Busy Lizzie blow for garden centres

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HomebaseDavid Jones/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Britain's favourite garden plant has been blighted by an aggressive disease, and many garden centres have revealed that their stocks have been all but wiped out.

What will happen if Busy Lizzies disappear?

Disease

The flowering plant is a popular favourite, because it is bright, pretty and easy to look after. In fact, it has become the nation's favourite for gardens, and in a typical year roughly 35 million of them will be sold to keen gardeners.

This year, however, stocks have been decimated by the march of an aggressive yellow mildew. It has been around since 2003, but conditions last summer were perfect for the disease, which is running rampant. Even more alarmingly, it also appears to be resistant to fungicides. Once it takes hold, nothing can stop it.

The disease is carried on the air. It first appears as a white powder under the leaves. They then drop off, and gardeners are left with just the empty stems.

Stocks destroyed

Garden centres, home stores including Homebase and B&Q, and one major seed producer have decided to take the plants off the shelves entirely. They hope it will give gardens a chance to become clear of the disease, so they can be brought back next year.

The impact could be devastating, it all depends on how gardeners react. If gardeners choose not to plant for a year in order to check their garden is safe, this would blow a huge hole in the budgets of the major chains.

They are hoping instead that gardeners will plant alternatives which are not susceptible to the disease. There's even a chance they will choose more expensive alternatives, and stay loyal to them in future years, which could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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