Gardening editor Ruth Hayes has been overwhelmed by the passionate response of AG readers
Wow! We really seemed to tap into the mood of the nation’s gardeners when we Tweeted and blogged about the effects of garden centre closures. Thank you to everyone who wrote in to us or responded via Twitter.
We received a phenomenal number of replies, too many to reply to individually, which proves just how important gardening is to national spirits and morale at this unprecedented and difficult time.
The story that broke on the morning of March 31 was about the fate of the nation’s garden centres and plants. As they are not considered ‘essential’ they have closed their doors for the duration of the lockdown at a time of year that is critical for their survival as everyone gets back into their gardens after winter.
This means that up to £1 billion could be wiped off the country’s economy, with millions of plants – especially one-season bedding varieties – being sent to landfill if they can’t be sold or given away.
Many of our correspondents wrote in with ideas for using the plants and getting them out to the public as well as to hospitals, hospices and care homes. Others suggested giving them to groups of ‘guerrilla gardeners’, who go out under cover of the night and plant up public areas by stealth.
Tracey Hannah wrote to suggest: “Drop off clusters of plants, into high density residential streets, for people to help themselves and plant in the bases of the trees in their streets. Accompany with viral marketing. If there’s no uptake-councils could collect on refuse day.”
Becky Walsh, who works for the local authority in Weston Super Mare, suggested dropping the plants at council depots so the ground force staff could plants them up around towns where they are still working. This was echoed by Val Brown who says we all need to see natural beauty in ‘this testing time’.
Jocelyn King, from Devon, is a bird watcher and photographer who records species online for County recorders. She wrote: “My garden is keeping me sane at the moment.
“Garden centres should be able to open in the same way as supermarkets with 2m distancing, staff patrolling and perhaps a time limit to keep people moving. I have a fairly new house and am trying to build a wildlife garden, as is a close friend. We are building ponds and desperately need plants to attract insects for birds, which are going to need them soon.
“We are amidst a wildlife crisis and locally have lost many birds and bats from our small woodland in just 18 months due to the amount of new build in the area. They need our gardens now!”
Steven Lee wrote in to say: “Give plants away like food parcels people will remember kindness and where they got them from. Even commando style gardening when you go out with night and plant plants.
“Try and set up memorial gardens for the people who lost their lives due to coronavirus. Ask people to adopt certain trees bushes plants knowing they’re going to go to a good home. Buy good British plants from good British producers.”
Lyn Ferguson suggested that garden centres could open to locals who could call ahead, order and pay for plants then drive over to pick them up on a ‘click and collect’ basis.
Several people also wondered whether garden centres to operate ‘pot luck’ schemes, where gardeners pay a set sum for a tray of mixed plants. Michelle Russell feels this would be especially good for families with children at home as hey can teach the young ones about growing and nurturing their plants.
Christine Barradell and Julie parker also had the idea of selling them in supermarket carparks along the queuing area so that people could put them in their baskets. Money raised should go to the NHS, she suggested.
The Twitter response was also overwhelming and packed with ingenious ideas.
The idea of donating plants to hospitals, care homes and the homes of the vulnerable and isolated where they could be planted up (following social distancing guidelines) is popular, as is using local nurseries that are still taking orders and making home deliveries.
RHS gold medal winners @Greygardeners suggested people ‘sponsor’ garden centres to care for their plants until they can be collected and taken home.
@zapproyce suggested that garden centres could drive round their neighbourhood selling plants door to door from a flatbed truck.
Also raised was the question ‘should garden centres join the ranks of ‘essential’ shops’ while following the Coronavirus social distancing measures, or would that just be putting staff and customers at risk? What do you think?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
You can find us at:
And while you’re there, give someone you know or love a call. They might be feeling low and lonely and hearing from you will make their day. Happy gardening!