Seabrook on ... Speaking out for horticulture

The horticultural trade is blessed with experienced, knowledgeable and enthusiastic plants people. This is one of the reason's Britain is seen internationally as a nation of gardeners.

We have the skills, but today these burning lights of knowledge have been hidden under their bushels for too long. Good ambassadors from the past spoke out for their special interests - for example, Tom Rochford, the green houseplant king; rosarian Harry Wheatcroft; aquatics and perennials educationalist Frances Perry; champion of plant protection materials and gardening TV presenter Percy Thrower; Mr herbaceous Alan Bloom - need I continue?

All were friends of our industry, but where are their equivalents today? I was interested to see that Institute of Horticulture president Sue Minter wrote to the prime minister to protest about the Government's "lack of understanding about what horticulture is". That was a start. Now more people should follow Sue's lead and speak out for horticulture.

There is a desperate need to get young people into work and our trade has lots of opportunities. This spring, independent garden centres will recruit hundreds of staff, including students. It would not take much for the Garden Centre Association to send a round robin to members to establish the number of vacancies. A message: "Garden centres are recruiting (x) hundreds of staff," could make national good news. Supermarket chains gain such coverage every time they open new stores.

We could calculate the weight of carbon absorbed by a rose bush or conifer and multiply this by the number sold and release the sum totals during rose and conifer weeks. Our trade is selling carbon dioxide-absorbing machines and it is time we shouted this to the general public.

We hear relentlessly about damaging pesticides, new pests and diseases of plants, but where is the national voice proclaiming the great advances in pest and disease control now available to gardeners?

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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