Incorrect advice and the lack of gardening knowledge given out from all quarters is of increasing concern. A TV shopping channel — not QVC, I hasten to add — recently offered two Bramley’s seedling with the advice: "No need to worry about pollination because you will have two trees." No mention of the fact they will both be triploid, so why not offer a second self-pollinating cultivar, such as Red Falstaff, to pollinate both? Another offer of dwarf Victoria plum was demonstrated with purple-skin fruit.
At our recent local horticultural society monthly talk, an organic gardening speaker used chloroform where I think he meant chlorophyll, much to the concern of the retired consultant anaesthetist chairman. On a previous night the speaker from a local composting plant spoke of "beneficial nematodes in municipal compost", adding: "I don’t know what kind of toads they are."
All the speakers on organic gardening that I have heard go on at length about the danger of man-made pesticides yet wax lyrical about comfrey, with never a word about possible cancer dangers when ingested.
Gardening programmes on radio and television rarely if ever mention man-made chemical controls. Now we have so few active ingredients for garden use I accept it is difficult to keep up to date, but this just makes it even more important to have sound advice freely available.
A landscaper with 15 years’ experience asked me: "I have some old 5ft bush roses. How and when do I prune them?" Some of the vegetable plant cultivars sold by garden centres are way out of season — for example, celeriac seedlings sold too early, so they just run up to seed.
Homeowners new to grow your own are hardly likely to come back for more if their first experience is failure.
A director of one of our garden centre chains recently asked where employees and potential employees in retail horticulture could go for horticultural training. He stumped me. Where would you direct them?
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster