The HTA National Plant Show last month was a roaring success whatever your method of measurement. Plant quality was superb, many displayed in eye-catching ways (the Wyevale Nurseries purple-leaved-plant-seated sofa the perfect example) and in extraordinary variety.
Just short of 100 new cultivars were introduced to illustrate how alive and thrusting our industry is. Part of the feel-good factor came from plant sales over the past two months, with Andy Bunker of Alton Garden Centre reporting bedding up 25 per cent and hardy nursery stock up 50 per cent. Another national firm reported sales of plants and sundries combined up more than 40 per cent this spring and still firing on all cylinders.
Who says the right weather does not encourage homeowners to garden? These sales and figures will take some beating next year. In fact, 2016 could be one to go for improved profitability rather than trying to increase turnover at these levels.
The cross-section of visitors was also impressive and all were plants people trading with enormous enthusiasm and passion for growing. This show is now one all plant wholesalers and retailers have to attend.
There is much talk of too few youngsters entering the industry, but I saw plenty in the aisles at Stoneleigh. After visiting two horticultural colleges recently it looks to me as though school-leavers may be better served joining one of our go-ahead growers and/or retailers to be trained on the job.
Did you know that students have to pay £27,000 for tuition fees alone to do a three-year degree course? Perhaps it is acceptable with garden centre managers earning salaries of £50,000 to £100,000, although I would want a better deal than some colleges look to be offering.
Outside the college refectories I visited, the ground was littered with dog ends and food wrappers. It is not a state garden centres would sanction outside their coffee shops and restaurants.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster