Stewarts garden centre boss hits out at Walkden and Pasco's 'uninspiring' jibes

Stewarts Garden Centres retail director Bob Sawyer has hit out at comments from TV gardener Christine Walkden and Gardener's World magazine editor Adam Pasco attacking garden centres as uninspiring.

At a press event at Blooms of Bressingham discussing how to get people switched on to plants Walkden said garden centres were selling plants like a supermarket. "Where is the creative thinking?" she asked. "It is as if we are embarrassed to sell. Where is the information that makes it easy for the customer to come into the garden centre and grab?"

Pasco said garden centres did not give customers enough inspiration.

Sawyer said:"Two of our industries leading lights believe garden centres have lost the plot when it comes to inspiring people to purchase plants.

"I find this statement ironical in that it is being made by two people who are far better placed to influence gardeners than any garden gentre but who along with other members of the media have failed dismally to do so. This fact is supported by the new RHS director general Sue Biggs who has stated that she wishes to discuss the way that the BBC covers gardening and to ask them to concentrate more on the plants and how to grow them and less about the people who present the programmes.

"If only these people would get down from their ivory towers and visit some proper garden centres and nurseries they would realise how much is being done by our industry to promote gardening. From gardening clubs to working with schools we are more pro–active than ever in spreading the gospel that gardening is good for you be it for fresh food or exercise. With the greatest respect we do not need to be told by a friend from over the water the importance of working with schools many of us are already doing it. As for the statement by Christine Walkden that people need to be able to grab plants how wrong can you be? Customers love taking time over their selection that’s half the fun.

"For what ever reason it appears that a number of people who represent our industry do not know what is happening in it. Monty Don's recent statement that he has not visited a garden centre for ten years sums it up. Not all garden centres are glorified gift shops there are still businesses out there that still sell tulip bulbs and wallflowers in October and have staff that can help customers. Yes these businesses need to be commercial to survive in this day and age but this does not mean they no longer promote plants and gardening. You only have to look at Waitrose to see it is possible to offer a better standard of product, encourage people to try something new and be profitable.

"So come on Mr Pasco and co why not visit a garden centre or nursery near you and start to support the industry that without which your role would cease to exist, remember the old adage "don’t bite the hand that feeds you".

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