UK: Provender Nurseries' top five plants in lockdown

BALI Registered Affiliate member Provender Nurseries highlights the top five popular plants which have been purchased from their Kent nursery and cash & carry during the COVID-19 lockdown.

It certainly has been an unusual season, to say the least. The lockdown saw many people working from home or furloughed and working in their own gardens and as a result a huge spike in online enquiries and plant searches.

After the initial surge in online searches for bedding plants and compost, it has been interesting to see what has peaked customers interest this season. Foliage seems to be the order of the day with flowering plants taking a backseat. Interestingly the cash and carry side of the business is seeing the opposite with flowering plants flying out the door. Trusty old Erigeron karvinskianus is on almost every plant order probably due to its long flowering season and forgiving nature.

The interest in foliage plants is probably due to many foregoing holidays abroad for staycations. An excellent foliage plant choice gives a long period of colour and interest and form from one year to the next.

For form and colour Astelia are proving to be top of the league with the architectural shape and startling grey strap-like foliage that look cool and stylish in contemporary containers. A great choice for a patio, balcony or either side of a formal entrance. The grey foliage and overall plant form contrast well against greener backdrops. These are a popular choice to create some instant impact in new planting schemes.

For pure drama Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ is a total contrast to Astelia with huge paddle-shaped bronze-green leaves that are really a statement if ever there was one. A great choice for recreating that tropical holiday vibe. Once planted this tropical triumph will fill a space easily and quickly. An unheated greenhouse will be enough protection over winter.

As always ball-shaped plants are ever-popular and high on the quote enquiries, plant searches and rolling out of the cash and carry are Pittosporum balls. As Buxus blight and caterpillar continue to take their toll on topiary balls there is much interest in low maintenance, easy to care for ball-shaped plants. Pittosporum has a few options to choose from with compact spherical habits that require little or no pruning needed to maintain the shape and some excellent foliage options too:

  • ‘Bannow Bay’ – a variegated sport of Pittosporum ‘Tim Thumb’ that on paper sounds like it should not work, but in the flesh, it is just gorgeous. The leaves are variegated cream and olive green that change throughout the summer to various shades of pink, cream and green. The pink changes to red in the winter months
  • ‘Tom Thumb’ – although not strictly spherical ‘Tom Thumb’ is proving a valuable alternative with the shiny dark purple- black foliage that gets darker in colder months
  • ‘Beach Ball’ – a neat rounded habit with glossy mid-green leaves
  • ‘Glo Ball’- green foliage with irregular cream margins
  • ‘Golf Ball’ – a popular Buxus alternative with mint green foliage
  • ‘Silver Ball’ - silver-green foliage with a compact habit

The next popular search has been for a range of plants rather than one type of plant in particular - The Proven Winners Range. Proven Winners was launched by Provender Nurseries in November 2019. The range has, in fact, exceeded expectations even through the lockdown. As a new range of plants that are selected for their long flowering period, strong compact growth and low maintenance requirements, Proven Winners are specially selected for the landscape commercial and domestic market. We really cannot choose one particular plant from the Proven Winners range as all have proved equally popular and have sold as they come into flower.

Surprisingly Parrotia persica ‘Persian Spire’ has also featured in most popular plants bought this lockdown. This may be down to the fact that it is a rather ‘new’ plant to many although deserves to be better known and more widely planted. It is colourful with foliage that changes colour throughout the season from green foliage with purple edges to summer leaves to yellow, red and orange in the autumn and unlike other Parrotia that reach huge proportions ‘Persian Spire’ is ideal for the smaller garden reaching only 3- 5m in total height. The narrow upright growth habit and resistance to honey fungus and many other pests and diseases makes this colourful character a top search at Provender Nurseries at the moment. A great option for commercial planting projects due to its hardy nature. 

As we move towards the later part of the year and hopefully see a return to a more familiar sense of normality it will be interesting to see if plant choices, searches and requests change. We will, of course have to see what is in store and what can be sourced in the seasons ahead.

For more information:
British Association of Landscape Industries

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