AN ORCHID grower which rapidly set up an online shop after demand from the supermarkets plummeted has saved 50,000 plants from the compost heap.

New Forest-based Double H Nurseries – the UK’s largest grower of orchids for supermarkets – took barely a week to set up an e-commerce store.

It promoted the store,, with front page ads in the Daily Echo.

Within a month, it sold 50,000 plants which would otherwise have gone to waste.

Andy Burton, operations manager at the New Milton company, said: “It’s allowed us to keep more people working and furlough fewer people.

“I think it’s good for the staff to see we’re doing something. We’re not just sitting back and potentially going out of business. We’re trying to do as much as we can to keep the business going.”

Double H employs around 190 people and the online success has meant it could keep the majority off furlough.

Its glasshouses cover seven hectares and it is a stalwart of the Chelsea Flower Show.

The online sales started small, with 15 boxes sold on the first day. “We took the boxes down to the corner shop for courier collection. We thought this would be fine until things picked up a bit,” said Mr Burton.

But after an advertisement and news story appeared in the Echo at Easter, sales rapidly increased to 400 boxes.

“We had a really strong message from customers wanting to support a local business, which was really nice,” said Mr Burton.

The company, which normally dispatches 30,000 orchids a week to supermarkets, expects to continue online sales.

“Our demand from supermarkets is still only around 60-65 per cent of what it should be at this time of year,” said Mr Burton.

He said the orchid deliveries had not been priced to make a profit but had brought in cash and stopped plants going to waste.

“The direct link to the customer and the feedback we’ve had has been amazing,” he said.

“It’s really motivated us to keep going and we now see online as definitely being part of the business in some shape or form for the long term.”