Gardening celebrity Alan Titchmarsh has joined calls for the government to help garden centres as the coronavirus lockdown threatens their future.
With seasonal plants worth £200 million facing destruction as they cannot be sold, the trade body the HTA (Horticultural Trades Association) has claimed that many businesses which have invested all their assets in seasonal sock will not survive the shutdown. As plants outgrow their bedding and have to be repotted, garden centres currently on lockdown will face the difficult prospect of having to destroy unsellable stock. An HTA spokesman said that the scale of the problem is such that no other method of selling the stock is likely to be helpful.
At what is normally the busiest time of year for garden centres, with Easter and the May Bank Holiday coming, the HTA says that the 650 businesses across the UK producing ornamental crops, which contribute £1.4 billion to the economy each year and employ more than 15,000 people directly and almost 30,000 indirectly, are at imminent threat of closure.
Speaking on BBC Radio’s Today programme, celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh warned of “irreparable damage” to gardens and open spaces if the sector is not supported, and backed a call from the HTA for Government to support the ornamental crop sector, which grows bulbs, bedding plants, cut flowers and pot plants for garden centres, supermarkets, florists and DIY stores.
The HTA suggests that the value of lost plant sales in the UK will be £687 million by the end of June.
Alan Titchmarsh said: “Hundreds of nursery owners and growers are facing huge losses of plants and revenue simply because the stock they have spent many months nurturing for the spring market – their peak season – will have to be destroyed since garden centres and other outlets are closed for business.
“This means not only a loss of billions of pounds to the UK economy and of thousands of jobs but, more than this, it will decimate an industry that will be unable to recover for the foreseeable future.
“I urge the Government to put in place a rescue package which will enable British horticulture to survive.
“Without it, our gardens and open spaces – a vital source of solace and nutrition to those at home – will suffer irreparable damage.”