There has been boom, bust, and everything in between. Horticulture has not been immune to the roller coaster of the first decade of the 21st century and here are a few highlights:
Horticulture gets its own all-party group putting industry issues before a parliamentary audience
The All-Party Gardening and Horticulture Group was officially unveiled in February 2000 by secretary Brian Donohoe MP. Late HW editor Pete Weston, who died in 2003, was a key figure in setting up the group.
The Eden Project opens in Cornwall after securing funds of more than £86m
The enormous biomes opened to the public on 17 March at a disused china clay pit at Bodelva. Its director of horticulture Philip McMillan-Browse had an ambition to raise awareness of the importance of plants, as well as the need for a 21st century scientific institution. Firms involved with supplying plants included James Coles and Sons and Johnsons of Whixley.
Major cracks in horticultural R&D were highlighted in government-commissioned report A Vision for Horticulture
A three-man team comprising Professor Sir Colin Spedding, Dr Brian Jamieson and Robert Hillier wrote the report, which focused on gathering evidence on funding and the current situation in R&D. They noted there was no "coherent national strategy for horticultural R&D". Since the publication of the report, further damage has occurred in the R&D landscape, most recently the scrapping of the HortLINK programme.
Royal Parks faced clean-up costs of £150,000 after anti-war protestors demonstrated against war with Iraq
Flowers, bulbs and turf were damaged in Hyde Park after hundreds of thousands of people protested against war in Iraq. Around 50 staff were involved in a major clear-up following the demonstration in February 2003.
Industry insiders predicted benefits to the horticulture sector with the enlargement of the EU
Observers said advantages would range from export opportunities to an input of valuable skills after 10 countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, joined the EU in May 2004.
Growers hailed the economic boost that horticulture would receive after London beat Paris to host the 2012 Olympic Games
The International Olympic Committee accepted London's bid in July 2005, to the delight of nurseries, landscapers and parks professionals. January 2006 saw the launch of the Greening the Games campaign, supported by HW.
The horticulture industry prepared itself for the worst drought in a century
Persistent drought conditions hit growers, retailers and landscapers as rainfall dropped to its lowest levels since the 1920-22 drought in some areas. Hospeipe bans were introduced by water companies including Thames Water and Southern Water but the piecemeal approach and uncertainty angered industry. The HTA is still working with MPs on getting an amendment included in the Flood and Water Management Bill that will provide for a code of practice.
Garden centre goliaths go head to head with buyouts and expansion boom
Tesco revealed its plan to buy the 21-strong Dobbies garden centre chain for £155.6 million in February 2007, while Sir Tom Hunter continued to expand the Wyevale Garden Centres (now Garden Centre Group) empire through his investment vehicle West Coast Capital. Suppliers voiced concern about consolidation of the market, but veteran garden writer Peter Seabrook claimed independents would always lead the pack.
The collapse of the global banking system led to a domino effect for Government spending, sparking fears of major cuts in local authority budgets
Not only did the Icelandic bank crisis leave some local authorities fearful for their multi-million pound investments, but the demise of Lehman Brothers and a series of catastrophic banking decisions meant the UK was pushed into recession. Uncertain public spending decisions and a tightening of local authority budgets are expected to continue.
RHS faces a slump as the recession hits shows and plans a cost-cutting restructure
RHS Chelsea Flower Show took a hit after sponsors pulled out due to the recession, leading to only 13 show gardens, compared to 22 in 2008. RHS director general Inga Grimsey resigned in September amid proposals to slash costs through axing jobs. Union wrangles had taken place through the summer before the RHS announced a total of 131 staff will leave through the restructure. A total of 10.8% of staff costs are expected to be saved through the move. The RHS planned for 80 roles to go originally.
See HW magazine on 15 January for a preview of what 2010 will hold for the horticulture industry from leading experts.
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