Seabrook on ... focusing on the gardener

The Floral Celebration at the Inner Temple was a great success: proof, if proof were needed, that RHS London Shows are popular with the membership, given a little promotion.

Over three days, 15,000 attended and exhibitors reported good sales. Six balcony gardens were popular and one in three visitors was interested in wall cladding with VertiGardens.

Last July, fears were expressed in this column that the RHS had taken its eye off the ball. The response was instant - five long-standing and experienced RHS garden staff made contact, in confidence, to thank me for speaking out.

Many exhibitors have similarly expressed their agreement, and society members are also expressing concerns. So why am I such a lone voice?

While Raymond Evison was present throughout the Inner Temple show and shows director Stephen Bennett was at the breakdown, I saw nobody else from either the Vincent Square executive or council on the last days at Hampton Court, Wisley or this latest London show.

How, then, do they keep in touch with membership?

The society's "new strategy" aims to make it "accessible and relevant to a broader audience by increasing membership, encouraging children to garden and promoting good environmental practice". Nowhere in this new strategy do I see reference to gardening and plants.

I believe members, the society's core support, don't want increased membership. They already complain that activities such as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are too crowded.

Other wealthy charities are able to cater for wildlife care and environmental issues - only the RHS looks after gardeners. The new strategy should feature "the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture".

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

Comment at www.horticultureweek.co.uk.


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