Britain’s garden centres had a bumper Easter and May bank holiday – with sales soaring by up to 80 per cent on last year.

Retailers reported strong plant sales (copyright IPC)

Despite the economic gloom, and a ban on Easter Sunday trading, retailers smashed records as gardeners queued at the tills.

The Horticultural Trades Association described the May bank holiday weekend as “phenomenal”. Sales of National Garden Gift Vouchers broke records – up by 160 per cent on last year.

Managing director of Squires Garden Centres, Dennis Espley, said sales were up by 77 per cent over the Easter bank holiday weekend and by 30 per cent over the May bank holiday, compared to 2010.

Dennis told AG: “We are delighted. It was down to the weather, and a good forecast. People could see that we were in for good weather.”

Squires chiefs said 25 per cent of sales comprised garden furniture and barbecues (it would normally be 15 per cent) while gardeners flocked to buy compost and bedding.

Dennis added: “Grow-your-own was popular. People who have grown more confident with tomatoes and peppers are experimenting with more unusual veg such as beetroot, celeriac and butternut squash.”

At Brookside Garden Centre in Tonbrdge, Kent, Simon Shead said: “Sales over the May Day weekend broke all previous records. We are 76 per cent up on last year. Easter was good for garden furniture and barbecues, but May Day was all about plants.”

South coast chain Haskins reported “tremendous” demand. Haskins’ Philip Evason said herbaceous plants, roses and climbers were being snapped up. Sales of hanging baskets and outdoor containers jumped by 35 per cent.

Editor of trade magazine Garden Retail, Matthew Appleby, said: “Garden centres have been breaking records. They had a dream combination of four bank holidays, plus warm, dry weather following a cold winter that killed plants that now need replacing.

“Garden retailers have seen sales rise by up to 80 per cent because more Brits are staying at home rather than heading on holiday, due to the economy,” Matthew added.