According To Seabrook ... Core-business focus is key to success

It is reassuring to hear and see at least one garden centre newsletter stuck to its core business and continues to back gardening.

Peter Seabrook
Peter Seabrook

Stewarts customer magazine 1742 had pot plants and shrubs on the cover, a spread about fourth-generation pot plant nursery JB Plants, pages on autumn bedding and fragrant shrubs as well as a seasonal plant offer, garden diary and garden doctor advice.

While I accept coffee shops and Christmas kept centres alive through the back end of the year, we need to hang on to our gardening customers. All we need now is a mild, sunny weekend and gardening is set to take off.

One organisation that has its eyes set on core business in its centenary year is East Malling Research. I was most impressed on a recent visit. Where else are they actively recruiting and increasing scientist numbers to strengthen research programmes?

Millions of pounds raised by the East Malling Trust are being ploughed back into three core research programmes. It is surprising that we all benefit from fruit tree rootstocks, for example, but do not know how they work.

Grade I listed Bradbourne House has become a profit centre and provides a jewel of a venue for business meetings, conferences and weddings. Similarly, money will be earned from short courses for gardeners on everything from pruning and grafting to lawnmower care and chainsaw use, priced from £45 a time.

Modern commercial orchards - for example, of pear 'Sweet Sensation' - are being planted on the estate in partnership with marketing companies. This pear is already on Sainsbury's shelves. Meanwhile, a coffee shop has been opened to the public and is attracting a steady increase in clientele.

It is both exciting and reassuring to see a 100-year-old organisation firing on all cylinders and working to serve basic research, the interests of commercial growers and the general public. I wish them every success.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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