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Garden centres, stop selling unseasonable plants

Agapanthus flowers

If the recent gloomy weather eventually brightens up, you might be heading to your local garden centre for some additions to your garden. But do you know your agapanthus from your elbow?

I had five minutes to spare recently, so I popped into a garden centre. It was a rare sunny day, and there were lots of lovely plants for sale outside – spring flowering shrubs, bulbs in pots… and an agapanthus.

If you’re a plant aficionado, you’ll know that agapanthus flower in high summer. They never flower in winter, or in early spring. And yet here was this one, flowering its socks off right next to a more seasonally-appropriate camellia. I can only think that it had been kept inside in a greenhouse, or had been recently imported and was just put outside during the day. Most agapanthus that are growing in gardens around the UK are still dormant.

The greenhouse effect

I didn’t try to buy the plant, but I’d be intrigued to know what the garden centre staff would have told me if I had – would they have indicated that I should keep it under glass for at least the next couple of months, and that it shouldn’t be flowering now? Would they have told me that it would suffer badly at the first whiff of a frost in the ground outside and could quite possibly die?

The very act of putting the plant outside for sale at this time of year strikes me as underhand. It’s not good for customers, or the industry. If someone is misled and has a bad experience, they’ll be put off gardening, and won’t go to garden centres any more. Last year’s poor weather kept many people indoors, so garden centres need to do everything they can to keep customers, not put them off.

There are plenty of great plants that are suitable for this time of year, and spring is one of the most exciting times in the garden. There’s really no need to sell us inappropriate plants.

Geoff Aston says:
26 March 2013

there can be advantages to plants out of season. At the end of September last year, we purchased four small pots of Narcissi ‘Tete-a-Tete’, in flower. These we planted in mangers either side of our north facing entrance. They continued flowering all through winter to the beginning of March. A very low cost cheery decoration.

We live in Shropshire, at 250m altitude