Garden centres in Cumbria are being forced to give away stock and pin their hopes on a resurgence of business in late summer as they shutdown during the coronavirus crisis.

The Horticultural Trades Association has estimated plants worth £200 million will go unsold at garden centres as they close their doors across the country.

Joe Blackburn, plant area supervisor at Houghton Hall Garden Centre, north of Carlisle, said it had been giving plants such as violas, primroses and pansies away since it closed on March 24.

This has included donating bedding plants to Carlisle's Eden Valley Hospice.

It has also been giving plants away free to customers who are still able to visit the fruit and vegetable stall at the centre.

"It's not like we can keep them for the following season," said Joe.

"We still have a lot of hardy stock and shrubs that we are keeping.

"It's quite an issue for the growers as well, because they are losing a lot of business."

The HTA says around 650 businesses across the UK produce ornamental crops, contributing £1.4 billion to the economy annually, employing more than 15,000 people directly and almost 30,000 indirectly.

It is calling for Government support for the sector, a call which has been backed by TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

Tom Attwood who, alongside wife Abi, owns Abi and Tom's Garden Plants, based at Halecat, near Witherslack, as well as the Grange Plant Centre, in Grange, said a "significant proportion" of the 40,000 plants it grew every year will go to waste.

"The scary statistic you will read everywhere is that for many places like us 80 per cent of our business comes in the next 12 weeks and that's clearly not going to happen," he said.

Despite this, the business was trying to honour as many orders it had made as possible to support its growers, he said.

"If everyone cancels orders then it's a vicious cycle," he said.

"We are praying that if we can catch August that will help.

"The real support people can give us is when it gets back to normal, that's when all of us who grow plants need people to come back and buy them."

Tom and Abi bought Grange Plant Centre to run alongside its business at Halecat in late February.

The three staff in Grange and the two at Halecat were now on furlough, leaving Abi and Tom to try and manage both sites.

"We can only do so much and if we try and do too much we will burn out," he said.

"We need to focus on our core business and make sure that when it does go back to normal we are ready. We need to be primed for that."