An Auckland couple has made a tree change and bought the Whangārei retail, wholesale and landscape gardening business Alter-Natives Nursery and Landscaping.

A week after taking over the business from its founder Ian Fox, Phil Grindle said that although he'd moved into the business in body, his mind has yet to catch up.

Nor had his family caught up when we spoke - they plan to follow him north from Auckland soon. Coming to their new town could seem like something of a homecoming, as Grindle's own parents and his brother already live in Whangārei.

He joked that he was ''pretty green at gardening'' having come from a film and television background, although ''my wife and I are mad keen Kiwis who love the great outdoors, and we've done our own home DIY forever.''

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The self-proclaimed hobby gardener said he was confident the knowledgeable staff and the previous owners' well-set-up systems would help ease the transition. There are 13 people employed there.

Alter-Natives has 600 species for sale in a retail section that is only a quarter of the size of the total ground area. Much of the rest of the property in Kioreroa Rd is the growing-on and ''weathering'' block.

Plant propagation is not a speciality of the business and native plants, for instance, are supplied by several Northland growers, but the company still keeps a finger in many pies, Grindle said.

As well as selling to the public, Alter-Natives supplies bulk plants for regeneration and restoration projects, subdivision planting and other commercial-scale gardening.

Ian Fox first started growing the seedling of Alter-Natives in his back yard in Waipu 15 years ago, before moving into Port Rd near Te Matau A Pohe Bridge.

The business has been at its present location for five years.