GARDEN centres and plant nurseries were some of the outdoor retail venues to open up across the county as part of the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Outdoor retail has been prohibited since before Christmas, with only click-and-collect and delivery available for customers during this time.
Demand has been high for garden plants, trees and other supplies as people spend more time at home, according to two local garden centre owners.
Pat McRory, owner of Down2Earth garden centre in Kildress, said it has been a long wait for him since he could last welcome customers.
“It’s great to be back and it has been very steady since Monday. Since then it has been non-stop with the weather turning now and people are back trying to get a bit of colour into their gardens,” Pat said.
He added it has been a difficult time since restrictions were first placed on the business 13 months ago.
“It’s been difficult over the last year – you didn’t know whether you were coming or going. It has been hard going for sure and we are just glad to be back at it again.
“People like to come in and stay and look at the plants for a while so it’s not something that can be done easily online. It’s different with clothes and things like that because it can be easily returned, but that’s a lot harder for garden centres.
“Demand has gone through the roof since last March. The growers only grow so much every year, so the stock has completely dried up. It could take a year or two for this to get back to normal.”
Janice Campbell from Red River Garden Centre in Castlederg said more people are gardening than ever before, and that had presented difficulties in recent months.
“Trying to deliver stuff and take orders online is just not practical for a garden centre,” Janice said.
“More people are gardening than ever before, and that has led to stock levels being very up and down at different times over the last year.”
“We have managed to keep things ticking over, and tried to use NI-based growers where we can. It has been a long three months but it’s nice to have people back browsing around the products again.”