Since March, Britons have had to adjust to the new 'normal' of self-isolation. Cooped up indoors, it's no wonder that many households have turned to the shed, digging out dusty old mowers and secateurs to tend their gardens.
It seemed a particularly cruel blow when garden centres nationwide were forced to close on March 23. At the time, there was widespread outrage; some gardening broadcasters, including Alan Titchmarsh and Gardeners' World presenter Monty Don, took to social media to voice their disdain.
Thankfully, things are different this time round. According to the Government’s official guidance published on Monday 4 January, garden centres are to stay open: 'Essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences.'
Is it any wonder? A recent RHS-commissioned survey by OnePoll revealed that seven out of ten participants admit that having a garden helped their mental health during lockdown, while 60 per cent noted an improvement in their physical health. Keen to bring the outside in, the nation has flooded plant retailers with orders over the past seven months. Some have reported a 600 per cent increase in sales.
'We know for those in England it is a privilege to be able to continue to stay open,' comments the Horticultural Trades Association. 'We should make sure we use this opportunity wisely. Please do continue to offer the best of what we can provide, particularly for gardening, but do it respectfully and carefully.'
It cannot be disputed that this is a victory for many British business owners. Gardening is booming - and it's easy to see why. Offering respite from the relentless flow of depressing news, the plants in our garden lift our mood.
So if you're looking for inspiration regarding where to go, we asked Telegraph Gardening writers to reveal their favourite garden centres nationwide.
Gardener, cook, writer and television presenter
"I love Derry Watkins’ Special Plants near Bath. She has a brilliant eye for a plant and grows and trials them in her own garden to select the very best. That's worth a special trip, particularly if you love very long flowering tender perennials and annuals."
Special Plants, Greenways Lane, Cold Ashton, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 8LA; specialplants.net
"My favourite plant place is Worton Organic. It concentrates on productive plants. It's more a farm shop than a nursery but they sell brilliant and unusual veg seedling varieties as well as veg. Based outside Oxford, I take a detour to go there if anywhere vaguely near."
Worton Farm, Worton, Near Cassington, Oxfordshire OX29 4SU; wortonorganicgarden.com
Jekka’s Herb Farm
"Jekka's Herb Farm is brilliant too. Her varieties are tried and tested over decades and her huge and long experience of propagating them mean the plants are quick to get established and grow on big and strong. I have just put in a new herb garden taking her advice on good culinary varieties and only a year on, the plants supplied by her are huge too."
Rose Cottage, Shellards Ln, Avon, Bristol BS35 3SY; jekkasherbfarm.com
Telegraph Gardening writer and author
"Woottens always surprises and enchants with new plants and exciting specialities and varieties to collect: auriculas, irises and scented pelargoniums. They also have a handy mail order catalogue."
Wenhaston Halesworth Suffolk IP19 9HD; woottensplants.com
"This is a charming nursery specialising in trees and shrubs, but with plenty of other rare and unusual excitements to tempt the exacting gardener. It has lovely buildings and café, and courses and a design service are available."
Bethersden Kent TN26 3DD; madrona.co.uk
"This is my local garden centre and has an exhaustive supply of anything you could need for the garden, including trees, shrubs and perennials, bedding plants and sundries. Homemade composts are a speciality."
Honey Hill, Blean Kent CT5 3BP; meadowgrangenursery.co.uk
"This is a complete day out with a fantastic nursery featuring all the glories to be found in the garden that are also available from their catalogue. They have an eclectic selection of perennials, grasses and clematis."
Northiam Rye East Sussex TN31 6PH; greatdixter.co.uk
Telegraph Gardening columnist and author
Merriments made its reputation by specialising in (and growing a lot of) herbaceous perennials. The big pluses are the knowledgeable staff and the interesting plants on offer. It is the excellence of the cafe, the main other 'distraction', that just about makes it into a 'garden centre' rather than a nursery.
Hawkhurst Road, Hurst Green, East Sussex TN19 7RA | merriments.co.uk
Sussex Country Gardens
It sells all the usual gear and an ever-improving selection of plants. But I nominate it as much for these as for the excellence of its cafe, its Christmas decorations and friendliness of its staff.
Tunbridge Wells Rd, Mark Cross, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 3PJ | sussexcountrygardener.co.uk
Holden Clough Nursery
Established in 1927, the Holden Clough Nursery with its stone built tea room and farm shop is an enchanting destination. There's a nursery with old tools, gardening possessions hanging on the walls and a grand stone fireplace as the centerpiece, plus all the food from The Garden Kitchen is locally sourced, offering something for everyone.
Holden, Bolton by Bowland BB7 4P; 01200 447615; holdencloughnursery.com
Barton Grange Garden Centre
The award-winning Barton Grange Garden Centre is based in the Lancashire countryside. Named Destination Garden Centre of the Year in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017, Barton Grange is excellent in all departments from the outdoor plant area, two stunning restaurants and farm shop.
Garstang Rd, Brock, Preston PR3 0BT; 01995 642900; bartongrange.co.uk
Bud Garden Centre
If small independent garden centres are your thing, look no further than Bud in Burnage, South Manchester. Established in 2011, the centre sells UK Grown plants, shrubs and trees that are mostly peat free. There's also peat-free vegetable plants, houseplants, compost, mulch and manure as well as natural feeds and pest control and much more. If no plants take your fancy, choose from a range of UK sourced plants and gifts.
Omer Dr, Manchester M19 2JN; 07505 403422; budgarden.co.uk
Bridgemere Garden Centre
Started 50 years ago as a rose nursery, this sprawling horticultural centre now covers a whopping fifty acres with its plant nursery, gardening products and cafe - Britain's largest centre by far. From climbers, alpines and flowers to furniture, food and tools, there is something for everyone.
Bridgemere, Nantwich CW5 7QB; 01270 360003; bluediamond.gg/garden-centre
Do you have a local garden centre you'd like to recommend? Give us a comment below!