If the recent warm spell has left you yearning for a glass of rosé or pint of something cold in your local, well, you’ve still got a wait on your hands. Pubs and bars have been closed since March 20 and aren’t due to reopen until July. But lockdown has not been a time of abstinence: sales of booze rose 31.4 per cent according to the Office for National Statistics, largely thanks to the new army of home workers using a stiff drink as a marker between business and pleasure, as well as frazzled parents dealing with days full of home-schooling, often with jobs on top. Thanks to a run of good weather, and in lieu of a swift half in a beer garden, many of us are creating home bars in our back gardens – away from the mess of our day lives. Searches for “outside bar ideas” have risen over the past few weeks on Google, while John Lewis reports an 87 per cent increase in sales of its outdoor bar products, and Instagram and Pinterest are showing increased posts from people building their own DIY bars; some committed types have even built sheds with fully functioning beer taps, such is their need for a pub-pulled pint. Last week, Mark Ramon Walker posted a video on social media of a bar and disco he built for his family in their garden in Cambridgeshire, with him acting as doorman as his three young children go to Walker’s Club; while Paul Nowak showed off pictures of a full-sized pub he had built from old pallets and scrap wood in his back garden in Handsworth, South Yorkshire. Feeling inspired? The DIY blog Mano Mano has a useful tutorial on how to construct a drop-down wall bar from old pallets that costs £35 and takes around five hours to make. For the same rustic look, but minus the hard work, Rosie Keenan makes drop-down wall bars at her workshop in North Wales. She says her creations, which she sells for £86, have been a surprise and welcome hit since the start of lockdown. “It was a concern as I mainly do wedding items and I had lots of orders cancelled.
Experts have warned that Vespa velutina - the Asian hornet or yellow-legged hornet - an invasive species from Asia, could be a devastating threat to British honey bee colonies. The non-native predatory insect is thought to have been introduced to Europe after unknowingly being transported in cargo from China to France in 2004; since then, the expansion of the species has been relentless. Wildlife in France said: ‘Colonies have spread quickly through neighboring regions. In the initial stages, they follow rivers and other watercourses: in fact, a nest will never be found far from a source of water even if that is only a small pond.’ As of 2019, thousands of nests have been found across Spain including the north, as well as Belgium, Spain and Portugal. “In northern Spain, two Asian hornet nests were found a couple of hundred kilometres apart,” reports BBC chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt. “Within four years, there were more than 10,000 nests and each one is capable of devastating a honey bee colony.” In Galicia, northern Spain, it is reported that some bee colonies have had mortality rates of more than 50 per cent since the arrival of the Asian hornet, while the bees that survive the hornet attacks will significantly reduce honey production afterwards. “People tell you that they are seeing a lot fewer insects, and the wasp traps confirm this," explains Carlos Valcuende, member of the Confederation to Defend Bees on the Cantabrian Coast, to Sonia Vizoso of El País. "At first very few Asian hornets were getting caught, and a lot of other species. Now it’s the other way around.” This isn’t just an issue for Europe. The Channel Islands continue to battle against an invasion from Asian hornet colonies. In June 2019, more than 80 queen hornets were spotted in Jersey, while sightings in Guernsey continue to increase. A rising number of nests in Alderney and Sark have also been reported over the past five years. In the UK, sightings of Asian hornets are becoming more common; the latest was confirmed near Christchurch, Dorset on October 1, 2019, and two nests were subsequently destroyed. Public sightings have also been reported in Staffordshire and Hampshire. Since 2018, there have been more than 14 confirmed nest sightings. British beekeepers are determined to learn from what they’ve witnessed in Europe, urging the nation to educate themselves on Asian hornets: particularly, how to spot them and how to report a sighting. “They’re fantastically successful invaders,” Lynne Ingram, master beekeeper, told the BBC. “Honey colonies are like a supermarket for Asian hornets.” Hornets will raid honeybee hives by sitting outside them and capturing workers as they go in and out, dismembering them and feeding the thorax to their young.
Gardens and parks, including those managed by the National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society and English Heritage, could open as soon as the weekend of June 6 and 7 after the Government issued unexpected advice last Friday, which means attractions can reopen following more than two months of being closed during the coronavirus crisis. George Plumptre, chief executive of the National Garden Scheme (NGS), noted how the announcement last week almost went unnoticed: “A quietly posted update on the Defra website set out an alteration to the government advice and clarified that it is now permissible to open gardens to visitors, in a controlled manner which maintains social distancing and other guidelines.” All fee-paying gardens, such as Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, RHS Wisley, Rosemoor, Hyde Hall and Harlow Carr, and all English Heritage, Historic Houses Association (HHA) and National Trust sites locked their gates in the last week of March when the lockdown was first announced. To reopen, gardens staff have to be unfurloughed and safety measures put in place. Entry will be ticketed to keep numbers manageable and entrances and exits may have to be changed to ensure social distancing. Cafes will remain shut, while toilets will have a one-in, one-out queuing policy and will close for regular cleaning. Outdoor plant retail centres at RHS sites such as Wisley have already reopened. For some organisations, such as the NGS and HHA, the number of open gardens will depend on the willingness of individual property owners to welcome back visitors, with all the new social distancing and safety concerns involved. The new Government guidance, issued on May 22, states that people can “visit gardens and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors, although buildings and amenities such as cafes will remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing. You should check ahead and follow social distancing guidelines”.
In a normal year, the last weekend in May marks the beginning of a seven-week period of intense activity for the National Garden Scheme (NGS), lasting until the second weekend in July, after which the school holidays begin. More than 2,000 gardens – over 50 per cent of the annual total – were due to open during this period in 2020, the great majority on the seven Sundays. Without disastrously bad weather, they would have raised in the region of £2 million. When I first drafted this article we were still in a position of total closure. Last weekend that changed; a quietly posted update on the DEFRA website set out an alteration to the government advice and clarified that it is now permissible to open gardens to visitors in a controlled manner which maintains social distancing and other guidelines. For those gardens owned and managed institutionally, by organisations such as the National Trust, the RHS and the Royal Botanic Garden Kew, the path to reopening is relatively simple; they own the properties so a strategic decision can be taken to reopen. They are limited only by the need to reboot on-the-ground operations at their various properties and by ongoing government restrictions, as well as a moral need to respect the sensibilities of their employees and volunteers. The National Garden Scheme is in a rather different situation because the sensibilities of our garden owners will, quite rightly, dictate the pace at which properties begin to reopen. Our unique quality is the fact that NGS gardens are the private domains of ordinary folk, inviting visitors in to share their delights for purely altruistic and charitable purposes. These openings are not commercial events. The decision to open is entirely voluntary and at the discretion of individual garden owners. Ironically, our model is ideally suited to the challenges of exiting the lockdown; welcoming modest numbers of people to attend a variety of garden venues across a broad number of locations, in order to raise funds for the nursing charities we support. We know from our research that the majority of our supporters visit very locally with a journey of less than 20 miles. This accords with current concerns about journey times and traffic volumes, especially in rural locations. Many of them visit specifically to support a fundraising event for their local community, always a fundamental feature of the National Garden Scheme. We know that not all gardens will be able to open, for a mixture of practical and personal reasons. But for those that can we have a system in place whereby visitors will pre-book and pay for on our website, a ticket for a timed slot in the garden of their choice. Each garden is providing us with details of how many visitors they can safely accommodate at one time, so as to observe social distancing and these details will dictate the availability to visitors.
As we continue to adapt to life under lockdown, many people are finding it a good opportunity to grow their own vegetables. If you've not done it before and find it rather daunting, the good news is that it's easier than you think. The
For some of us, dreaming up garden schemes, scouring plant lists and creating mood boards is all part of the creativity of gardening. For others, the endless choice and myriad combinations can create chaos and confusion. And yet our amazing specialist growers, designers and nursery owners instinctively know how to create harmony, interest and beauty in a border and many of them provide design services too – many of which are free or redeemable against the cost of their plants. Thanks to Virtual Chelsea, the small-screen approach to RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020, there has never been more reasons to start planning and crafting your dream garden, especially when some design subscriptions and services have award-winning designers behind the wheels. If you are short on time, overwhelmed by the options, or confused about particular conditions then it’s often not only a joy to outsource the planning to someone else, it’s often more cost efficient too. Jo Thompson Colour My Garden Service: A subscription service of bulbs with bespoke schemes designed by a multi award-winning garden designer
Losing control of the weeds on my allotment was a gradual process, strongly linked to creeping acceleration in my working life. By 2016, garden tours and research trips littered the pages of my diary from March to October, while far-flung speaking engagements cropped up almost all year round. On my plot, the weeds accelerated too, including virtually inoperable bindweed among the roses, brambles and rampant alien raspberry canes. By 2019, things had reached a tipping point and my motivation hit rock bottom. In April, I had a quick grapple with the worst of everything, pruned my picking roses, planted potatoes and shallots and then turned my back on the lot, hoping I would get back in the autumn to reap whatever benefits I could. I didn’t – and in my mind, I gave up. The shame was huge. Despite the anxiety and sadness about the current horrors, for me lockdown (resulting in the cancellation of all tours and talks) has focused the mind – for so many gardeners, the simple uncomplicated pleasure of just being safe in our own much beloved, peaceful spaces is what enables us to tick. But personally, there is only so much border-tweaking, precision-pruning and general hosta-polishing I can sanely do. So, encouraged by a friend, I returned to the Allotment of Horrors and am now flat out restoring order, safe in the knowledge that this season, like no other, I will be able to see things through. At the same time, I am adjusting my future expectations. Here are some thoughts to share. 1. Weeds Tough weeds (brambles, rogue raspberries, bindweed) were dug out, and the soil thoroughly turned over, burying as many annual weed seeds as deeply as possible. Soil in the crumbling raised beds was covered either very temporarily with weed-controlling, rain permeable Mypex or, for the longer term, all-smothering black plastic. In due course, re-emerging bindweed will get a lick or two of Roundup Gel. 2. Infrastructure Smaller gravel-board raised beds will gradually replace the crumbly ones. I will avoid using second-hand scaffolding boards (which rot too quickly). Soil within will be improved with compost and bagged manure before I plant anything. 3. What to grow I will only grow veg I really like, those that will, to an extent, wait for me. Spuds are the best and most rewarding of crops and, along with onions and shallots, store well. Just two plants of purple sprouting broccoli will be given protection from pigeons from day one. 4. Seeds Fussing over rows of seedlings is, for me, a grovel too far. I will absolutely not be “letting the side down” by buying a few ready-grown veg plantlets. I have already sown beans in cells in my tiny greenhouse. 5. Finally, flowers I will always stick with my gorgeous roses (sentimentally). But anything that needs a daily commitment (for example, sweet peas) won’t get a look in. Tall cosmos, even germinated late (and cane-supported in exposed sites), will flower until the frosts. A quince mystery
It takes a lot to cancel the world’s greatest flower show. Since its debut in 1862, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has only been called off twice – for the first time during the final two years of the First World War, and then for seven years during the Second. This year, the decision wasn’t made until designers and contractors were about to roll on to Main Avenue. Eight weeks after the Government banned mass social gatherings in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus, we still don’t know when they will return. But for Sue Biggs, director general of the RHS, and the hundreds of nurseries, designers, contractors, plantspeople and gardeners involved in Chelsea, the “sad but inevitable and responsible” conclusion was that none of this year’s flower shows, from April to June, would be going ahead. Smack in the middle of that calendar glinted Chelsea. Monty Don, who hosts the BBC’s extensive coverage of the show, broke the news to his 400,000 Twitter followers: “heartbreaking for all those who have already worked so hard”. When one replied within minutes, asking if there could be an “online version”, Don was definite: “No.” Seems that Don was wrong: on May 1 Virtual Chelsea was unveiled – and Don himself appeared on the BBC’s The One Show to tell the nation that photographs of their own gardens could be judged to RHS standards as part of the newly digital flower show. Up and down the country, designers, press officers and show organisers hurriedly took to Zoom to arrange a simulacrum of horticulture’s annual highlight, one that would be surreally crowd-free, as we beam, instead, into gardens, nurseries and deserted public green spaces to celebrate plants. Before the imminent future, the recent past. Design duo Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg were at Crocus, picking out the trees for their M&G; Main Avenue show garden, when news of the cancellation broke. “I was like, what are we going to do?” says Bugg. Harris suggested, in lieu of having anything else to do, that they finish setting out the trees for a garden that wouldn’t be planted. “We couldn’t go to the park,” she says, “so we just hung out being a bit miserable. I’m not too proud to say I had a little cry.”
Snaking its way round the car park, spaced 2 metres apart, a queue of more than 100 customers has been waiting outside Newbank Garden Centre in Radcliffe at 9am on Wednesday morning for over an hour. It’s been seven weeks since the centre closed its doors, and local gardeners are keen to step inside. Staff were ready, equipped with disinfectant and plastic visors, while customers waited patiently for the one-in-one-out policy to allow them in. They chatted about dahlias, begonias and tomato plants. "It took 10 minutes for me to get in,” one shopper told Manchester Evening News. “There were about 100 people in the queue waiting to get in this morning. Outside you have your trolley sprayed to wipe it clean, and then it's a one-way system.” This is the new normal. On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that as of Wednesday May 13, the public will be able to visit garden centres if social distancing measures are in place. Garden centres are taking the measures very seriously. Webbs Garden Centre in Wychbold has teamed up with DBpixelhouse, an Audio Visual (AV) and IT rental service, to trial a new footfall retailing tool to manage customers coming in and out of the store, while many centres across the UK are implementing one-way systems and strict social distancing measures. Garden centre restaurants and cafes are to remain closed in accordance with government guidelines. There is a shift in focus, too. Customers, while no doubt enjoying the thrill of wandering the aisles again, are bee-lining for certain products. “Despite many of our customers being over the moon to be back in the centre, there is a specific focus now,” says Jo Nicholson, marketing manager at Webbs Garden Centres. “Bedding plants are coming into a league of their own at the moment, as well as colourful shrubs and furniture.” This sentiment is echoed in Bagshot, where general manager Katrina Mann of Longacres Garden Centres says bedding plants, including cosmos, begonia, lobelia, geraniums, sweet peas and fuchsia, are flying off shelves. “It’s been exceptionally busy,” she says. “Customers are very keen to get in and buy everlasting shrubs and bedding plants.” Hydrangea, with its gorgeously showy blooms, is a popular choice in store for bedding due to its tolerance of acid or alkaline soils; some hydrangea flower blue when planted in acid soil, while others planted in alkaline soil might flower pink. “We’ve also seen an increase of interest in grow-your-own vegetables like tomatoes, chillies and cut-and-come-again salad leaves.” Ian Lemmond, general manager of Whitakers Garden Centre in Prescot, said: “It’s been steady and we’ve had to restrict the amount of customers coming into the store. Everyone is so happy to be back. Of course, this time of year means that summer bedding plants and hanging basket flowers - sunset-coloured surfina, lobelia and petunia - are doing well.” This isn’t all of Whitakers stock, though, Lemmond tells me. Nurseries have been hit hard by the lockdown, with many reporting the risk of thousands of plants being binned. “It’s been incredibly tough for nurseries, especially local ones, to get back on their feet after the past new months,” he says. “We missed the spring bank holiday and peak buying period that generates a lot of income for us and our growers.” He is hopeful that as time progresses stock will start to flow regularly. “I’d recommend going for heuchera, a genus of evergreen perennial plant, as they come in great colours.” Compost has been selling well, according to Lindsay Hurst, manager of Bents Garden and Home in Warrington. “We’re only allowing 150 people in the centre at a time and it’s a one-in-one-out policy,” she says. “Compost and mulch has been bought up quickly.” The centre sells aquatic compost, multi-purpose and bulb-planting compost. “It’s been difficult to get hold of multi-purpose compost during lockdown.” Graeme Jenkins, CEO for Dobbies Garden Centres, the UK’s leading garden centre retailer, said: “Following a successful reopening of our Swansea store, it has also been a positive start to opening our 54 stores across England. Customers have been looking for plants, compost and other gardening products, as they are keen to spend time in their gardens this May.” “It has been a really great start to reopening,” says Mat Muscat, general manager of Dobbies Havant. “We have had compliments from customers about how well things have been managed and on how the store looks. The social distancing measures that we have put in place have been welcomed by customers. Plants and compost have been selling really well, rhododendrons in particular, as they are about to burst into flower.” Similarly, Oli Neave, horticulture manager for Dobbies Cadnam, says that vegetables have been selling well. “We have had positive feedback from customers and good interaction between them and team members around being open again. Plants and compost have been selling well, with lots of appetite for fresh bedding plants and vegetables.” Down in the south, Rob Brooks, general manager of Otter Nurseries in Taunton, notes a focus on after-pack bedding. “It’s been controlled and we’ve taken the best approach and limited numbers into the store but customers know what they’re coming in for. “Geraniums and French marigolds are popular, as well as fertiliser and compost. While we’ve been in lockdown, keen gardeners haven’t been able to get hold of mulch so there is plenty of that being sold. Seasonal products like summer bulbs are going well, too.” Best-selling plants to pick up this May Bedding plants
Like many others during lockdown, for me, gardening has been a mental salve. From sowing seeds and lavishing them with utter devotion to buying plug plants online and putting in phone orders with my local garden centre, who have heroically still been delivering, it has been a powerful tonic. Plantswoman Kitten Grayson agrees: “Getting your hands in the soil is so meditative; everything else drops away,” she says. “Growing things is a very empowering act; you start a connection and friendship with the plants that you care for.” What many of us have missed is the thrill of filling up a trolley in person at a real-world garden centre. Last summer I had a giddy supermarket-sweep flurry around the Beth Chatto nursery in Essex, filling my basket with salvia, verbena and Stachys byzantina (lamb's ears) that are springing up again now, to my enormous delight. But since the start of lockdown, garden centres around the country have been closed, with devastating effect on many businesses who had already bought their stock (Grayson has also worried about the English growers once nurseries closed down, so started a cut flower service to support them). Now, after heavy campaigning by various gardening bodies, many have reopened. Which, considering that 45 per cent of Britons say they have used gardening as a way to cope with lockdown – more than baking or reading – will do wonders for the nation’s mental health. Willow Crossley came to gardening after experiencing debilitating post-natal depression, which she documents in her recent book, The Wild Journal, A year of nurturing yourself through nature. She says that she has used her garden in Oxfordshire as a way to ease her mind throughout lockdown. “I have found gardening to be the most peaceful, calming thing,” she says. “It’s just so magical.”
As a child in the 1970s, when a typical Sunday lasted around eight hundred years, a great highlight to break the tedium between breakfast, hasty homework and bed, was a trip to the garden centre. Then, aside from churches and ruins and the local military museum, it was one of the few places open. When my mother couldn’t stand being confined to the house a minute longer, she would load us into the car and off we would go. The small, slightly shabby local nursery, with its glasshouses and seed trays, hessian-sacked shrubs and bags of compost, represented more than gardening to me, but freedom. It is this sense of escape carried on the spicy green scent of pelargonium leaves that made me fall in love with gardening. And it also gave me a sense of power. From the moment I was given a handkerchief-sized square of the garden and my first packets of seeds (carrots, radishes and marigolds), it felt like a miracle to me that these tiny specks of dirt could turn into something so recognisably, solidly beautiful if I just took care of them. That is a mighty life lesson for a five-year-old. To this day, the nearest garden centre – or stately with a plant shop attached – is still one of the first things I look up when I visit a new place. A couple of years ago, an outdoorsy relative was visibly horrified to learn that I had come all the way to the Lake District but would prefer an afternoon mooching around the local garden centre to heffing up a mountain in the rain. Garden centres are just enough outside for me. And I have so missed them. It is with enormous green-fingered glee that I greet the reopening of gardening centres this week. Like so many other plantaholics, I have been getting up early (okay, the crack of nine) to book prime delivery slots with favourite nurseries. Many of them are only taking a limited number of orders a day, so bagging one elevates my mood. I have swapped notes with other keen gardeners on who still has plants for sale and while it has had a certain treasure hunt quality to it, I long to get a scrupulously-disinfected trolley handle between my hands again and weave my way around my local garden centre; beauty with a chance of retail is my favourite mood.
Last month, on what would have been my mum’s 70th birthday, I wandered out to my garden with my morning cup of tea to find a scattering of yellow poppies, just opening up. After my mum died in May 2018, my brother moved abroad for work. When I began clearing her house, I asked him which of her belongings he wanted; her jewellery, her favourite armchair? “Try and get the yellow poppies,” he said, referring to her favourite flower that went all the way back to our first childhood home. My mum, a keep and brilliant gardener, had carefully removed and re-planted the poppies with each house move, and they flowered every April on her birthday. After her death, my Auntie Jenny (not my actual aunt, but my mum’s best friend) helped me carefully remove the roots from Mum’s beautiful cottage garden and re-plant them in my own, rather neglected one. Pre-lockdown, my garden felt like just another chore. Like most young families, it was filled with a trampoline and discarded skipping ropes. Flowers occasionally bloomed in the beds, but only ones planted by the previous owners.
Pippa Greenwood, BBC Gardeners’ Question Time panellist 1. African Daisies While looking around for new summer bedding plants the other day, I fell in love…with an osteospermum called Purple Sun. It’s particularly stunning, and looks like a photoshopped version of a tequila sunrise. I imagine they will glow in the dusk, so I’ll treat myself to a few of those.
For a nation that has had to spend much of the springtime indoors, there is little more appealing than a warm summer afternoon relaxing on a sun lounger. Where better to soak up the rays (and kick off our tans) than the comfort of our own gardens? If the idea of summer days spent lounging around, getting through your lockdown book purchases and sipping on an Aperol Spritz sounds appealing, look no further. Your perfect garden oasis could be just a stone's throw away. We’ve searched high and low to find the best sun loungers available now. 1.Argos Home Metal Set of 2 Sun Lounger Chairs £55, Argos
For weeks, Britons have adjusted to the new 'normal' of self-isolation during the coronavirus lockdown. Cooped up indoors, it's no wonder that many households have turned to the shed, digging up dusty old mowers, secateurs and sheers to tend to our gardens. Thousands of us have spent more time in our gardens over the past two months than we can remember, so it seemed a particularly cruel blow when garden centres nationwide were forced to close on March 23, meaning that getting hold of seeds, plants and garden equipment was extremely difficult. No wonder many in the industry have been calling, for weeks, for the reopening of garden centres. Gardening broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh and Gardeners' World presenter Monty Don have been pushing the issue hard. "I can see no reason why garden centres should not trade in plants, provided they observe the same social distancing precautions as supermarkets, especially since most of their stock will be outdoors," said Titchmarsh earlier this month. Finally, after weeks of uncertainty, and with Britain moving to a slightly less restrictive phase of lockdown, garden centres in England were able to reopen from Wednesday May 13, provided social distancing measures are observed. The mass reopening was confirmed by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), who pointed out that it won't quite be business as usual. "It is essential that all businesses carry out a full risk assessment of their entire premises before any reopening takes place," they said. "Cafes /restaurants should remain closed – no onsite food consumption. Play areas must remain closed and preferably locked or cordoned off. "Products to be sold to focus on plants; seeds; bulbs; composts /growing media; pots/ planters; garden hardware, pet foods and accessories; bird care; food products/cookware/giftware." Though Boris Johnson did not confirm the details in his speech to the nation on Sunday 10 May, the Wednesday reopening of garden centres was included in separate government guidelines made public the following day. The Welsh Government had already announced that garden centres could open from Monday May 11. Whether garden centres will reopen in Northern Ireland and Scotland is not yet clear. It cannot be disputed that this is exciting news for many thousands of Brits looking for a silver lining amid the lockdown gloom. Gardening is booming - and it's easy to see why. Offering respite from the relentless flow of depressing news, the plants in our garden lift our mood. So if you're looking for inspiration regarding where to go, we asked Telegraph Gardening writers to reveal their favourite garden centres nationwide. Sarah Raven Gardener, cook, writer and television presenter
It was in 1986 that Shane Connolly, author, star florist, with a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales, attended a Sunday lunch that would change his life forever. At the time, he was a university student on a one-year psychology placement. Fresh out of blustery Northern Ireland, with its sparse peppering of flower shops, he found himself at a dinner table with Michael Goulding, an event florist, who alerted Connolly to the exciting floral display he was making at the Lloyd's building in London to honour the Queen. “Any man on a galloping horse would’ve known that psychology was not for me,” Shane tells me on the phone. “But back then, educational advisors expected young men to pursue a career in mathematics or science if they had a pickle of a brain.” Shane offered to help on the project; he lifted, cut, cleared and swept. “It was a lightbulb moment for me and I told Michael that I wanted to pursue it as a career.” Goulding was shocked. “He couldn’t believe that I wanted to go into floristry when I had a degree.” But Connolly was not dissuaded, going on to secure a placement with society florists Pulbrook & Gould on Sloane Street and, after a few years, turning freelance and working for many others. In 1989, Shane Connolly & Company was set up. “It’s like it was meant to be,” he says. A few weeks prior to our phone call, he had been digging through some old files and came across a four-chapter book named How to Garden. “God, wasn’t I pretentious,” he says with a laugh. “I wrote the thing when I was eight, having learnt everything I needed to know from In Your Greenhouse by Percy Thrower.” The book was the result of many happy summers spent in his greenhouse, a present from his parents. “I developed a love of flowers through my time in the garden; digging in the earth, potting plants and watching them grow was, and still is, highly cathartic for me.” Like many career-change stories, there is an extraordinary amount of happenstance, being in the right place at the right time. “I’m lucky to have gotten into floristry the way I did, through my love of the garden.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that Connolly is the ambassador for Garden Day 2020, the UK’s largest ever virtual gardening celebration, this weekend. “For me, it ticks every box, as did the RHS National Gardening Week.”