Dixon on ... Getting through hard times

Now we know it, the "credit crunch" will continue at least until 2015.

It beggars belief that our money-men were conned into accepting risky gambles as copper-bottomed investments. Behaving like medieval alchemists, they thought rubbish could become gold. And we are left to clear the mess.

So how will horticulture fare? The connection between horticulture and health has just about gained popular acceptance. Let's not lose this achievement. Extending this beneficial image is to everyone's advantage. All the industry's products - from fruit and vegetables to parks, gardens and office plants - promote health. In times of stress, this virtue is even more important.

Economising to reconcile reduced budgets could increase junk food on the nation's plates and ryegrass prairies in its parks. But the cheap pound offers businesses major opportunities to recapture home markets by emphasising the value of British seasonal fresh food.

Pricey foreign holidays could encourage the public into greater use of parks and gardens at home. This will happen only if these are colourful and welcoming. Here are two sides of the horticultural coin, relying equally on plants and their products. The gold making that coin is the knowledge, expertise and professionalism of horticulturists for whom plants perform.

Inevitably, some horticulturists will fall on hard times. Perennial is our industry's charity, providing for those horticulturists who encounter difficulties. It has no age limits. Both youngsters and mature clients receive support.

The need for financial advice will increase as the credit crunch continues. Recognising this, Perennial has a confidential financial advice telephone helpline. Training can be provided as a route out of difficulties. Meanwhile, Perennial's traditional role of providing accommodation for retired professionals continues.

- To find out more about Perennial or support the charity's work, see www.perennial.org.uk

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