More than one million orchids create carpet of colour for Mother's Day at New Forest Forest nursery

A huge carpet of colour is on display at a specialist nursery in the New Forest where they produce 1.5 million orchids every year for the British market.

The run up to Mother's Day is the busiest time of the year at Double H Nurseries at New Milton - with a sea of 80 different varieties as far as the eye can see.

"We're the only commercial orchid grower left in the UK now," said Managing Director Andy Burton.

"Other orchid growers have closed or have changed to growing other crops the last few years as the costs have gone up. Luckily we are on a big enough scale that we can be efficient and compete with orchids from Holland. "

Orchid glashouse Credit: ITV Meridian

Orchids originate from the South East Asian rainforest where they grow on the bark of trees - replicating those conditions in New Milton means plants begin life in humid glasshouses heated to 30 degrees.

They spend six months in this "Hot Zone" before being moved to a different area where the temperature is ten degrees colder. The move to cooler conditions shocks the plants into thinking that they are going to die and that makes them flower 20 weeks later.

Tens of thousands of plants are shifted around the orchid farm in one go in huge "road train" style trays.

Once they are ready, every orchid is staked and graded for quality by hand - staff have to get through more than 7,000 a day as Mother's Day approaches. A conveyor belt system - like that in some sushi restaurants - delivers pots to graders.

While orchids have a reputation for being difficult plants to grow, experts at the Double H nursery say they actually thrive on neglect.

They say the most important thing to do is avoid overwatering orchids as it makes the roots rot. Orchids grow in bark rather than soil.

Breeders like Mark Riley are constantly working on new designs for plants that will end up in all the major supermarkets.

"It takes anything up to eight years to go from an original cross from a parent to a variety that would be available commercially," he said.

"We are constantly working on new things like different colour combinations or a completely new form of flower like ones that might have a big lip."

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