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How has gardening fared in the pandemic?

September 18, 2021


There is so much talk of a scarcity of lorry drivers creating supply shortages, plus the absence of some workers from the EU, that the question arises, how has the North London horticultural trade been getting on this season?

The answer is a mixture … there really has been extra lockdown enthusiasm for gardening, but tales of delivery difficulties, of compost or garden furniture, are genuine too.

First among those I asked were the independent nursery owners at Plant Heritage’s Autumn Fair in Highgate. As they spoke it became clear that their businesses were small enough to escape some current problems, because they tend to grow and transport the plants themselves. There’s a moral there, perhaps. Peter Hulatt, manager of Camden Garden Centre, in St Pancras Way filled me in on what it’s like working on a slightly larger scale.

As anyone interested in the horticultural scene has doubtless noticed, House Plants are in fashion, especially among those whose gardening all happens indoors. Most of the plants we buy originate or come via Holland, so to get here without bringing in bugs or diseases they need plant passports. This year, Peter has had to adjust to the fact that it now takes an extra day for these formalities.

Although it seems to be levelling off now that people have more freedom, the pandemic whizz for gardening has, says Peter, meant a run on plants, seeds, pots, compost, and garden furniture. Not that he is complaining, garden centres have had a good eighteen months. But he stresses the value of good relationships with suppliers built up over the years, saying it has been harder for some big traders to get deliveries of bulky things like garden furniture.

Camden Garden Centre

Camden Garden Centre

– Credit: Ruth Pavey

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The other sort of supply problem was that of the EU workers who were carrying out garden maintenance work, some of whom are now back home in continental Europe. Although the gardening contractor I hoped would comment preferred not to, it seems safe to say that undertaking more work with fewer people has not been easy. Peter reports many enquiries for work from local people who have lost jobs in the pandemic, so maybe, things will gradually shake down all right. As Camden Garden Centre is a charity aimed at creating jobs, it is exciting to hear that there is an offshoot about to open in Richmond.


Don’t give up on planting spring bulbs because of the pesky squirrels and foxes. Just plant a lot and try to protect them. Many will survive.

If you’ve responded to the idea of letting some lawn go wild, it’s fine to cut it back now, letting the seed drop where it lies, then raking up. Although cutting fallen grass isn’t easy…

A fresh window box with miniature cyclamens is very cheering.

Any unwanted apples The Orchard Project may be able to use for community cider or juice.

apple tree

Surplus apples can be donated to The Orchard Project

– Credit: Ruth Pavey

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