The family business that’s making Manchester less grey – using thousands of plants – Manchester Evening News

Red brick, yellow trams, rainbow-hued fountains in Piccadilly Gardens. Very occasionally we might get a glimpse of blue sky, but the overwhelming colour palette of Manchester is grey.

Though the city sits under a near-constant grey fug, there’s been a notable shift in decor priorities for new bar and restaurant openings of late.

The people have spoken and the people want plants.

Increasingly we are seeing plant installations used as a huge selling point for new ventures – ‘come, look at our flower wall, our giant tree, our shelves of cacti’.

In a city with that clings on to its industrial foundations with exposed pillars and bricks and metal air ducts, plants can drastically soften a space.

Many of the venues that spring to mind – The Ivy, covered entirely in plants; Mowgli on Oxford Street, with its magnificent white tree; The Counter House in Ancoats with its wall of living greens – were all brought to life (literally) by one company.

The new Mowgli restaurant on University Green

I Want Plants, based in Ashley in Cheshire, has spent four decades bringing blooms into businesses and homes across the north west, and further afield.

Started 44 years ago by Keith Rowlands, I Want Plants originally rented out plants to local offices and maintained them on a regular basis. Then his son Richard stepped in and expanded the business to include Christmas displays, green walls and exterior plants.

Grand Pacific

Now, in Manchester alone, their impressive client list includes Bruntwood, Living Ventures and New World Trading, which means they’ve worked on the opulent Grand Pacific and Sunset by Australasia, the pretty pink bar labelled the most ‘Instagramable’ in the city.

They’ve hung 150m of flower heads down a stairwell in Liverpool, covered entire walls in roses in Bristol, and weaved wisteria in and out of windows and doors in Hale.

Sunset terrace

The jungle setting for the Museum of Science and Industry’s dinosaur exhibition? The striking wall of plants on New York Street? Perfect topiary outside Hispi in Didsbury? It’s all down to I Want Plants.

Without much fuss or fanfare, the company is transforming Manchester from a concrete jungle into an actual jungle – albeit often with synthetic silk blooms rather than real ones.

The living wall at The Counter House was installed by I Want Plants

A major recent project saw them turn the concrete and glass monster The Foodwell – Salford’s LA-inspired healthy restaurant – into a tropical hideaway filled with palm trees.

Dan Horner, installation manager, spoke to us with hands full of fake moss, a silk pink petal sticking out from his hair – he was in the midst of the install at The Foodwell, with a team of experts stapling fake ferns to the walls and ceilings and weaving foliage through a huge copper ‘well’ suspended from the ceiling.

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The hanging ‘well’ at FoodWell

“Manchester’s got a long history of being really industrial, but now people want to cover that with plants, with greenery.

“It’s good for the environment, obviously, but it looks so much nicer too. Even the big developers like Bruntwood are thinking greener, they’ve got a lot of real roof gardens in their plans.”

Dan’s installation team can transform an empty shell into an LA boardwalk, a Jurassic forest, or a nymph-like woodland in just a matter of hours (though some can take weeks on end).

The FoodWell in Salford

Using real plants isn’t always smooth sailing though, especially not if a business is after a tropical look.

“We didn’t do the original install in The Ivy, but the ones that they originally planted outside died after a few weeks – they didn’t like the Manchester weather! So we stepped in to put fresh ones in and it looks great now.

“Plants just totally change the ambience of a buidling. I do this day in, day out, but every single time we do an install the first thing the client says is what a difference it makes to the space.”

Gusto Manchester

Often the process begins before the building is even watertight, with I Want Plants being shown floor plans and learning of the business’s heritage to create a bespoke design.

Sales manager Jessica Rowlands said: “We try to make each and every installation unique, working together to bring the very best from the natural world to the restaurants, bars, hotels and homes of Manchester and beyond.

The Florist in Liverpool

“We have a fantastic team behind us, many who have been with us for years, and all of whom share a passion for plants.

“I often joke with Richard that he doesn’t know his children’s birth dates, but if you ask him which client has what plants he will never let you down! Plants run through his blood.”

And, once the installations are done, the work doesn’t stop. The Ivy alone has 800 interior plants requiring constant TLC, with the I Want Plants team paying the site a visit five times a week.

With sites like Gusto in Knutsford, which has an artificial tree stretching across the ceiling, they visit at least four times a year to give it a seasonal update – flame-red leaves in autumn, pink blossoms in spring.

As the fight to turn Piccadilly Gardens into something vaguely resembling a garden goes on, and developers scramble to include ‘pocket parks’ in their planning applications, there’s one group doing their level best to make our city a bit less grey.


Author: allee