Hope and resilience for 2013

If 2012 was the year when much of UK horticulture found itself fighting unprecedented levels of rain that damaged crops, drove away customers, stalled projects and, sadly for some, tested their business resolve too far, what of 2013?

Our five-page horticulture industry preview for 2013 opens with the prospects for garden retail, where all now agree the state of the economy is a factor to be reckoned with alongside the weather. And for their suppliers, the next few weeks will prove critical in judging the degree to which confidence is returning after a year of cancelled reservations and a cautious start to orders for the new season.

Growing conditions remain difficult for all field crops, but as new British Growers Association chief James Hallet notes, much has been learned and there is some good news in the shape of an increase in annual investment allowances.

Gardens management, which arrived with a capital M last year, will continue to be a priority for the sector, which needs more innovation along the lines of the new winter attractions. In the landscape sector, after two years of economic stagnation, all eyes will be on signs of growth in the latter half of 2013, albeit at a sluggish rate. But until real growth returns and efforts to kick-start house-building take effect, the watchword for many looks set to be diversification.

Finally, aside from the lifeline the Heritage Lottery Fund will continue to provide this year, for the majority of our parks there will be little reprieve from the heavy maintenance cuts of the past two years, and efforts to shake Westminster out of its complacency over the consequences must be redoubled.

And a final wish for 2013? NFU chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons suggests: "Another aspiration will be to have an actual summer."

We say Amen to that - and a happy new year to all our readers.


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