The 'Big Freeze' takes hold - garden retailers and growers battle on

The big freeze has brought a sense of déjà vu to the industry, as heavy snow and cold temperatures once again hamper working conditions reminiscent of last year's prolonged cold snap.

Blanket covering at Weasdale Nurseries - image: Weasdale Nurseries
Blanket covering at Weasdale Nurseries - image: Weasdale Nurseries

Many nurseries have been unable to do outside work, with Cumbria-based Weasdale Nurseries reporting a halt in tree-planting and uplifting, while many growers face the prospect of sky-high heating bills as a result of sub-zero temperatures.

Some garden centres have seen staff unable to come into work, and Dobbies chief executive James Barnes has praised those who have battled snow and ice to get to work – when the Forth Road bridge in Scotland shut, one manager took a 50-mile detour to ensure the Dunfermline store opened.

Contracting staff were also affected, and as was reported in Horticulture Week this week, ISS Facility Services Landscaping were forced to take in staff from the west of Scotland for snow-clearing and gritting work, as many were snowed under in the east.

Despite these difficulties, there have been record sales in winter goods, with Dobbies reporting sales of over 3000 sledges, 2,500 snow shovels and 2,600 ice breakers in the past week.

Sales of rock salt have also been at a record high, with York-based wholesaler Green-tech reporting a 195 rise in rock salt sales in comparison to 2009, and east Yorkshire-based rock salt wholesaler Kelkay reporting sales of 40,000 bags of rock salt a day to garden centres.

Forecast

The latest Met Office weather forecast predicts outbreaks of rain, sleet and snow across most parts of the UK with the risk of ice.  Saturday is set to bring rain, sleet and hill snow across southern England and Wales, with Scotland remaining relatively dry with temperatures slightly less cold than Friday.


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