Professional Gardeners' Guild seeking to attract members with new look

The Professional Gardeners' Guild (PGG) has engaged a design consultancy to develop a new identity in a drive to increase membership and attract younger members.

Catalyst Design Partnership has created a "strong, clean, fresh" guild logo and masthead as well as a design template for the PGG journal, The Professional Gardener, that were shown to members for the first time at its AGM held at RHS Hyde Hall on 30 September.

The design is yet to be finalised and may or may not include a refreshed version of the guild's traditional flower logo. The PGG said the design will be adaptable to enable its use across various media and in slightly different formats while retaining the same overall branding.

Guild chairman Tony Arnold said the new design gives a "more corporate image". He added: "We live in fast-changing times and we need to adapt rather than change to suit the era we live in. But like an oak tree will survive times of change and still come out the other end loved and admired, but still the same tree, so must the guild."

Catalyst partner Paul Crank said the existing brand was a bit dated and did not appeal to a younger audience. "We've come up with a strong, clean, fresh design that is adaptable for use across different media," he added.

The design was broadly welcomed by members. One said: "I think it's very nice, very punchy, a good look, a good font, a good format."

The PGG also co-opted its New Gardener of the Year Becky Cross to be the voice of youth on the committee. The 22-year-old "floating gardener" at the Royal Gardens at Highgrove was at the AGM to collect her award, along with a diploma. Arnold said Cross will act as a guild ambassador in groups such as YoungHort as well as visiting schools and colleges to spread the word about professional gardening as a career.

Arnold admitted that the guild has had issues with participation, with no applications for the post of treasurer, coming up in January 2017 when George Thorpe steps down. He said he may need to engage a company to deal with day-to-day accounts. Membership secretary Bridget Fox will also leave next year.

He said he wanted "to give huge thanks" to Thorpe, who has held most posts in the PGG at some point. "I've known him for 30 years and we've never had an argument, we've never had a cross word, I've never shouted at him, which is absolutely outstanding to anyone who knows me. You can't ruffle him whatever you do. He's been a great friend and he's done thousands of miles up and down the country."

Arnold also announced "the painful decision" to suspend Ireland and North America as regions because nobody has volunteered to be a vice-chairman for each region for some time, although members continue to get the same benefits. He urged members to get involved, saying they can only get the full benefit of a member organisation if someone volunteers to run it.

The PGG signed up 70 new members in 2015 but has still seen a drop in membership, exacerbated by a purge of non-active memberships since its last AGM. Loss of paying members led to a drop in subscription income from £28,753 in 2014 to £24,019, although the guild raised more in charges for events. Three-quarters of PGG members work in the private sector.

Arnold referred to complaints on Facebook about members being "kicked out" of the guild, which had caused consternation among the online PGG community earlier this year. He said their details had simply been archived.

"I must emphatically say that no one was kicked out. They simply hadn't paid despite several reminders. This resulted in several also being taken off the Facebook page as they were no longer members for exactly that reason. No one has, I repeat, been thrown out."

This year members visited gardens in France and at Bowood House, Scone Palace, Aston House, Arley Hall and Lowther Castle as well as Sussex Prairie Gardens, Nymans, Glasavern, Dingle Garden & Nursery and Branclyn Gardens.

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