News Review 2010 - The Horticulture Week review of the year

The impact of the incoming Government's June emergency budget and October comprehensive spending review on the horticulture industry inevitably hogged many of our headlines this year.

But while the economic climate continued to be a cause for concern, the industry took time to celebrate its great achievements and achievers during the year - several of whom are highlighted below in our selection of the year's headlines.


The year opened with all parts of the horticulture industry counting the cost of the big freeze, including huge fuel bills for protected crop growers, hold ups and cancellations of landscape projects, worries over turf damage and a challenging harvest for vegetable growers.

The industry welcomed a last-minute decision by the Technology Strategy Board to allow the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) co-funding in research and development crop protection project bids, only to be disappointed later in the year when HDC-backed schemes failed to win funds.

The National Tree Safety Group announced plans to publish guidance that included a focus on the contribution of trees that could consign a controversial British standard on tree safety to the history books.

Nigel Taylor, curator at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said it would consider installing foot and mouth-style wash dips to keep out infection if Phytophthora ramorum hit the London gardens.

Dobbies revealed plans for a £10m garden centre at Eureka Leisure Park in Ashford - its first store in Kent.

Fruit and vegetable growers welcomed a Government decision to establish an ombudsman for the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

An amendment to the Flood & Water Management Bill that would have enshrined an industry-agreed code of practice on hosepipe bans was withdrawn as the bill was fast-tracked.

Environmental campaigner Sir Jonathan Porritt told the Garden Centre Association (GCA) conference that he could not understand why garden centres were complacent about establishing environmental policies.

British and International Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) chief executive John Pemberton warned of more golf club closures in a "difficult year ahead" at the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition.


Outbreak of citrus longhorn beetle brought Holland's horticulture heartland to a standstill.

Birmingham City Council threatened major cuts to parks services in a bid to slash £1.3m from green space budget.

Figures revealed plant imports to the UK fell for the first time for years in 2009 after the strong euro hit sales from overseas growers.

A points-based system for judging at RHS shows was implemented for the first time at the London Plant & Design Show to cut down on subjectivity and the number of judges involved.

Devastated pea growers across East Anglia assessed their options after Birds Eye dropped its long-standing contract with Anglian Pea Growers, a move that affected 180 growers.

Arboriculture leaders formed a cross-industry steering group to push the Government to commit to tree research.

Lakeside planting using grasses and flowers to create a sense of movement helped Gardens for Life scoop the top award at the Association of Professional Landscapers Awards.

Van Hage Peterborough Garden Park opened.

The stars of production horticulture were hailed at the Grower of the Year Awards. Hillier Nurseries won Grower of the Year - Ornamentals, and LM Porter claimed Grower of the Year - Edibles. Hillier went on to win International Grower of the Year in Korea in October.

Dobbies announced a 6.2 per cent like-for-like sales increase in the financial year 2009-10.

The Garden Centre Group (GCG) joined a growing trend and opened up spare land around its centres in order to build allotments.


UK ornamental plant exports were running at their highest-ever levels. Some growers reported increases in sales of 500 per cent to the continent.

Figures from the GCA suggested garden centre trading in March was five per cent down on the previous year.

Defra secretary Hilary Benn sought talks with University of Warwick vice-chancellor professor Stuart Palmer about the future of the horticultural research station HRI Wellesbourne. Twenty-three HRI staff were made redundant.

The world's first trailing pansies were introduced by Ball Colegrave at the Meadowcroft Pansy and Viola festival.

The Ecobuild show featured a 10m-high living wall-clad cube, highlighting the challenges facing urban public realm.

Gardening broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh slammed the garden industry for "taking the Mickey" with overpriced vegetable plug plants.

Torbay Council trialled a US system to assess the economic value of its urban trees from environmental gains.

It emerged that up to £450m could still be needed to make the Olympic Park suitable for long-term public use after the 2012 games.

Defra secretary Hilary Benn called for a phase out of peat-based composts for sale in garden centres by 2020.

A far-reaching report from CABE Space analysing more than 16,000 urban green spaces found that 87 per cent of people had used a park within the past year.

The £11.6m Dobbies Garden World opened in Aberdeen.

Tree fruit growers warned that they may quit the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board over dissatisfaction with levy calculations.


GCG attracted headlines by opening to members on Easter Sunday but avoided prosecution by not selling any products.

The green space sector welcomed news of Big Lottery Fund talks with the Heritage Lottery Fund on return to joint-funding for Parks for People programme.

Skills body Lantra met with the UK Commission for Education & Skills following an industry outcry over a commission report that ranked the agriculture and horticulture industries very low in terms of economic significance.

The effects of plant shortages were beginning to bite. Many growers blamed the prolonged cold spell that hit most of Europe at the start of the year.

Signs of a recovery in the house building sector had a positive impact on landscape architecture practices.

Dobbies won planning permission for two £8m garden centres - at Houston Mains in Livingston and at Braehead in Glasgow.

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre in Sidcup, Kent, turned a 15th century house into a children's day nursery, thought to be the first at a garden centre.

Garden Expo 2010 was cancelled after organiser Clarion Events said there was not enough industry support.

The Rural Payments Agency resumed payments to producer organisations six months after they were brought to a halt by the EU but fresh controversy occurred over backdating.

In HW's election special, Labour's Hilary Ben and opposition spokesman Nick Herbert went head to head on their plans for horticulture.


New figures showed bedding planting in London fell by an average of 30 to 50 per cent in the past decade as councils sought to cut spending.

Bad weather and higher production costs marked a decline in profitability for growers in 2008-09, according to a University of Reading study, but industry figures showed trend was reversing.

The first phase of consultation on the National Trust's reorganisation came to an end, with a job freeze being lifted for the first time in two years.

Green space specialists reacted with concern to the suggestion from Improvement & Development Agency head Rob Whiteman that parks services could be delivered via a more volunteer-oriented model such as the National Trust.

The second Garden Retail Power list of the top 100 people in the garden centre sector saw Nicholas Marshall usurp Sir Tom Hunter as number one.

AMA Research predicted that the online gardening market could double to £300m by 2014.

Garden centres in the south and east struggled over the May Day bank holiday, with sales down by up to 25 per cent compared to 2009.

Soft fruit group Berry Gardens' turnover grew from £111m in 2008 to £122m in 2009 - its highest on record.

Andy Sturgeon's Daily Telegraph garden won best in show at Chelsea. Meanwhile, the show's new plant award, won by Dibleys Nurseries for Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue', was warmly welcomed by the industry as a sign of a greater focus on plants.

Following Labour's defeat in the general election, the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition Government with the Conservative Party.


Former Kuoni boss Sue Biggs was appointed as director-general of the RHS.

Fears were raised over the future of vital horticultural research, funded by regional development agencies that were expected to bear the brunt of £300m cuts.

GCA figures showed June sales were 8.5 per cent up on the previous year.

Planning submissions for a new Blue Diamond garden centre in Leeds were expected while the business took over a lease on Redfield Garden Centre in Hampshire, which was to be rebuilt.

Kinglea Plants' Essex sites went up for sale for £5m after the bedding grower failed to find a buyer for the business.

Good May weather saw many ornamental growers and wholesalers break sales records in a sign that pent-up demand was being unleashed.

CABE Space public space head Peter Neal told green space managers that they must have a firm grasp of their asset base and be well-versed in the significant body of research backing the value of parks, as savage public spending cuts loomed.

OrchardWorld announced plans to trial four new pear varieties in the UK.

Suppliers to Government-funded building projects welcomed an emergency budget pledge from chancellor George Osborne to cap cuts to capital spending projects, only to be hit one week later by news that bigger than expected cuts were to be made to the Building for Schools programme. Meanwhile, parks braced themselves for unprecedented cuts of 25 per cent to their budgets and garden centres heard that they were to face a hike in VAT to 20 per cent.

Government plans to abandon regional spatial strategies and devolve planning policy to a more local level prompted fears in the industry that they could delay the housing recovery and further damage the landscape sector.


Kew Arboretum head Tony Kirkham warned that oak processionary moth was out of control and urged the Government to act to help eradicate the pest.

The VAT increase topped grower exhibitors' concerns at the first HTA National Plant Show in Warwickshire, where growers warned they had no margin to absorb the impact on retailers' behalf.

The British Protected Ornamentals Association took over the Home Grown label from the Horticultural Development Company after the EU ruled that levy-payer money could not be used to promote British provenance.

The Landscape Institute slammed Government proposals to revamp planning obligations that could leave councils unable to use cash raised from section 106 agreements for the upkeep of public green space.

United Utilities was accused of flouting the spirit of a code of practice agreed by water companies and the industry after its decision to ban the use of hosepipes in the north-west of England.

Woking show exhibitors said they planned to increase production for 2011 after a strong season in 2010.

The Fresh Produce Consortium kick-started a campaign to urge the Government to maintain support of the school fruit and vegetable scheme.

A Defra report on the carbon footprint of growing media was slated by experts over its methodology, assumptions and failure to reach meaningful conclusions.

Employer bodies welcomed Defra's decision to abolish Agricultural Wages Board as Unite union predicted unrest.

A slow start to the season and reduced pack sizes combined to hit strawberry growers' returns.


Ball Colegrave brought its Tatton Park bedding competition sponsorship to an end.

County Councils revealed they were investigating country parks asset transfers in a bid to save costs.

The Land Trust warned that volunteers cannot be expected to take on the roles of professionally trained staff in response to "Big Society" idea.

Dobbies revealed an operating profit of just over £9.8m in the 12 months to 18 February.

Tree care firms were urged to combine resources to compete for parks and street tree contracts from local authorities as public spending cuts bite

Fruit & Vegetable Task Force published proposals for strengthening sector. They include removing regulation, sustaining R&D capability, improving skills and attracting fresh talent.


A leading parks consultant called for sector to lobby for parks' transfer from local authority control to independent parks boards.

Cut your own flowers were tipped as the next big trend to further grow your own sales after a successful trial run of a new range from Bransford Webbs.

Public sector spending cuts could bring fresh opportunities for landscapers, said industry leaders at a HW forum at IoG Saltex, with landscape design winning a bigger share of a dwindling public building pot.

Quantil, one of the largest UK suppliers of young vegetable plants, said the grow your own market had peaked.

Biopesticides are the future of crop protection, Fargro told the Four Oaks Trade Show.

Garden Retail magazine seminar at Glee exhibition heard panelists call for greater inspiration and innovation from garden centres.

Glee opened with 100 more exhibitors than 2009.

Contractors Forum heard warning from Health & Safety Executive that contracts won by bidding the lowest possible price were a potential safety risk.

Vivid Arts revealed at Four Oaks that it had sold 250,000 meerkat garden ornaments this year.

The £145m growing-media market grew by 14 per cent in the year to July 2010, with Sinclair and Westland big winners.

Garden Centre Group increased its like-for-like sales by five per cent to £251m across the chain's 120 stores in 2009. Profit before tax was £2.7m, compared with a loss of £94m in 2008.


London mayor Boris Johnson warned the Government not to transfer Royal Parks to his financial remit in a "budget dumping" exercise.

Dutch grower Bert Griffioen's system for using perennial plants in public space, which cuts soft landscape maintenance costs, was hailed as little short of revolutionary by attendees at a Palmstead garden design seminar on dynamic planting.

Green space campaigners stepped up their fight with a plea to Government to rethink scrapping the Playbuilder scheme. A few weeks later, funding for some schemes was reinstated.

Plant Fest saw Greenfingers cash and carry consider launching a similar format for spring after success of instant trade plant sales.

NFU director-general Kevin Roberts voiced his concerns about the impact of "Big Society", saying the NFU was particularly concerned about planning under the new localism regime.

The Landscape Institute announced that its archive of plans and drawings was to be stored by the Garden Museum, which hoped to create a major archive of garden and landscape design.

Mary Portas told garden centres to give customers more advice at the annual HTA garden industry conference.

Distribution giant Solus Garden & Leisure reduced its suppliers from 100 to 20, with more than a dozen of its own brands driving the business.

Plans for pop-up Christmas shops plans were revealed by Webbs, Bents, Notcutts and Garden & Leisure.

The Government's comprehensive spending review left the industry predicting the end of large-scale landscapes for designers and the introduction of new contract models for contractors. Parks managers weighed up the implications, which could mean job losses and trust status for some parks, while for garden retail, the January VAT hike was expected to have a greater impact on businesses.


HW-hosted seminar at National Fruit Show heard calls for a "tsar" to lead the agenda on reconnecting the horticulture industry with young people.

Garden centres and growers warned that the plant transportation system could go into meltdown this spring as many businesses rejected a Container Centralen plan requiring them to buy £400 scanners to read the new radio-frequency identification trolley tags.

Top US landscape architect Rene Bihan said picturesque English landscapes stifled the contemporary evolution of landscape design.

Garden Retail Awards - Colin Squire won a lifetime achievement prize, while Garden Centre Group confirmed its comeback with four awards.

Parks chiefs were urged to fight cost-cutting by illustrating the health benefits of parks that take them beyond their non-statutory designation.

Industry figures including HW editor Kate Lowe and Scotts' Martin Bready urged parliamentarians to help protect green spaces and convey the economic input of the horticulture industry at the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group annual reception at the House of Commons.

Institute of Horticulture president Sue Minter attacked Government plans to include gardening in community work allocated to the unemployed for undermining horticulture skills.


Garden centres prepared for their "best fortnight ever" after the date of the royal wedding was announced. With the wedding taking place on 29 April, there will be four bank holidays in 11 days.

Colin Frampton, joint owner of Donaldsons, the last large-scale cut flower chrysanthemum grower in the UK, told of his sadness that the business was to sell up at the West Sussex Growers' Association annual dinner.

Homebase and B&Q announced that they would go head to head at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2011, with both revealing plans to sponsor show gardens.

Producer organisations were hit for a second time by stalled Rural Payments Agency disbursements.

Snowy weather hit Christmas garden centre trade across the country, leaving retailers expecting a "concertina" season. Many landscape projects came to a standstill, while commercial cauliflower growers feared losses due to crop damage.

Bowles & Wyer scooped the Grand Award at the BALI National Landscape Awards - which were run in association with HW - for a private garden that was described by judges as "an exercise in perfection".

Liverpool City Council become one of the first local authorities to launch a green infrastructure strategy.

All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club head groundsman Eddie Seaward warned that the 18 days he will have between the end of the annual Wimbledon tennis championships and the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games were likely to be "mayhem".

The year closed as it began with more snow and ice for many.

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