Garden centres help bring touch of colour to bleak mid-winter

While the Covid pandemic has had a devastating effect on much of the UK’s retail sector, garden centres have managed to survive better than most.

Bruce Screen, from Cypress Nursery, Rowley Regis
Bruce Screen, from Cypress Nursery, Rowley Regis

Apart from the first weeks of the initial lockdown they have been allowed to remain open as essential retailers, since the Government recognised the physical and mental health benefits to the population of spending time in their gardens.

With many people furloughed and finding themselves with little to do they set about stocking up on plants, flowers, weedkiller and fence paint eager to enhance their own oasis away from the stresses of the pandemic.

Bruce Screen, proprietor of Cypress Nursery in Powke Lane, Rowley Regis, said: “Activities such as crafting and knitting have become more popular during lockdown and the other thing many people have is their gardens which they may have not bothered with so much before.

“They have been getting out into their gardens making them look nice and keeping garden centres open has enabled them to get the products they need.” Mr Screen, aged 74, believes there are numerous benefits to this kind of activity.

He said: “Gardening is good for people’s physical and mental health. It activates all your muscles and it is nice to be doing something outside with the birds singing. Also when schools have been closed and parents have been working from home and stressed they have been getting children out into the garden.

“We have sold a lot of seeds that have been bought for children so they can see plants and flowers grow.”

Mr Screen said that although his business has “taken a hit” during the lockdown he has managed to get by. About 80 to 90 per cent of our business is conducted outside,” he said.

Bruce Screen, from Cypress Nursery, Rowley Regis

“We have an indoor shop but if customers come in they have to wear a mask and we provide sanitiser.”

The Horticultural Trades Association which supports British gardening businesses says that three million new gardeners have taken up the hobby since lockdown.

The association also suggests gardening is not just for those with gardens, but for those with balconies and window boxes and emphasises that its members sell indoor plants.

Meanhile Mark O’Neill of Fallow Forest Garden Centre in Broadhurst Green Road, Cannock said: “Our customers treat our centre as a bit of a haven. I think plants encourage positive thought. People were buying them and I could see they were happier.”

Bruce Screen, from Cypress Nursery, Rowley Regis

Fallow Forest traded up until December 20 and Christmas trees sold “very well”.

However Mr O’Neill, aged 52, decided to close his shop through the latest lockdown. He said: “

I applaud the Government’s decision to allow garden centres to remain open but it has to be safe. Hopefully we will resume trading in March or April.”

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