Wildflower Turf Invests in Grillo

Photos of chelsea chop’s in June 22

It is a sobering fact that the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows over the past 90 years. The fact that a company like Hampshire based Wildflower Turf Ltd is building a substantial business out of endeavouring to reverse that decline must, therefore, be very good news, not just for lovers of traditional countryside flowers but for the legion of bees and insects that are so vital to our wider ecosystem.

 It is significant also that it has mechanised the process in order to increase its annual production capacity to around 250,000 square metres of turf a year spread over three sites and employing around 30 people. Key to its progress is the purchase of two Grillo FD2200 out-front mowers to keep the turf trimmed while it awaits shipment to customers all over the UK as well as in Europe.

Often seen trimming heather on golf courses, the distinctive Grillos have a large and adjustable front cutting deck plus a sizeable rear collection container that can lift to discharge from  height. With a 60cm turning radius, it is also uniquely manoeuvrable while stable on slopes with a powerful and reliable low-polluting engine. Operated via a steering wheel, the Grillo is easy to drive and gives optimal visibility of the job in hand. 

Farm Manager Mike Leflay likes what the Grillos do for them. “We have mechanised as much of the process as we can and continue to do so,” he says. “The Grillos are an important part of that in maintaining and managing the beds of turf. We mow them regularly to a height of around 3 to 4cm every four to six weeks.”

He adds: “We have had other machines for the job but the Grillo gave us more flexibility and capacity. The low ground pressure is important to what we do, as is the size of the bin and of the cutting head, plus the fact that it can switch between low cut and high cut very easily. They have done a good job for us and there have been no issues beyond the routine service.”

The story of the business goes back to 1982 when husband and wife team James and Claire Hewetson-Brown made the then bold decision to diversify their Overton farm from traditional crops into turf production. They began experimenting with wildflower products in 2003 and within seven years the sole focus of the business was on wildflower turf. 

Since then they have expanded to take on two further growing sites – at Helperby in North Yorkshire and near Newport in Shropshire. In each case, the critical factor in choosing the location was a free-draining soil and the availability of water to irrigate turf that can otherwise dry out in hours. 

The company’s enhanced growing medium is now 100% peat-free and is enriched with a special formula that supports good water percolation and retention. Mesh is used in the base of the turf to allow for easy damage-free handling. The beds of turf are prepared and seeded through the summer months with the end product available to lay all year.