As lockdown eases and Britons adjust to their new normal of coronavirus social distancing, many are digging out their shovels and shears. Gardening is booming - and it's easy to see why. Nowadays, spending time in the garden to enjoy some fresh air has never been more welcome.
Whether you have a leafy oasis or a quaint balcony, the internet has transformed gardeners' shopping habits, with everything from bamboo to perennials to trees available to buy online.
Here, Val Bourne picks out the best online plant nurseries, so you can start sprucing up your outdoor space from the comfort of your sofa.
Crocus made mail-order fashionable when two plant lovers (Mark Fane and Peter Clay) started the website in 2000. The Rolls-Royce of mail-order nurseries, it offers 4,000 plants, including many in-vogue and unusual ones.
0844 557 2233; crocus.co.uk
This nursery lists a traditional range of first-rate perennials. Its well-grown plants are modestly priced, beautifully packed and all the plants feature in Beth's garden – so they perform. They always follow the five-sided rule: the roots must reach all sides of the pot and the bottom before being sold.
01206 822007; bethchatto.co.uk
Alan and Adrian Bloom’s Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk are packed with interesting perennials. Jason Bloom’s nursery propagates the best, supplying well-filled 2 litre pots. There’s a discount for buying three of the same plant. Low postage and superb quality make this my current favourite.
01379 688282; thebressinghamgardens.com
Plants This family-owned Hampshire nursery, famous for its Chelsea exhibits, propagates most of its own plants in tough conditions. They only bother with the best perennials, ones that perform well and look good.
01256 896533; hardysplants.co.uk
Binny's Plants has more than 2,000 plants, including the largest list of peonies in Britain. It also sells irises and an excellent range of bergenias, astilbes, bamboos, hostas and New Zealand ferns.
01506 858931; binnyplants.co.uk
Claire Austin specialises in peonies and irises, but also sells a range of easily grown perennials, the ones that form the backbone of any good garden.
01686 670 342; claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk
Three for fruit
When it comes to fruit trees and bushes this nursery has the largest range and the quality cannot be beaten. Its website is attractive and informative.
01420 477978; blackmoor.co.uk
If you want heritage varieties of fruit local to your area this is the one for you.
Chelsea stalwarts, who once staged and grew Ken Muir’s strawberries, this mail order fruit nursery is run by extremely knowledgeable staff. A large range of the very best strawberry varieties, soft fruit and lots of pot-grown fruit trees of the highest quality.
Based on the Scottish borders, Edrom offers collections of mainly woodlanders and alpines. The plants are listed on the web, but varieties vary according to availability. There are double Japanese hepaticas, arisaemas, roscoeas, fritillarias and trilliums on the list.
018907 71386; edrom-nurseries.co.uk
Cornish-grown daffodils, available to order now from the Scamp family, who sell top-quality bulbs of heritage varieties, new varieties, miniatures and the best garden varieties. Your bulbs will arrive in late summer or early autumn. Simply the best!
07826 067175; qualitydaffodils.com
This traditional nursery iris nursery was acquired by Chris and Kate Davey just eighteen months ago. They currently grow 850 first-rate bearded irises, many Siberian irises and they’ve added a range of choice perennials. Order now for late-June dispatch.
01406 364028; irises.co.uk
- Read more: what to plant and tidy in April
Ashwood Nurseries' specialities include hellebores, cyclamen, hepaticas, lewisias, auriculas, alpines and heathers. Choice shrubs and trees are a large part of their range - along with conifers.
The late Michael Loftus was passionate about plants and the nursery offers extensive ranges of auriculas, pelargoniums, irises, agapanthus and hemerocallis by mail order.
01502 478258; woottensplants.co.uk
This family-run nursery offers a fabulous range of hardy ferns, the largest range of pelargoniums, a lot of tender plants and hundreds of different ivies.
01789 720788; fibrex.co.uk
Nick Macer’s plant-hunting expeditions have taken him all over the world and this nursery offers unusual plants, many of them woody trees, climbers and shrubs not available elsewhere.
01452 741641; panglobalplants.com
A huge range of roses, many of them old-fashioned beauties, grown in Norfolk by an established staff who operate like a family. Pot-grown roses sent out between April and October and bare-root available in winter.
01953 454707; classicroses.co.uk
Clematis are the perfect companion for roses and Thorncroft helpfully subdivides clematis into groups such as late-summer viticellas, the spring Atragene group and The Raymond Evison Collection, among others.
01953 850407; thorncroftclematis.co.uk
The best vegetable plant supplier I've found. It offers a full range that varies from month to month, as well as pick and mix packs for the smaller garden.
01354 740553; organicplants.co.uk
The best of the rest
Based in Cornwall, this treasure trove of a nursery has one of the best ranges of choice shrubs, trees and climbers, many not found elsewhere.
01209 860316; burncoose.co.uk
Knoll Gardens has the widest range of grasses and its website is full of inspirational pictures.
01202 873931; knollgardens.co.uk
This nursery helpfully colour codes its catalogue and website. It specialises in penstemons, hardy plants and offers a range of 3,500 exciting perennials. The online catalogue request service is perfect for those isolated at home.
01386 562 999; hayloftplants.co.uk