Our industry has been repeatedly criticised for the lack of co-operation to achieve improved trading. The Dutch are held up as the good example with their auctions, logistical arrangements and specialisation within each nursery, even to the point where just one cultivar is grown on a vast scale.
But the response to the four proposed HTA co-operative exhibits in the Great Pavilion at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 has been remarkable. One mention in the press was enough to get e-mails, letters and telephone calls offering support.
All sections of our trade from Barchams Trees to Robinsons exhibition vegetables, Delamore, Ball Colegrave, Lovania, Kerleys and Coolings volunteered. Ten major seed brands have agreed to co-operate in staging a living catalogue of novelties and top sellers.
Costs to each company will be no more than cultivating a few container-grown plants and delivering them to a central collection point. At the very least the HTA initiative will fill the gap made by the NFU withdrawal from the fine job it has done over the years. Best of all, we will be putting on show container plants available to the public in ways they can duplicate on their plots.
Visiting GroSouth, offers came from every avenue. Seiont is keen to see its novelties promoted to the public, Jersey Plants is exploring getting local schools involved, Kernock will design a 90th Anniversary InstaPlant Carpet to acknowledge the Queen’s birthday and a major manufacturer offered to sponsor the whole shebang.
Nursery visits are always popular and another outward sign of co-operation within the trade. While I did not get to the poinsettia trial at Hills, I did see part of its superb crop of 200,000 poinsettias.
What a pity the consumers do not have a chance of seeing this spectacle. I recall Thomas Rochford used to open its Broxbourne glasshouses one weekend before the big Christmas dispatch and attracted big crowds.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster