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Down shamrock grower helps keep Kate and William in clover

By Chris McCullough

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge step out on St Patrick's Day proudly wearing their shamrocks, they will be continuing a tradition of sourcing their 'green' from Northern Ireland.

It's only a few days until shamrocks will be donned all over the world for the annual celebrations.

And for one local garden nursery, the day is a right royal one.

Hoophill Nurseries in Waringstown has been growing the national symbols for the past two decades.

Run by Kyle and Kerry Geddis, the business cultivates tens of thousands of shamrocks and harvests them just in time for the St Patrick's Day military parades.

For the past three years shamrocks from Hoophill Nurseries have been proudly worn by the William and Kate during the Irish Guards parades and this year will be no different.

"We have been growing shamrocks for the past 20 years," Kyle said.

"I won't claim to be an expert on growing them, but in that time we have got right and good at it.

"In total we grow around 80,000 shamrocks annually for a number of customers, including the Army for the past 14 years.

"We sell out each year such is the demand for the shamrocks.

"The plants are harvested to order as some customers require them for events leading up to March 17 and some after that day. As we want to keep the shamrocks as fresh as possible for the events we harvest them a day or two ahead of the required date, wash them and have them made ready for shipping by a team of ladies in our house."

There is a lot of work involved in growing the shamrocks.

It all starts off with the initial planting of the seeds in July.

"Shamrocks are quite a hardy plant and survive the winters well," Kyle added.

"We plant the seeds in July and later transplant them into the pots in September and October.

"They are given a liquid feed during the winter and are then monitored closely approaching the harvest dates.

"The plants need to be long enough to make them into button holes, but not too long.

"We started harvesting this year's crop at the beginning of last week for the Royal Dragoon Guards parade in Germany in order that they arrive on time. Our shamrocks are also sent to the Ulster Rifles and other regiments for their own parades.

"It is very pleasing that our plants are worn by members of the royal family each year during the parades.

"St Patrick's Day is a hectic time for us in the calendar.

"But we also grow a number of other plants that we sell wholesale which also helps keep us busy."

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