HW Podcast: Glendoick Gardens' Ken Cox on beginner gardeners, plant-hunting, growing and Brexit

Ken Cox's family firm, Glendoick Nursery and Garden Centre in Perthshire has been supplying plants and gardening advice to gardeners since 1953. It is renowned around the world as a breeder of rhododendrons and aside from writing award-winning gardening books, Cox is also a plant hunter, musician and and author of Gardening Made Simple, in which he aims to take the mystery out of growing for anyone who is new to gardening.

Cox reveals that the three million new lockdown gardeners were the inspiration behind the book.

During the first lockdown, Scottish horticulture missed much of the season but lockdown two, which lasted for three months until 5 April 2021, was less severe, Cox says. Converting the food hall into a farmshop enabled opening 10 days earlier and the cafe reopening on 26 April, ahead of those in England on May 17, has also brought in trade. Outdoor restaurant seating is not a good option in Scotland in early spring.

Plant supply has been tough, while Glendoick's field-grown ericaceous plant exports have been hamstrung by post-Brexit rules not allowing plants with soil on them to go to EU countries. However, Northern Ireland is back in the market after Westminster decided to break EU rules and allow exports.

Scottish Parliament elections, which could precede the ruling SNP rejoining the EU and thus forcing a hard border with England, could lead to England rejoining the single market, believes Cox, who is critical of Government responses to his letters to them about his plight.

The regulations have always applied worldwide to Europe but as the UK isn't in the single market/European Free Trade Area, it can't export. Seed potatoes can't be exported either. However, plant imports from the EU in soil are freely available. Cox said introducing such a rule might force the issue. He doesn't blame the EU "it's the UK that made this choice and its the UK needs to get us out of this mess".

The Kyoto Protocol has made plant hunting difficult as each country owns rights to plant resources but Cox has some exciting plant breeding releases on the horizon.

Podcast presenter: HW editor Matthew Appleby
Producer: HW digital content manager, Christina Taylor

If you are interested in producing a podcast with Horticulture Week, contact matthew.appleby@haymarket.com or roisin.kennedy@haymarket.com.

Listener feedback - please email hortweek@haymarket.com with "Podcast" at the beginning of the subject line.

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