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Hopes Grove Nurseries owner in Tenterden says he's worried about his business and the planet as plants blossom ahead of time


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A nursery owner in Kent says he's worried about his business and the planet after seeing his plants flower during the winter months.

Morris Hankinson, who owns a nursery in Tenterden says he's noticed warmer temperatures seem to be having a huge impact on plants and shrubs he and his staff grow at the business.

Mr Hankinson compares the appearance of his plants now to how they should really look at this time of year

He's been running Hopes Grove Nurseries, for the past 30 years but say this year in particular his plants still have their leaves on them as well as new buds forming.

Mr Hankinson said: "I've been running the nursery for 30 years now, and every year you see it more and more – autumn comes later and spring comes earlier.

"Plants can’t adapt quickly enough because they’re flowering and coming into growth at the wrong time," he explained.

Mr Hankinson says he's seen "strange things happen all the time", but nothing like this before.

He added: "I spoke to the manager of a sapling nursery, and between us we have 65 years of experience, but neither of us has seen this before. This is a result of our changing climate for sure.

Instead of looking completely bare, plants at Hopes Grove Nurseries still have last year's leaves on them. Picture: Morris Hankinson
Instead of looking completely bare, plants at Hopes Grove Nurseries still have last year's leaves on them. Picture: Morris Hankinson

"If they flower at the wrong time, perhaps the pollinating insects aren’t there to fertilize them, and the plants don’t make seeds or they don’t set fruits, which is important obviously for crop plants, because we eat them as well as all other kinds of animals in the food chain.

"The effects are definitely very profound."

It appears that Mr Hankinson is not the only one who has seen the change, as a study published by The Royal Society has revealed that plants in the UK are flowering a month earlier due to warming temperatures.

As a result, businesses like his have to fight against nature and grow their plants under the right conditions.

Mr Hankinson explained that shorter winters are an obstacle when trying to sell their bare-root trees in the dormant season.

Seeing flowers bloom early might look pretty to us, but it's not great news to business owners
Seeing flowers bloom early might look pretty to us, but it's not great news to business owners

He added: "It makes our job more difficult because we need to get these trees from the field they’re growing in to the customer's garden in perfect conditions.

"Production becomes more difficult, the season is getting shorter, yet demand for the trees is unprecedented. It's quite the perfect storm."

To avoid backlogs in sales and not compromise their plants, the nursery has invested in a cold store.

It will enable plants to grow in cold winter conditions, as without the cold store, some species can be in full leaf by late March and their season would effectively be over earlier.

That way, Mr Hankinson hope he will be able to continue to despatch them until the end of April.

Flowers are blossoming one month earlier due to warmer temperatures
Flowers are blossoming one month earlier due to warmer temperatures

However, he still worries about the deeper consequences climate change can bring not only to his plants, but the ecosystem.

He added: "Some species are in decline in terms of numbers. If they then crash, we're not going to have bees and things to pollinate or fruit trees and crops.

"It’s not happening yet, but we could be heading that way. I don't want to be too negative, but it's a real problem."

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