Coronavirus: Alan Titchmarsh tells of sadness as garden centres bin £200m of perishable plants

Alan Titchmarsh has described his sadness at the loss of thousands of plants. (Getty Images)
Alan Titchmarsh has described his sadness at the loss of thousands of plants. (Getty Images)

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Alan Titchmarsh has spoken of his sadness at the loss of the millions of plants and trees that could be binned in the coming weeks due to the coronavirus.

The closure of 2,000 garden centres and nurseries due to the COVID-19 pandemic comes at the worst possible moment for producers at the beginning of the peak March-to-July gardening season.

The perishability and seasonality of plants means that an estimated £200 million of seasonal plants will have to be scrapped.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Alan Titchmarsh described the “heartbreaking stories” of “an industry that is going to be brought to its knees.”

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"This three-month period, particularly between late March and beginning of June, is what [the industry] is all geared for,” he said.

“We know what we want to do as gardeners – cheer up our gardens, our live, improve our mental and physical health.

“Particularly during the coronavirus, we desperately need that kind of respite from this life that is not like any life we’ve ever known.

“And to be able to get out garden, grow things is a huge part of our physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

The TV presenter also spoke of his sadness that so many are going to be put out of business and the knock-on effect this will have on gardeners.

“Firms are going to go out of business because they can’t weather the debt which will make it harder for us as gardeners, because the supply won’t be there,” he said.

Garden centres are closed due to coronavirus. (Getty Images)
Garden centres are closed due to coronavirus. (Getty Images)

When asked about the proportion of stock that would be lost, Titchmarsh said many of the annual plants that are grown for this one season would have to be thrown away.

“There’s nothing that can be done for them if they can’t sell,” he explained. “They are useless, they will have outgrown their containers.

“Perennial plants will go as well as they won’t have the space, facility and time.”

Read more: Are frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables as good for you as fresh?

He also pointed out that now, more than ever, gardening is helping people’s mental wellbeing.

“We look outside our window see flowers plants trees landscape that’s continuity that’s what we’re working towards, that’s our responsibility, our duty of care to look after that green world.

“And these growers fuel that green world, for pollinators, insects, wildlife, these plants, which can’t get out there this summer make such an important contribution,” he explains.

Gardening is important for mental and physical wellbeing. (Getty Images)
Gardening is important for mental and physical wellbeing. (Getty Images)

James Barnes, who chairs the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), told the BBC's Today programme that the industry had “hit a perfect storm”.

“Growers will have spent the last three or four months building up supplies which they can't sell and all of this stock is perishable,” he said.

“If they can't sell it, it can't get to the end user, it can't get in the ground, then it has to be written off. They'll have to be literally thrown away.”

Read more: Garden tools for beginners: 10 essentials to kick-start your green-fingered journey

Mr Barnes said the HTA was trying to persuade the government to bring in a scrappage scheme for plants that would provide specific assistance to growers.

The HTA estimates that a minimum of a third of UK ornamental producers may fail in a matter of weeks, leading to a loss of around £250m in contribution to the UK economy annually.

Read more: Easiest ways to get children into gardening

Around 70% of bedding plant sales are made between March and the end of May.

Gardening not only provides the opportunity to grow your own produce but can also help contribute to positive physical and mental wellbeing.

The best places to buy plants online

Crocus | Shop here

Crocus offer a great range of bedding plants, from scented sweet peas to marigolds and begonias. The shop also sells a huge variety of bulbs, hanging plants and house plants.

You can receive a seed order for only £2, or purchase as much as you want and get a flat delivery fee of £5.99

Gardening Express | Shop here

Gardening Express has a huge selection of indoor and outdoor options for keen gardeners in its ‘Plant Catalogue’.

The company deliver to the UK and Northern Ireland, and while it is free delivery on all orders over £175, for a charge of £5.99 you can select standard delivery to arrive between three to five days.

Primrose | Shop here

From fruit and vegetable buys to pot plants, Primrose is another great option for those wanting to stock up on their spring favourites.

The company ships to mainland areas in the UK, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, although certain postcodes may incur additional charges.

Standard delivery costs £6.99, while next day delivery will see prices bump up to £9.99.

B&Q | Shop here

From hanging plants and primrose seeds to cacti and yucca, B&Q have a vast range of plants for your home and for the outdoors that won’t break the bank.

B&Q delivers to all mainland addresses in the UK, as well as the Isle of Man. However there is a fee of £5 for orders under £50 that are shipped next day or named day.