What is the way ahead for horticulture in Scotland?

HW asked delegates at ScotGrow at Oatridge College.

"People expect everything within three days. That can be done in horticulture. People are boxing up and shipping orders that quickly, but mostly just to the UK. Could we be getting our plant material to other areas with a similar climate, such as the Canadian seaboard? People here already buy electronics cheaper off eBay in Japan.

"Another trend is directly targeting your customers based on what they're searching for online. Scotland's climate is unique, you could say in a negative way, but we have massive daylight in summer. Could we make more use of that?"

Ben Scott, lecturer, Scottish Agricultural College, and garden designer

"Scottish horticulture is really struggling, but the potential is astonishing. We have so many microclimates and grow some things well - Rhododendron, Meconopsis - so can supply the market late in season. There's no point trying to copy the big boys, but there are niche markets.

"The industry needs people working together and someone to drive the whole thing, to get people round the table and to lobby the Government to promote the use of domestically-grown plants or to support Scottish companies exhibiting at Four Oaks or Glee."

Billy Carruthers, owner, Binny Plants

"Other sectors have embraced the concept of customer experience. Ikea doesn't just have rows of products, it shows you how to use them. Young people don't know what they are doing in the garden. We need to bring designers into garden centres.

"There is a much greater market for wild flower meadows than we have exploited so far. We are looking to work with Stewartsturf to provide ready-sown wild flower turf - it gives you instancy, which sowing from seed doesn't.

"You need to provide the customer what they demand. You can't teach them what they should buy."

Grant Murray, sales manager, Alba Trees

"It will be some time before we have the Calyx ready, but we are lucky to still have (BBC Scotland's) The Beechgrove Garden as a flagship for gardening, plus Gardening Scotland gets half an hour on national TV - I wish the trade would support these more.

"We need to develop more of a catwalk for gardening, giving people a sense of what's in and what's out. The Calyx will do that, but garden centres need to be part of it too."

Dougal Philip, owner, New Hopetoun Gardens.


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