Julian Winfield (Haskins), Sam Bosworth (Bosworth's/Choice), Matthew Bent (Bents) and Adrian Davey (Hozelock) spoke to around 200 delegates at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire about the future look of garden centres and how consolidation has hit the industry.
See more in the next issue of Horticulture Week.
Squires garden centres chairman Colin Squire was awarded the Pearson Memorial medals to the event.
The son of the 15-centre group founder DJ Squire said the prize came as a surprise and he modestly added he could think of many other horticulturists who deserved it more.
HTA chief executive Carol Paris said: "I am delighted to present the Pearson Memorial Medal to Colin for his outstanding contribution to the horticulture industry – it is well and truly deserved. A much respected figure his boundless enthusiasm, forward thinking and high business standards are an example to us all."Squire is celebrating his 60th year with the company. After training in architecture and landscape design, he designed many gardens in the Twickenham area in the 1950s and 1960s. He is a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture, a member of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners and founding member of the Garden Centre Association. His interest in garden design continues and he always designs the Squire’s exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
The HTA launched an ambassador membership at the event, given to former presidents
and Chris Collins, David Domoney and Peter Seabrook.
Collins spoke at the event on Love The Plot You've Got, which visited 15 shows and garden centres in 2015 to demonstrate to beginners how to transform gardens. He said links with APL and further outreach were ideas for 2016.
Domoney spoke of the £1.5m equivalent advertising reach of Cultivation Street, his project to award communities £20,000 of National garden gift vouchers for transforming their gardens. He said his Chelsea Flower Show most positive power of plants display reached 5m people.
He said he was meeting Tillington Group on 1 October to talk about them promoting Cultivation Street 2016.
Homebase's Jon Kemp said his Garden Academy was doubling to 40 trainees, with 1,500 people applying this year. Mentor Adam Frost is now on TV's DIY SOS. Homebase will not have a Chelsea garden in 2016.
BBC business presenter Simon Jack spoke of the spread of renters, with 25 per cent of people expected to be renting homes privately by 2015. He said they traditionally don't buy plants but added it would be 10-20 years before the issue hit the garden trade.
Future Foundation's Dominic Harrison said garden centres needed to capitalise on "mindfulness" trends - awareness of ourselves and the world around us.
EFSA's Ronald Van Veen said trends for 2016 included 'wild energy' animal/industrial 'ferocious jungle' themed products with brown/grey colours and ornamental crackle, raw denim and leather textures. Briers is the UK's sole EFSA member. The Dutch garden centre association board member said sustainability is another trend with the Dutch pesticides market having been "killed" and new legislation will "forbid" sales.
Brompton Bicycles founder Will Butler-Adams spoke of enormous opportunity for selling quirky products worldwide.
After dinner speaker weatherman Bill Giles, in his final speech before retirement, said global warming could mean an Athens-type climate in the UK in just a few decades with hotter, drier summers and winters prone to sharp cold and floods.
The HTA is holding its first marketing forum on 10 November at Chesford Grange, Warwickshire and also a first industry leaders retailer and supplier private lunch at London's Shard in October.