Ruth Hayes talks to furloughed garden centre worker Joshua Johnson

Everyone wants to see the garden centres and nurseries back open, especially in the run-up to Easter, which is the most important time of the gardening year.

But translating this desire into a practical application isn’t without its problems, as is explained by industry insider and blogger Joshua Johnson.

Joshua is one of the thousands of horticultural industry employees who now find themselves ‘furloughed’, potentially long-term. He contacted us to point out that although it was wonderful to see so much public support for growers, many of the suggestions aren’t terribly practical.

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He points out that garden centres have to put the health and welfare of their customers and staff first and as many of the people coming through their doors are in their seventies, remaining open is not an option on health and safety grounds.

He also points out that giving away plants isn’t necessarily the right option.

Joshua said: “Many of the plants the growers will be talking about binning will not be ready for giving away. They will be tiny little seedlings that have weeks before they are ready to go out.

“Many of the plants will be tender plants that cannot just be placed outside the garden centre to be picked up. We are talking pelargoniums, cosmos, dahlias, petunias; plants that will not survive outside yet.

“On top of this, just placing plants outside the garden centre, as one person suggested, is going to cause people to travel unnecessarily. No one needs to see grannies fighting over petunias.”

Bedding plants, landfill, garden centre, closures, Coronavirus

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He added: “You’re not asking the pubs to just give their beer away, same applies to plants. No grower wants to dispose of plants they have lovingly cared for but they can’t persist growing plants that can’t be sold or distributed.

“I have tended to and planted on tens of thousands of plants just in the last month. I don’t want to see them die but I won’t expose people to risk for them.”

Joshua added that some plants will have already been passed on to care homes and hospices. He explained that the supply chain to the garden centres will eventually dry up as many plants come from Europe and once the flights and ferries stop, so will the plants.

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The bottom line, he says, is to stay safe and well, not endanger customers and hope the gardening industry weathers the storm. Once Coronavirus has faded, let’s all make sure we support our local growers, nurseries and garden centres.

Joshua said: “It’s a tough time for everyone but ultimately garden centres cannot justify opening right now unless they stock enough essential items.

“I would love to return to my job but it isn’t safe to right now. I hope you all stay safe and can enjoy the pleasure of a garden whatever state it is.”

You can follow Joshua on Twitter @Jobasha


We are here for you

Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.

Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at

We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello – we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello – the Instagram feed is in it’s really early days so the quicker we can get that going with your help and support, the better!

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