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Holiday souvenirs

Holidays are good for us; relaxing and de-stressing for a week or two in a warm, sunny climate and it's always tempting to want to bring a reminder of that lovely place back as a souvenir. Fridge magnets or crockery are one thing, but a piece of one of the exotic plants is quite another.

Bougainvillea, Mandevilla, oleander and Agapanthus are all plants that look stunning in a warm situation, bursting with colour in the sunshine and making you feel good by just looking at them.

However, if someone had given us £1 for every time we’ve had “I brought this back from holiday” and, particularly, “I brought this back from Madeira” as conversation openers at our Q&A sessions, we’d retire right now. Madeira should, by rights, be completely devoid of Agapanthus, as they’ve all landed back in the UK tucked into suitcases. These conversations usually continue with the information that the plant in question is struggling to survive and end with a plea for advice.

Unfortunately, the fact is that these plants don’t always make the transition to our cooler climate. Where they were growing, the conditions suited them perfectly. They could self-seed and spread at will and there were few frosts to damage them. This all makes them look quite tough, but if you bring them back here, everything is different.

If you buy an Agapanthus plant in the UK, it will have been grown and tested here in our climate and will have been chosen for its ability to survive - although even this is no guarantee if we get a particularly bad winter. Plants like Bougainvillea and Mandevilla are really conservatory plants here, needing full protection from frost or they will be killed. Oleanders vary slightly, but few will survive temperatures below about -5C.

There are also rules about Plant Health and what you are legally allowed to bring into the country. Recent outbreaks of pests and diseases mean you are not allowed to bring seeds or plants of ash, sweet chestnut or plane for planting here or any citrus or vine plants. You cannot bring in seeds of potato or any soil at all, on any plant, without a Phytosanitary Certificate.

From countries within the EU, you can bring limited amounts of bulbs and other seeds and you are allowed to bring a bouquet of cut flowers up to 50 stems. From outside the EU, the regulations vary and it is important to note that, for these purposes, Gibraltar and the Canary Islands do not count as being part of the EU.

You can find a full - and very helpful - advice leaflet here

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