Necessity is the mother of invention and in the midst of the current coronavirus lockdown horticultural businesses are having to adapt to survive. With public opening a no-no for the time being, garden gates around the country are closed and even Britain’s most venerable horticultural event, the Chelsea Flower Show, is heading online.
With restrictions on movement and association, the nation is turning to its gardens for solace – the RHS reports that its website’s advice pages have had 12m views since the lockdown began on 23 March.
Garden centres have had to close to the public at exactly the time of year when gardeners are eager to restock their borders with tempting new plants and nurseries with online sales capacity have been kept busy keeping up with demand. Seed sales too have rocketed as gardeners go back to first principles – Suttons Seeds reported a 25 fold increase in sales of seeds as as well as plants, while JustSeed saw demand for their seed quadruple ‘overnight’.
But what of smaller traditional nurseries? One such business in Somerset – the Margery Fish Nursery at East Lambrook Manor – has risen to the challenge by offering a ‘drive-in’ service, as well as taking orders by email and phone, to keep up with pent-up demand.
Although the gardens of the manor – renowned as the birthplace of modern cottage gardening – have been closed since 24 March, the nursery is ‘going from strength to strength’ reports owner Mike Werkmeister, with customers particularly eager to buy plants in flower for instant impact in their gardens. A full plant list is available from the website but Mike says such is demand he’s been putting out ex-catalogue specimens on the sales bench – these are plants that the nursery doesn’t carry large stocks of, and which hence represent a great opportunity to pick up something that’s a bit out of the ordinary. And what gardener doesn’t like to display a little connoisseurial kudos in their borders?
With a plant list of cottage gardens favourites that range from Acanthus mollis to Zantedeschia ‘Crowborough’ via any number of the hardy geraniums that Mrs Fish – the originator of East Lambrook Manor Gardens – was famous for, this is a drive-in nursery that’s keeping local gardeners safely supplied – a morale-boosting initiative that’s much appreciated by Somerset’s plantaholics.