Landscape projects hit by ongoing deluge

Root rot, canker and invasive species all predicted after wettest January since 1910 sets back work across key sectors.

West: wading to work on Chelsea garden preparation in Gloucester
West: wading to work on Chelsea garden preparation in Gloucester

The wettest January for a century has set landscape projects and maintenance back weeks and is set to lead to more root rot, canker and invasive species.

In the worst-hit areas 175-220mm of rain fell in the south and west last month, according to the Met Office. It issued new severe weather warnings this week with winds of up to 80mph and further rain forecast for the south and west coasts.

Hillier Landscapes did no domestic work at all in January because of the weather. Managing director Richard Barnard said: "This is the worst season I've seen in 45 years. It's expensive for us. Our order book is good but sales will be down by 40 per cent for January at least. The sad thing is that up to Christmas we were flying. Sales were up 18 per cent.

"We've kept off all of the land. It's incredibly wet. We can't do hard landscaping very easily because it has to be dry underneath. Private gardens clients don't want to see you if it's untidy."

He added: "We can plant trees but we'd have to go two or three foot down and move across somebody's lawn using heavy machinery. We've found it very awkward."

Glendale Managed Services managing director Andy Corcoran said some staff shifted to flood-response work. "The rain affects our landscaping business quite significantly as they've been unable to get on site to plant. I spoke to our South West land manager Mike Dennys last week - he's a bit down. He's got a lot of projects where he can't do the work.

"But in general it doesn't affect us too badly. We operate the North Somerset Council contract and we have response teams written in. Local authorities can call on us to do whatever is required - clearance work, debris, unblocking work.

"It shows we are able to be flexible. If we can't do work on the grounds and shrub beds because it's too wet, we should help out elsewhere. It benefits the industry."

Hambrooks managing director Norman Hambrook said he plans in his budget to lose four weeks' production a year for adverse weather.

At Hadlow College, garden management programme head Caroline Jackson said: "It's a disaster. You can't walk on growing areas as they are so wet, so the normal winter jobs are delayed. Also, some plants are rotting in the soil.

"Some plants are displaying signs of stress because of the high water levels and high relative humidity. There have been tree losses, partly due to wind but aggravated by a high water table. We have had cool temperatures rather than the usual winter cold, which may mean a greater number of pests overwintering. There may also be an impact on flowering and fruiting because some plants need a substantial winter cold period to flower."

ADAS ornamentals consultant David Talbot said: "Anything field-grown is very wet, particularly if you have heavy clay soil. When it's submerged, the water pushes air out and the roots need air to respire, and that can lead to anaerobic conditions conducive to root rot. There's not an awful lot you can do about that except for longer-term improving of soil structure."

He said Christmas trees and conifers generally are most at risk from root rot, adding that domestic gardeners could not get out despite the mild weather. "We need it to stop raining as soon as possible because it will take three weeks for most soils to dry out and get back to workable condition." There is potential leaching of top dressing for container growers but "they're mostly concerned about the rain's impact on sales".

BALI technical director and Ground Control group training manager Neil Huck said the floods pose a danger in terms of invasive species. "Species such as Japanese knotweed have got to sites that are too wet to treat. It will be a problem in spring when it starts to grow. Floating pennywort and Crassula helmsii could spread fast because of the flood water."

Flooding Adaptive commute and top tips

RHS Chelsea Flower Show designer Cleve West is having to travel to work by boat.

RHS principal horticulture adviser Leigh Hunt advised gardeners to "hold back on borders and lawns" to avoid compaction. Appearing on The One Show on BBC1, Christine Walkden told viewers to avoid working sodden garden soil.

B&Q horticulture category manager Joclyn Silezin said: "One of the largest risks this year is the prolonged flooding and prolonged impact on people's gardens."

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said widespread waterlogging could increase the incidence of canker.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next



Ivies can clothe walls or provide ground cover and are ideal for brightening a dark corner, says Miranda Kimberley.



These evergreen architectural plants provide feathery foliage and seasonal colour, writes Miranda Kimberley.



These pretty flowers are great for amenity planting and combine well with grasses, says Miranda Kimberley.

Partner Content

How does Merchant Taylors' School use its fleet of Kubota machinery?

How does Merchant Taylors' School use its fleet of Kubota machinery?

Find out how Merchant Taylors' School uses its expansive fleet of Kubota machinery to maintain the large areas of ground.

Partner Content presented by Kubota

Horticulture Week Top 70 Landscape and maintenance contractors

See our exclusive RANKING of landscape and maintenance contractors by annual turnover plus BUSINESS TRENDS REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs


Build your business with the latest public sector tenders covering landscape, arboriculture, grounds care, production and kit supplies. To receive the latest tenders weekly to your inbox sign up for our Tenders Tracker bulletin here.

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.


Free to subscribers, the essential guide for professional plant buyers

Download your copy

Products & Kit Resources