While the world may feel rather grey at times right now, lockdown has at least enabled some people to go green and inject colour into their gardens.
Britain is blooming – in one sense at least – with a record demand for seeds, and delphiniums, hollyhocks and hydrangeas are having their moment in the sun.
The Seed Co-operative, which is owned and run by its members, has reported that orders are up to six times higher than a year ago. Meanwhile, the Royal Horticultural Society has seen a fivefold rise in queries for advice on its website during the lockdown.
David Price, the cooperative’s managing director, said: “We’ve had good levels of stock, but lots of others are now running out.”
Due to “exceptional demand” at a time when staffing numbers are low due to lockdown, the company is limiting customers’ time on its website with online sales only able to take place in a two-hour window every Sunday evening.
Price welcomed the boom but warned that current demand could mean that supplies are limited in coming years. “We’re running on multi-annual production schedules, so it could become a real issue in a few years, when seed supply hasn’t had time to replenish,” he added.
In Scotland, the wildflower seed specialists Kabloom, popular for their “seedboms”, says it has seen its sales soar tenfold since the end of March. Its starch-based, compostable, hand-grenade shaped plantable containers, which are designed to burst on impact with the ground, are full of compost and seeds.
Meanwhile in the Dyfi Valley, in mid-Wales, sisters Tala Sutton, eight, and Sirena, five, have become part of a community-wide scheme to grow more flowers. “I quite like watching the plants grow,” Tala told the BBC. “I can’t wait to see how big my sunflower gets.” Sirena added: “It feels good planting seeds and waiting for the flowers and food.”
People around the world are turning to gardening as a soothing, family-friendly hobby that also eases concerns over food security as lockdowns slow the harvesting and distribution of some crops. Fruit and vegetable seed sales are not only jumping in the UK but have gone up worldwide.
In the US, Jaime Calder, a magazine editor, explained how she all but gave up on gardening after moving from the fertile soils of Illinois to dusty Texas, but the coronavirus changed her mind.
Calder and her family of five planted collard greens, chard, onions, blackberries, watermelons and peppers this year, expanding their garden while buckling down at home during the pandemic.
“It’s supplementary gardening,” said Calder. “There’s no way this would sustain a family of five. But we’re amping it up, so we can try and avoid the store a little more in the coming months.”
Meanwhile Russians are isolating in out-of-town cottages with plots of land, a traditional source of vegetables during tough times since the Soviet era, and rooftop farms are planned in Singapore, which relies heavily on food imports.
“Planting a few potatoes can be quite a revelation to a child,” said Guy Barter, the chief horticulturist at the Royal Horticultural Society, which has been inundated with queries for advice on its website. Gardeners without yards are planting potatoes in rubbish bags, he said.