarded every day. On my drive home I see that I’ve been part of a team that created these things.

“We don’t always notice it in colour – but you will notice it when it’s not there.

“We want to make Leeds as bright and as colourful as we can.”

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