Prolonged winter blamed as growers and garden centres complain about plant shortages

The effects of plant shortages are beginning to be felt, with many growers and retailers blaming the prolonged cold spell that hit most of Europe at the start of the year.

Buxus: shortage due to bad winter. Image: HW
Buxus: shortage due to bad winter. Image: HW

Several retailers have reported interruptions of supplies of Buxus and Taxus from the continent. Wyevale East Nurseries director Richard McKenna said: "There is a shortage of plants in the UK, particularly of shrubs and herbaceous caused by losses. Because of the bad winter I have been looking for certain plants and I cannot find them."

Taxus in sizes between 1m and 1.8m are almost impossible to find, according to McKenna, who said he had been unable to source the 500 he needed last week.

He also highlighted 30-litre Buxus as a problem, saying they had "all been burnt out by the cold" and that damage to stock was only becoming evident now.

Greenfingers cash and carry managing director Alan Beaumont confirmed that Buxus was in short supply: "The larger sizes of Buxus ball, particularly 45cm, is a problem. You can get smaller or larger, but nothing that size."

Fitzgerald Nurseries owner Pat Fitzgerald said in Ireland "there has been extreme hardship on some nurseries, with major wipe-outs for a few". He added: "Some are really hurting without any means of getting compensation through insurance or government intervention.

"From my end, we have also had significant losses of some plants we were selling to garden centres on the home market, such as standards of Bay Laurel, large Cordyline and some outdoor liners that normally are no problem pulling through the winter.

"The nursery industry as we know it here in Ireland has never had such a cold period and losses have been unprecedented for many growers who are producing containers in outdoor conditions."

Rapidly changing temperatures in Italy also caused problems, according to Europlants retail salesman Mark Smith.

"Plants in the region that particularly suffered were Laurus nobilis, Dracaena indivisa, Acacia, Ligustrum jonandrum and Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price', the latter not dead but rendered un-saleable because the flowers were frosted off," he explained.

Oakover Nurseries general manager Brian Fraser said: "Our export sales are not as good as anticipated because Europe was frozen longer than we were, so their selling period has been even shorter than ours, particularly in Germany.

"A lot of people are sitting on stock. We are just starting to see enquiries from the continent now - it's a sign from the German market that it has thawed."

Ex-Homebase buyer and owner of Greenhill Plants Matt Graham suggested that the shortages were caused by unprecedented demand rather than weather.

"I think it's more a lack of availability from the growers for things like hedging, particularly things like Buxus and Taxus, and that's down to hedging being a lot more popular than it ever was," he said.

"Maybe gardeners here just are not prepared to buy a finished product any more. They want small plants that they intend to grow on themselves."

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