Seabrook On ... Specialist traders meet need for knowledge

There are many things I do not understand in the current world of gardening. Why, for example, do we have tender seedlings of peppers and tomatoes offered for sale under unheated polythene-roofed structures in March and yet no hardy vegetable seedlings? When the vegetable seedlings do arrive, why kale to crop in the winter and no autumn-sown cauliflowers that would crop in June?

Why are springand summer-flowering bulbs sold in packs that when grown prove to be incorrectly named? A packet of labels - I use a lot at school workshops - came with a felt-nib pen so thick it was useless. Don't manufacturers test these things? Pesticide suppliers establish a brand with one active ingredient that, for example, controls vine weevil, then change the ingredient so the unwitting customer buys the trusted brand but doesn't control the pest.

Why are retailers giving priority to low prices when service and quality, not price, are what help to build good, loyal customers? It has been said that consumers are switching to the internet for answers to their gardening questions because there is a lack of skilled staff in plant centres. Yet the net is a source of much questionable information.

Helen Yemm, the diligent answerer of gardening queries for The Daily Telegraph, curses the internet because her readers search the web, get conflicting advice then contact her to adjudicate. One answer to all of this is specialists trading direct.

Recently I visited Cramden Nurseries in Northampton, previously trading as Central Propagators and selling rooted pelargonium cuttings wholesale, but now retailing. It has space to grow flowering plants in larger sizes to yield lovely zonals that will produce masses of blooms for call-in customers and collections of rooted cuttings from its extensive range of cultivars for sale by post to fulfil online orders.

Next-day delivery for orders placed online or by phone is creating a revolution in the trade not seen since the introduction in the 1960s of year-round container plant sales.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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