How Bryan Goodey of Southfields Nurseries in Morton became King of the cacti world
He’s been growing cacti since he was a child and after decades of growing and showing, Bryan Goodey of Morton has received top recognition in the industry.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has awarded Bryan an Associate of Honour (limited to 100 members) for distinguished service to horticulture in the course of his working life with cacti and developing hybrids.
In the awards ceremony earlier this month, Bryan was also awarded the Anthony Huxley Trophy for the best group exhibit of plants grown in a protected environment and also the Lawrence Medal awarded for the Best Exhibit shown to the society in 2018 - both awards stemming from their display at the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Bryan, who is in his 70s, discovered his passion for the prickly plants aged around six when his dad took him to the Lincolnshire Show and attracted by the spines, saw a plant he liked.
Bryan still has the original cactus his father bought him, a Ferocactus called Fred.
He began collecting more and after spending six months working for a nursery near his then home of Holton-Le-Clay, Bryan took up his dad’s advice and began working for himself.
Bryan and Linda married 42 years ago and they decided to specialise in growing cacti.
The couple had considered fuschias but cacti were more of a challenge.
In the mid-1990s, they moved to Morton, where they run Southfield Nurseries by the A15.
Their collection has grown to more than 800 varieties and they have created around 200 ‘hybrids’ themselves.
This has made ‘Cactusland’ the largest cactus nursery in the country, though in the Netherlands, the Dutch growers have large operations with several million plants for the wholesale market.
Creating such cross-breeds, Bryan said “increases the flowering ability and the colour range.”
“People get the myth cacti only flower every seven years but this isn’t so.”
The couple started creating the hybrids when after attending shows, the realised they needed to offer something different.
Shows are a major part of Southfield Nurseries with the couple receiving 30 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower at 30 appearances. In addition to Chelsea, the couple have also displayed at other shows including Hampton Court, Tatton Park in Cheshire, Gardeners World at the NEC, Harrogate Spring and Autumn Show and the Malvern Spring and Autumn Flower Show, further fuelling their medals tally.
Exhibiting means a busy time, with the couple spending 12 hours a day manning their displays. And then there is the time getting them ready, often several weeks, creating displays at home, before transferring them to the venue.
Bryan said: “People pay money to see the displays. We always do the best we can. For the spring displays, we can put plenty of colour on.”
And the days can be just as long when not at the show, especially during the summer, with the cacti needing to be watered, fed, re-potted and given tender love and care.
The couple grow the cacti from seed and do not import them from the wild. This, Bryan says, has been a major change in the industry, with it now so much harder to get new varieties.
Another change is that though the couple have made ‘a living’ over the decades, no longer can it be made from enthusiasts alone.
There is no longer enough enthusiasts, so you have to “sell to everybody.”
People also don’t have the spare time and the large gardens they once had, but cacti are easy to keep, they are ideal for conservatories, especially where they can soak up that summer sun and be left alone while their owners go away on holiday for a week or two.
Younger people are also more interested in cacti now, helped by cacti appearing on t-shirts and other products.
There is also the online sales, an increasingly important side of the business, which is handled daughter Eleanor, who also looks after customer service.
Sadly, Eleanor suffers from eczema on her hands, which prevents her from digging, which may stop her from taking over the business.
Bryan said: “We get a lot of customers saying we can’t retire as they they have no-where else to go. I believe we are the only full-time cactus growers in Lincolnshire. Customers go to garden centres and see the same varieties, but when they come here, they see we have so many different kinds.
“I’ll still do it while I enjoy doing it.”
Linda said: “It’s a labour of love.”
Whatever happens to the business, Linda says Brian’s work and his impact on the industry will live on, thanks in part to all the hybrids they have created.
Linda continued: “People have collected the cacti ever since we started. They have hundreds of plants at home.”
Bryan added: “We know we can’t send them all over the world, but they have reached all over the world.”