Bury St Edmunds: Hundreds of geraniums ripped up after failing to bloom due to wet weather

TWO to three hundred geraniums have had to be ripped out of popular gardens as the wet summer weather has led to a fungus problem.

The Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds are renowned for their spectacular flower displays, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

But recent visitors may have been wondering what was going on as hundreds of a particular species of geranium were being removed.

Damien Parker, parks manager at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, explained how a type called pelargonium zonal ‘Frank Headley’ in a prominent location in the gardens had a fungus known as ‘black leg’.

But the flowers, which were located in the circular beds in the centre of the gardens, have now been replaced with begonias – just in time for a visit from Anglia in Bloom judges on Thursday.

Mr Parker said: “It’s quite an old variety and yes, it loves long, hot summers.

“It’s thrived in past years and obviously with the drought that was predicted earlier in the year and the fact we had hosepipe bans we felt we would go for something that would not want to have much water.

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“And obviously since then we have had a deluge and we haven’t had the heat to get them growing fast enough. This particular species has got something called black leg and basically it’s just rotting the base of them off.”

He said the decision was taken last week to replace the plants, adding how begonias prefer wetter conditions.

“Obviously with the wetter weather we have got hopefully they will do well,” he said.

He explained how the council had a three-year contract with a Midlands company which supplies the plants, adding how the geraniums were grown six to eight months in advance of when they need them.

He said they had had to purchase about 140 or so begonia plants to replace the geraniums at a cost of about �70. The ‘Frank Headley’ geraniums themselves cost about 30 to 50 pence a plant at the wholesale price.

Mr Parker said: “We are not alone in these problems that everyone has had this year, and this plant simply is sitting in damp soil and there isn’t the heat to get them growing quick enough to outgrow the fungus.”

He said head gardener Steve Burgess, who has been there for many years, had said he had never experienced anything like this.

Mr Parker said in total there were about three or four varieties of geraniums in the Abbey Gardens, adding that they would be keeping an eye on the ones they have left.

Anglia in Bloom judges will be be taken on a tour of the town on Thursday, including stops at the Abbey Gardens, Well Street and a memorial garden at St Olave’s Precinct on the town’s Howard estate.

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