Seabrook On ... Lack of specialist coverage will impact horticulture

July saw the usual cross-country tour of trial grounds and offered the opportunity to catch up with all the latest novelties due to be introduced next season, get re-acquainted with established lines and meet up with a good cross section of the trade. The notable thing for me was the shrinking number of fellow scribes and broadcasters attending these events.

I saw none of the television presenters and few of the national newspaper gardening correspondents or specialist gardening magazine people. The difficulty for the specialist magazine full-time staff is well-known, as circulations shrink and cost-cutting reduces staff numbers, the workload on them increases to near intolerable levels.

This cost-cutting is a real worry because as the workload increases, inevitably mistakes occur. Additionally, rather than have photographs taken to illustrate the written word, cheap pictures are gleaned by inexperienced staff from low-cost libraries, again with more mistakes.

While all this is going on, the demand for help from new and inexperienced gardeners is not being met. I was interested to hear that Scotsdales Garden Centre now has "angels" - employees who cruise the selling area looking for people who need help.

Additionally, they now have beds and borders advisers who work with customers to plan out plants for specific borders as well as "Pot-U-Up" staff who help customers select plants plus suitable containers and then pot them up.

It is all part of the "do it for me" (DIFM) culture, rather than what many of us are used to - DIY. Where this quite leaves the specialist magazines and garden programmes I am not sure. Certainly Love Your Garden on ITV and the Charlie Dimmock Garden Rescue series on BBC daytime are very much of the DIFM era.

BBC Gardeners' World, extending to an hour long, now has the time to be both entertaining and educational. However, it is difficult to see how the presenters here can inform when they have not been briefed on all that is happening in the trade.

We are told - and know from personal experience - that being outside, getting our hands dirty and growing things are good for our physical and mental health. While I might be an anachronism, there remains so much to learn and so much satisfaction to be gained by growing things at home that my copy will still be directed at DIY, not DIFM.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster


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