All of the lobbying and media activity about garden centres re-opening appeared to be bearing fruit with the Welsh Government announcing garden centres in the province could open from Monday and plenty of media comment on Sunday that garden centres in England would be able to open from Wednesday 13th May. However, the omission of any mention of garden centre's re-opening in the Prime Ministers address on Sunday evening leaves possible doubts as to when re-opening will be possible in England.
The only mention of shops re-opening in the address came as part of step two "– at the earliest by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6."
Boris Johnson said he would be "setting out more details in Parliament on Monday afternoon and taking questions from the public in the evening" so we will have to wait for a few more hours to see if the leaks from No 10 spokespeople are correct and that garden centres could actually be allowed to re-open on Wednesday.
The situation in Northern Ireland and Scotland also not clear, although with Southern Ireland allowing garden centres to open from Monday May 18th that could well be the date for centres to also re-open north of the border.
Not all garden centres in Wales, however, will open on Monday. The Old Railway Line Garden Centre (pictured above) said on their Facebook page: "Although we would now be allowed to open, we will NOT be opening our doors for public access just yet. We will continue with our popular, non-contact click/call and collect service and home deliveries for the next few weeks. We are operating in this way to protect our team and customers and to give us plenty of time to prepare our store for social distancing."
Even some centres in England won't be opening straight away on Wednesday, if that is the actual date announced by the Prime Minister. Adam Wigglesworth at Aylett Nurseries told GTN Xtra: "I'm really excited about being able to open again but we have a shift change on Tuesday night so we will be spending Wednesday on staff training to make sure we are in the best position to trade from Thursday onwards."
The Welsh centres of Dobbies, Blue Diamond and British Garden Centres have all confirmed they will be opening their centres in Cardiff, Swansea and Camarthen at 9:00am on Monday and the rest of their centres when permission is given.
Following the Welsh Government announcement The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Chairman, James Barnes, commented: “We welcome the Welsh Government announcement to reopen garden centres from Monday. Gardening benefits mental health and well-being for so many people isolating at home and the importance of having something to do at home keeps you at home. This is a hugely positive economic move.
“We trust that the Prime Minister and First Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will follow this lead and announce on Sunday that garden centres can open across the UK.
“As an industry, our responsibility is now to work together to deliver a reopening programme in Wales safely and responsibly. The HTA has produced Safe Trading Guidance, which covers all aspects of how garden centres can re-open while ensuring staff and customer safety at all times.
“We have been working closely with garden centres and while many are ready to open and have been working hard to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the safety of both their customers and their staff, our priority over the coming days will be to provide help to those that need further support. This is to ensure that we can get as many businesses back up and running but only when they can open safely.
“With over 23 million gardeners throughout the UK, we know that there will be a huge surge in demand. We would ask customers not to rush to retailers and buy more than they need and before setting out on their journey, to check first that their local garden centre is open. The Plants Near Me website will show which garden centres have signed up to the Safe Trading Guidance We hope that the public will be patient with us while we adapt to these new trading conditions.
“While the news of garden centres reopening in Wales will be welcomed by hundreds of growers across the country as hopefully a sign to come for the rest of the UK, the damage has already been done to our industry, as garden centres have been closed during the annual peak period for plant sales – 70% of plants are sold between March and June and 60% of plant nursery sales in the UK are made through independent garden centres. The only way to rescue this sector now is for the UK Government to pursue a simple Dutch-style compensation scheme, which will help save our horticultural industry.”
This morning, Sunday 10th May, the HTA issued the following update regarding garden centres in England in expectation of a positive announcement: “We welcome the news that garden centres will be allowed to open from Wednesday in England. This is a hugely positive economic move and hopefully this will be confirmed tomorrow night by the Prime Minister. Based on the specific comments we have seen from government sources, it is good to see that they have recognised that the physical layout of many garden centres with large open air spaces make them suitable for early re-opening. This is something we have highlighted many times to government at all levels since the start of lockdown.
“As this is the peak of the garden industry season - 70% of plants are sold between March and June - opening garden centres now will be welcomed by the 23m gardeners in this country and the UK garden industry. We hope the news of reopening from Monday in Wales and Wednesday in England is a sign to come for the rest of the UK."