It is inevitable that the war should have an adverse effect on the horticultural industry. Attention is fixed on other, momentous things; money normally devoted to gardens is expended on other and more pressing objects, and large numbers of those who support the industry in times of peace are fighting for their country. Furthermore, economy has been urged upon us, and although it would have more weight were the precept accompanied by example, we all recognised that economy must be practised.
Nevertheless, there are many and weighty reasons why those concerned for the present and future welfare of horticulture should do all that lies in their power to protect the horticultural industry from irreparable loss. In the first place, the general public, on which the industry depends, should recognise that horticulture is peculiarly a British industry, and that British firms can meet from their own resources all the requirements of our gardens. Hence, by spending money on seeds and plants, the public may rest assured that that money is circulating within the country and is not helping to swell the total of our imports.
In the second place, it must not be forgotten that this industry is one which, in some aspects, is of vital importance to the country. There can be no doubt but that the planting of every available plot of ground with vegetables is of the utmost importance. We urged it at the outbreak of war, and we urge it with no less emphasis now.
In the third place, all of us who share the sorrows and anxieties of these times realise with tragic vividness the truth of the aphorism that man does not live by bread alone. It is well that we, in such measure as we may, maintain the brightness of our gardens and continue to tend them so that they may solace ourselves and our neighbours. What solace is to be gained from the garden we all know, but never was it borne in on us so forcibly as when a few days ago a wounded New Zealander, fresh from Gallipoli and taken by a member to Wisley, exclaimed: "It was worth while going through it to come here."
For these reasons we would urge upon our readers to reduce their garden expenditure as little as possible. In the best of circumstances, the horticultural traders must suffer heavy losses, but these losses will be reduced markedly if gardeners generally will approach the problem of economy from the point of view of compromise; recognising on the one hand that a reduction in expenditure may be necessary, ad on the other, that a British industry deserves and needs their support.
We welcome, in this connection, the wise and moderate letter which the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society has addressed to its Fellows. After drawing attention to an earlier communication, in which it urged its Fellows to continue, so far as possible, to support the national industry of horticulture, the letter recognises how loyally fellows of the Society have responded to the appeal, and records the gratitude of the nurserymen and seedsmen for the support which they have received. It deprecates, as must all who are in a position to speak authoritatively, the suggestions made in the press that expenditure in public parks and gardens should cease, and concludes by advising a medium policy and urging the Fellows to support to the fullest measure of their power those who have done so much for the improvement of our plants and vegetables.
In the correspondence between the secretary and A Fellow of the Society, which we print elsewhere, it is urged by the latter that nurserymen should endeavour to attract more business by reducing their prices. On this point we may observe that the answer given by the Secretary is conclusive. As everyone knows, labour is scarcer and less efficient than it was before the war, establishment charges have to be met and yet heavier burdens are impending. The essential facts are that the horticultural industry is, and must of necessity be, depressed; that we are a reasonable people accustomed to compromise; that the best solution will be reached if all who have gardens will act in a spirit of compromise ordering their seeds and plants on as liberal a sale as is compatible with their present resources. The seedsmen and nurserymen on their part would do well to remember that not all of the community is suffering financial loss, but that a new public is arising with means to gratify its inherent taste for gardening, and they should seek means whereby that new public may also be reached.
- Taken from The Gardeners' Chronicle, 9 October 1915