Orchid merchant Jeff Hutchings retires over post-Brexit red tape wrangle

A renowned Lancashire based orchid expert has decided to stop selling hardy orchids after getting increasingly frustrated with red tape post-Brexit.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 4:55 am

That combined with his age and a desire to do different things, including photographing orchids, has meant Jeff has called time on his online Laneside Hardy Orchids business.

He formerly ran a nursery too, but had closed that and had been working from home in Garstang.

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Hardy orchid seller Jeff Hutchings has closed his Laneside Hardy Orchids business Photo: Neil Cross

He said: “There were two things really. I’m now 77 which means moving around the country and standing at shows for days is pretty much a no no.”

Pre-Covid he said he had already begun to cut down on the number of shows he was attending. But the main issue was trying to get orchid imports registered to comply with new regulations following Brexit.

He said for a small business, and even with good advice from DEFRA (the Department for Environment,Food and Rural Affairs), there was an enormous amount of form filling needed.

He said it seemed never ending: “I filled a form in, then you get to the bottom and you need another and it’s ongoing. You needed a reference number from something else. This is how it was. The DEFRA people were brilliant they helped me as much as they could. There doesn’t seem to be any other help. I thought blow it.”

The rare British slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus photographed in Lancashire by Jeff Hutchings

A final straw was finding three of the most popular orchids he sells on sale at a main supermarket for a lower price than he was paying wholesale.

Jeff was formerly a lecturer and later department head at Myerscough College, near Preston, for some 30 years and left to set up a garden landscaping business and an alpine plants nursery Laneside Alpines. He explained he discovered hardy orchids by chance when a fellow alpine plants grower asked did he want some trays of orchids to sell and the enthusiasm and passion grew. By 2008 the business was renamed Laneside Hardy Orchids.

Jeff always had a stand at many major flower shows, including Harrogate, and supplied plants for Chelsea Flower show displays. He had customers at home and abroad and imported much of his hardy stock from specialist growers.

Jeff prided himself on providing good stock, expert advice and growing tips to ensure customers got the best results possible from their orchids.

Jeff Hutchings pictured at his stand at the Harrogate Spring Show in 2016 Photo:Fiona Finch

He has also been involved with projects to reintroduce native orchids into meadows and larger areas of farmland. He said: “In the last five years my main work has been getting people to put orchids back in their lawns and meadows which we’ve done very successfully in quite a number of cases.”

He added: “I’m not giving any talks but I’ve left the Laneside Hardy Orchids Facebook page up as a discussion page. There were about 1600 people already on there."

Jeff added that one bonus of not being tied to the horticultural shows’ timetable is that he can now get out and see and photograph the hardy outdoor orchids when they are in bloom – an opportunity he previously missed when standing at his plant stall.

Another favourite hardy orchid spotted in Yorkshire growing in abundance - Bee orchid Ophrys apifera Photograph: Jeff Hutchings
Hardy orchid expert Jeff Hutchings pictured at home in his garden Photo: Neil Cross