Seabrook's notebook

Peter Seabrook takes a look at the wilting state of autumn plant promotions and offers solutions.

In August, garden centres looked to me to be missing out on several tricks: now that coffee shops and gift areas steadily show year-round growth, it is easy to become complacent about the autumn gardening stock.

There can be no disputing the upsurge in sales for grow-your-own fruit and vegetables, so where are the bold autumn fruit displays? "Perpetually" fruiting Strawberry 'Albion' (Meredith) sold out in three weeks at good prices last June so why are we not offering them now, when they are still fruiting heavily?

This plant will yield masses of fruit right through to the frost, so it's difficult to understand why there's no autumn promotion - or a link with coffee-shop sales of 'Albion' strawberry tartlets.

Similarly, rooted tips of raspberries 'Joan J' and 'Brice' will fruit well in 3.5-litre containers from early September to November; another fruit for restaurants and direct-link container sale.

Wyevale centres had meaty 12' (30cm) pots of aubergines, tomatoes, peppers (both sweet and hot) at £4.99 a time - offering another plant area/cafeteria link-up. Wisley Plant Centre was offering fruit of less common cultivars from its orchard at the check-out but had no link to container-grown trees.

A centre near Ipswich had patio pot dwarf peach and pear trees but these were lost among other, end-of-season lines. It did, however, have two benches of colour-coordinated seasonal ornamentals, one with silver foliage and such lavender-coloured flowers as Michaelmas daisies, lavenders and verbenas in three different heights. The other bench had dark-leaved plants with scarlet-to-crimson flowers, which among predominantly green leaves, shrubs, conifers and trees really caught the eye.

Country Gardens was an early bird with its autumn bulbs but displayed them well away from autumn chrysanthemums, large pots of seasonal herbaceous in flower and stocks of attractive autumn shrubs.

In times past garden centres made great play of autumn bulb festivals and fruit tasting events: these promotions could be given another whirl to build traffic.Decorating coffee tables with pots of fragrant mini Cyclamen (priced) and backing these up with sales tables of them at the entrance and check-out is worth the effort. There are regular customers for food and drink who could happily be persuaded to buy a plant as they leave by this means. Or offer a free cyclamen when spending more than £10 in the coffee shop.

Something really needs to be done to kick new life into autumn bedding, autumn fruits and autumn bulbs so repeat visitors can delight in the arrival of a new season.

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Are garden centres taking business from department stores?

Are garden centres taking business from department stores?

Can other garden centres learn from Petersham Nurseries and the fusion of retail elements in its new Covent Garden outlet?

Consolidation reaching ever further across horticulture

Consolidation reaching ever further across horticulture

Consolidation is stretching across the nursery and retail horticulture sectors, with Dutch corporate finance company Oaklins saying the horticulture market is now going through another wave of consolidation.

Electric car charging: an opportunity for garden centres?

Electric car charging: an opportunity for garden centres?

There are 11,700 electric car-charging points across the UK but only eight at garden centres, so more can be done to take the opportunity in garden retail.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 100 GARDEN CENTRES

Our exclusive ranking of garden centre performance by annual turnover. 

Garden Centre Prices

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles

Neville Stein

Business advice from Neville Stein, MD of business consultancy Ovation

Read latest articles