Last month I had the good fortune to join Ernest Wertheim and Guy Topping for lunch in London. Ernest, aged 94, had just flown in alone from the States to attend an international DIY conference. He emailed after the conference to say the big chains are facing many of the problems currently faced by independent garden centres.
After an eight-decade career as a landscape architect and garden centre designer, working for many years exclusively for independents, Ernest is now of the view that we stand to gain more working together with the chains towards the common aim of encouraging more people to garden.
Both publications are text book examples of how a good basic horticultural training, coupled with hard work and perseverance, can bring commercial success. At the age of 14 Ernest was taught, the hard way, how to "spade" a large field of rhubarb - slice the top inch or two of soil and invert it to leave a clean, weed-free surface.
Practical tasks taught at this age are never lost. I still find myself slicing - cleaning up shrub borders and rose beds in spring, with the quick flip over of topsoil. A generation missed out on this work with the arrival of simazine and the way things are going we may have to relearn weed control by hand.
It is repeatedly said that our industry is short of youngsters, but visiting the Ball Colegrave HTA Open Day this month I saw plenty of bright young people taking in all there is there to learn.
Ball Colegrave also has its share of hard-working, skilled young people growing a wide catalogue of cultivars to a remarkably high quality. Both Ernest and Eddie Topping - the powerhouse behind Barton Grange and father of Ian and Guy - would have delighted in that showcase of horticultural excellence.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster