The domination of vegetable seeds sold in comparison to flower seeds has continued in the first quarter of the year, according to suppliers.
Kings Seeds commercial development manager Ian Riggs said figures are up to 80 per cent vegetable to 20 per cent flower seed sales. This is a 10 per cent rise (on the same period in 2010) when proportions were 71 per cent to 29 per cent, and up from an equal split in 2006.
Meanwhile, volume sales at Mr Fothergill's have been split 70 to 30 per cent after a huge increase in vegetable seed sales for the past couple of seasons, according to retail marketing manager Ian Cross. "However we are seeing a notable increase in flower seed sales this season, particularly cottage garden varieties. This may shift the balance back," he added.
Suttons Seeds PR executive Francijn Suermondt said: "Four years ago, for every 100 packets sold, 60 were flowers and 40 vegetables. Now some garden centres are reporting the ratio per 100 packets is 30 flowers to 70 vegetables. As flower seed sales have remained fairly constant, the vegetable sales represent a genuine volume increase.
"During 1997/98 we would have put increases down to people growing their own for health reasons such as fears of chemical residues on shop produce and publicity to encourage people to eat more healthily. However, it is apparent that over the past couple of years increases are linked to the economic situation," Suermondt declared.
"We can judge this by the fact that the big increases are on easy to grow salad crops and the fact that customers are looking for convenient ways of growing. Examples would be Suttons 'Speedyveg' range, varieties specially chosen for their speed and ease of growth, seed tapes and mats and vegetable plants where we have seen rapid increases in mail order sales."
Suermondt added: "This year, early indications are that the trend is continuing. We are also seeing an increase in flower sales which may indicate that due to the economic situation, people are planning to spend more time at home in their gardens."
How the Garden Centre Association says seed and bulb sales from January to March 2011 compare with 2010 - Up 9%