Decline in greenhouses because gardens are getting smaller, Gardeners World event hears, amid fears that orchids will be killed off 

Nursery manager Jim Durrant tends the last orchids of the season at the UK's oldest orchid nursery McBean's which grows over 500,000 orchids in 50 different varieties in East Sussex
An increasing lack of garden space means that fewer people want to put up greenhouses for hothouse plants Credit:  Christopher Pledger

Greenhouses are dying out because gardens are getting smaller, causing rare orchid varieties to be at risk of becoming extinct, leading horticulturalists have said. 

Laurence Hobbs, one of the world’s top orchid growers, told an audience at Gardeners’ World Live on Thursday that he was concerned about the future of the popular pot plant as hobbyists no longer want to have greenhouses in their gardens. 

The grower, who has been tending to his orchids in Crawley, Sussex since 1987, said: “We now live in a time where orchids are endangered. Orchid growers like me are even more endangered as there are less and less hobbyist growers every year because no one wants a greenhouse in their back garden.

“This means you have to be very careful where you buy them from as large supermarkets who source their orchids from abroad for example sell blue orchids which are dyed and when they grow they will turn white.” 

Hobbyists and specialist growers are crucial for keeping rare ornamental orchid species alive - while there have been around 30,000 of the pretty plants discovered in the wild, enthusiasts have managed to cross-breed and create over 200,000 different varieties. 

Orchids at McBean's Orchid Nursery in East Sussex Credit: Christopher Pledger

Guy Barter, the chief horticultural advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society agreed that the greenhouse use is declining.

Although orchid-growing used to be a fascinating hobby taken up by those of small means, he said,  an increasing lack of garden space means that fewer people want to put up greenhouses for the hothouse plants. 

He added: “Orchid nurseries catering to enthusiasts selling choice rarities are getting fewer. “People are also less willing to heat greenhouses for delicate orchids on grounds of cost and smaller garden mean less space for greenhouses in any case. At one time there were many orchid hobbyists, often people of slender means.  Specialist societies have largely declined as seems to be the case with horticultural societies in general.”

Even the most famous gardeners in the country are succumbing to the trend. 

Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don, also speaking at the show, said he used to have three greenhouses before recently getting rid of one.

He revealed: “We had a greenhouse that i loved and used to grow lettuce and tomatoes in, I had it for 20 years, but the BBC deemed it a health and safety risk as pieces of glass kept falling on people.

“I couldn’t afford another one myself and the BBC pointed out I already have two and that seems quite enough.”