Seabrook on ... Praising horticultural success

Writing in this month's issue of The Garden, Stephen Lacey believes that we should be proud of what we are really good at - gardening. All strength to his pen, but not just for gardening. Why not all aspects of horticulture?

We have some remarkably fine growers of many edible and ornamental crops. Take, as an example, strawberries, which 10 years ago were little more than a niche crop worth no more than a quarter of top fruit sales.

With its hi-tech production blueprints and fine modern cultivars - many from East Malling Research (EMR) - the crop is now worth more than £200m per annum and five times the value of top fruit crops.

Surely our trade should be singing from the rooftops about the food miles home strawberry production is saving. This news should also be coupled with the message that top-quality home-grown fruits are now available from May to October.

Dr David Simpson at EMR has given us such valuable strawberry novelties as Elegance, showing more vigour than Elsanta and more class 1 fruit; Fenella, again out-yielding Elsanta; and Finesse, a heavy-cropping disease-resistant everbearer, to mention but three.

Lacey writes: "So, let Downing Street fly the flag for our horticultural research." Some hope given that the current tranche of state funding for EMR's programme comes to an end in 2012.

Growers are, however, well able to stand on their own feet, as club apple growing indicates. And how about long-cane blackberry and raspberry production, again extending the season for top-quality home-grown fruits - are not these crops to shout about? Cordon-grown redcurrants and container-grown blueberries are similar success stories, upping quality and downing food miles.

We even have new orchards of apricots, grown on hillsides for winter chill and spring frost drain away. Four-year-old plantings are yielding 750 fruits per tree, with double that forecast in seven years. Surely these are all things to shout about, too.

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.

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