Wholesale nurseries open up web shops for the first time as coronavirus blocks garden centre sales

For the first time. plants are available direct from some of Britain's biggest wholesale growers after coronavirus concerns closed garden centres.

Image: Double H Nurseries

Double H Nurseries normally supplies around 30,000 orchids a week to four supermarket chains. After orders "went through the floor" the grower, causing the furloughing of a third of its 170 staff, has redesigned its website to take orders for dispatching by courier nationwide.

The company's website brand Love Orchids is now a retail site, with the offer of four orchids for £20 with free delivery. Double H said: "We are very pleased that our new online shop is now open, buy a box of orchids to brighten up your WFH desk, or send some to family and friends. Amazing value, top quality and delivered direct from our nursery to your door!"

Plants2People grows plants for B&Q, Homebase, B&M, Dobbies and independent garden centres and is now supplying consumers direct, with an offer of £20-£100 bundles of bedding, plus compost available with plant orders.

The company, based at the Kent offices of Pro-Force, which is part of the Newey group, is among those, including Farplants, that have given donations to the new Nightingale coronavirus hospital in London. Alex Newey said sales are going "ballistic".

It said: "Our problem and yours is that some of these outlets may be closed as the country battles coronavirus. You can’t get your plants. We want to help to keep communities gardening and for the first time ever will be supplying the public with the very finest garden ready British plants - direct from the nursery.

"We will bring gardening to you safely...just follow the easy steps and wait for your great British plants to arrive to your door step, no contact needed. During World War II Winston Churchill said the following regarding farmers that were being asked to stop growing flowers and plants to grow food. These people must be enabled to grow their flowers and send them to London."

The company delivers to Canterbury, Faversham and Tunbridge Wells, within a five mile radius of the city/town centre, as well as Stratford-upon-Avon, Chipping Campden and Evesham, Chichester and Bognor Regis.

The business donates 10% of income to NHS charities.

Lovania is selling through https://www.lovegardeningdirect.com/ including Seiont Nurseries plants. It said: "The recent Coronavirus outbreak has hit our retail business hard at our busiest time of the year with thousands of beautiful plants ready for dispatch but without a home. We hope that you will try our online service, experience our lovely plants and bring some colour and pleasure back into your garden during these uncertain times."

Porters, through Happy Plants, sells through https://retail.happyplants.co.uk/. Porters said it had stopped taking orders over Easter weekend to prioritise planting bigger stock with more shelf life for the later season when the lockdown is lifted.

Hills Plants sells houseplants through The Little Botanical.

Meanwhile, GrowNation (grownation.co.uk) is a new marketplace platform built to support the industry "and make online sales a reality for all". Secure payment through the Square payment processing system, order management and customer messaging are built-in. Garden centre operators can add or import any products they wish, including photos, descriptions and their own prices.

The HTA said the industry could lose £687m of plants sales by the end of June because of the lockdown.  Some growers have up to £8m of bedding in their glasshouses that was to have gone to DIYs and garden centres. Small growers such as Pepperpot Plants did a year's business by mail order in the first 10 days of the lockdown, but big growers cannot shift the volume they have by post.

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