Lack of horticultural skills and experience within the media is of increasing concern. The need for sound gardening advice to serve the consumer has never been greater, yet sources of it are becoming less reliable.
My formal horticultural college training has served me well over the years. An understanding of sciences has been invaluable. As have been the practicals in commercial fruit, vegetable and flower production that, along with weekend glasshouse duty, gave hands-on experience for a wide range of plants. The 20-a-week identity tests meant we could recognise more than 1,500 plants at the end of two years.
All this came after two full years’ pre-college work in the industry. Even so, training and learning never stop and press briefing days have been invaluable in the quest to remain up to date.
During the 1960s and 70s it was a privilege to join the likes of Roy Hay (gardening editor on The News of the World, The Times and Gardener’s Chronicle), Frances Perry (The Observer), Fred Whitsey (The Daily Telegraph and Popular Gardening), Donald Farthing (The Daily Express), Arthur Hellyer (Financial Times and Amateur Gardening) and Percy Thrower (The Daily Mail) to mention a few. We young, ambitious communicators learnt as much from our betters as we did from the organisations briefing us.
Over recent weeks there have been two excellent press briefing days at Q Lawns and RW Walpole in the Fens. The depth and breadth of the freely given information was invaluable. Yet there was only one national newspaper gardening correspondent present and no big-name broadcasters.
How do people hope to remain informed and up to date with all that is happening in gardening and horticulture without being briefed at such events? Even with poor press attendance, I hope commercial organisations continue with such educational events. They only need one committed communicator to get their message across to millions of readers/listeners/viewers.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster