Seabrook On ... Who is there to help the home gardener?

A press briefing earlier this year outlined ambitious RHS plans. The investment of £160m was announced to include dramatic changes to the Wisley Garden entrance, a new building for the science department, the unique "Y-front" shaped building on the hilltop site to include a large restaurant, plus a new fruit and vegetable garden.

There are developments to Harlow Carr in the pub and hotel area, the new Chatsworth Flower Show, the new Bridgewater Garden in Salford and at Hyde Hall a redesign of the thatched restaurant area, with removal of farm buildings to make way for another new restaurant, education centre and glasshouse, plus a circular fruit and vegetable garden.

After this impressive and far-reaching presentation, one of the society's currently favoured designers exclaimed: "How exciting this all is." I was more subdued and had the comments in mind from a Scottish and another Birmingham member, along with those from several allotmenteers and specialist society members, who had asked: "What does the society offer us, apart from the monthly The Garden magazine?"

The "village square" meeting area at Wisley and the Y-front development underline the steady shift towards offering a leisure day out. Large garden centres are, of course, moving in the same direction and I cannot help but wonder who is to help and cater for the home gardener.

Steve and Val Bradley, staffing advisory desks at several provincial flower shows, report a steady demand for answers to really basic gardening questions. There appears to be a need for pretty well year-round how-to workshops on basic gardening practices at public gardens and plant retailers.

A leading landscape company is trying to recruit a new partner but is finding potential recruits with good plant and horticultural knowledge difficult to find. Last year the RHS had more than a dozen members of staff earning more than £70,000 a year. How many of them are trained, practising and championing horticulturists?

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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