Northern Ireland news

Flowers, plants and seeds order of day as garden centres re-open

Robin Mercer welcomes customers back to Hillmount Garden Centre. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

FLOWERS, bedding plants and seeds were the order of the day as garden centres opened across Northern Ireland for the first time in almost four months yesterday.

From 9am, a stream of customers filed through the doors of Hillmount Garden Centre in south Belfast, which had remained shut since December.

Owner Robin Mercer, who last month had written an open letter to politicians appealing to be able to "open our doors fully", said it was "such a pleasure to see customers once again".

It was part of the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, which has permitted outdoor retail to re-open and click-and-collect services for other retailers to resume.

Car dealerships, car washes, caravan and motorhome sales and agricultural machinery retailers were also able to re-open from yesterday.

At Hillmount, Mr Mercer said customers had been enjoying browsing the plants, flowers and garden products on offer, while adhering to Covid safety measures.

"It has been lovely weather to re-open again and and so nice that customers can get into the store," he said.

"From first thing this morning we have had many customers through the door, it's been such a pleasure to see customers once again. Our staff are also delighted to be have people back.

"Businesses need to re-open and people need to be able to get out for their own mental health. I just feel for those businesses who are still waiting for a date to be able to open up again."

Outside Lisburn, avid garden fans were descending on Dobbies Garden Centre, where strict coronavirus and social distancing measures are also in place.

As the store opened its doors, the hunt was on for bedding plants, particularly hydrangeas, which Dobbies said was the most popular plant in 2020.

Graeme Jenkins from Dobbies said they were delighted to be able to welcome customers back.

"The safety of our team members and customers remains Dobbies' number one priority," he said.

"Spring is the time when people want to get back out into their gardens, and with proven health and wellbeing benefits, reopening in Northern Ireland is a positive development."

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