Seabrook On ... Figurehead needed to drive action plan

The ornamentals round table report, outlining 12 ways to boost the fortunes of our industry, is well produced and was well launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This action plan is the result of six months of consultations by 10 trade representatives.

Talk, publication and launch is the fairly easy bit. Putting recommendations into practice is quite another matter. Take the suggested year-long international garden expo. While the merits and benefits of such an event are pretty obvious, who is going to be the Pied Piper to lead this merry dance?

Lord Heseltine, then environment secretary, was the powerhouse who drove through the garden festivals in the 1980s and 1990s. Who have we got to fill those rather large boots and get this proposal through?

When you stop to think about this, we already have the framework - hundreds of good gardens worth visiting, a good calendar of national and regional flower shows, several commercial companies staging good and colourful trials, not to mention some world-class horticultural production units.

If all of these got together to build a year of events and individually invited international players to have a presence, we would have it made. At Chelsea, for example, we could see co-operative exhibits from Belgium, France, Holland and Italy - all used to exhibit at Chelsea so it is hardly setting a precedent.

Exhibitors at the June Flower Trials in Holland could be invited to a much enlarged HTA Plant Show that could be extended into the weekend for public attendance. Glee and other trade events would need to put in extra effort to attract more international visitors with organisations such as the International Garden Centre Association encouraged to hold their annual conferences in the UK.

The first thing we need to do is agree a date. How about 2020? We would need a big international conference somewhere impressive, such as the Festival Hall, to kick it all off. It could include the presentation of the RHS Awards for 2019, sprinkled with worthy international recipients. What do you think?

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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