Clarity holds key to attracting beginners

Having promised recently to help out a friend's son who had expressed an interest in working with plants, what I intended to be no more than a couple of hours worth of internet research into relevant horticulture course options and potential work placements quickly became a couple of hours each evening for nearly a week.

That's not a complaint about the quality of information that colleges supply - they do a good job - but a reflection of the complexity of the industry itself and necessarily the training and education options that feed it. Explaining clearly to a beginner the extraordinary range of options available in, and routes into, an industry with at least nine completely distinct sectors takes some time.

But we must all get better at interpreting what we do. And not just because no-one else is going to do it for us, which they are not. But because behind so many of our frustrations at horticulture's lack of recognition lies our failure to communicate in terms that those outside the industry can grasp simply and quickly what this great industry is all about. It's not the only reason, of course, but it is a significant one.

Peter Seabrook writes of the need for more "speakers" on behalf of horticulture (p17). Peter is one of the very best examples of professionals in our industry "interpreting" horticulture for beginners, in this case school children, through his and his Sun colleagues' efforts to build school gardening around the UK - work that held an audience of parliamentarians spellbound at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group this week.

But "interpreting" is also, of course, about customers. And to that end initiatives such as the Landscape Institute's Why Invest in Landscape are very welcome. This is a document that president Jo Watkins tells us will be produced to help members get across the benefits of what they do.

Watkins says: "We have to get past landscape architecture being an expensive afterthought and get better at promoting the profession to Government by showing how we can tie in with its policies and deliver value for money." It seems so obvious. But are we all doing it?

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