What are your sector's priorities for 2008?

Professionals from across horticulture highlight their aims and prospects for the coming year.


David Danning, owner, Trelawney Garden Centre, and chairman, Garden Centre Association

"The key thing for our sector will be whether it rains or not at the crucial times. I think in many ways 2007 showed us that even if we try our utmost to be less weather dependent, when it comes down to going out in the garden if it's raining for a few weeks at those key times, customers are not going to go shopping.

"I think the expansion of Wyevale and Dobbies will be an opportunity for independent garden centres. We need competition because it stretches us. Without it we just become lax.

"I don't think that this new challenge will do many too much harm."


Inga Grimsey, director general, RHS

"In 2008, I'm hoping for a lot more sunshine and a lot less rain at our gardens and flower shows, but no drought!

"We're kicking off the new year with a special issue (January) of The Garden dedicated to climate change, and we'll be looking closely at how the RHS can best help gardeners on this front.

"Whatever the weather, we want to help more people get more out of gardening, both on their home turf and from their visits to RHS gardens, where we'll be investing in bigger event programmes and the whole visitor experience generally. We'll be seeking to attract new audiences, particularly families and children - the next generation of keen gardeners, and, we hope, RHS supporters."

We're excited about the appointment of the first two regional co-ordinators for our Campaign for School Gardening, and the launch of our fundraising campaign for the new Learning Centre at Harlow Carr. And we are hoping for strong entries for the new Garden Writers Guild Award to engage children with horticulture, which the RHS will sponsor for the first time.


Nigel Jenney, chief executive, Fresh Produce Association

"I think the industry has a great opportunity, with the interest in the concept of healthy eating, to increase sales to promote the health of the nation.

"Recent reports show ongoing interest in purchasing and consuming fresh produce is higher than has been seen for some years.

"The Eat in Colour campaign encouraging fresh produce as colourful, tasty and convenient is beginning to have a significant presence within the marketplace and industry."


Nick Eden, director, Arboricultural Association

"A slump in the property market could be good news for contractors. If people can't afford to move, they are more likely to work on what they have, including doing more tree maintenance.

"The Arboricultural Association will launch its TrustMark scheme for the arboriculture sector in June. Before then we have to complete our own ISO 9001 accreditation.

"TrustMark is a government-backed scheme that cuts across many industries and gives consumers confidence that firms have basic standards of competence and customer care. For arb, it will serve as a half-way house - our own Approved Contractor scheme will remain the gold standard."


Steve Dowbiggin, chief executive, Capel Manor College

"Priorities are engaging with the industry, including finding a way to unlock Train to Gain money and, at the same time, persuading the Government that the horticulture industry is completely different to many other industries and it needs to tailor its policies to meet the best needs.

"We've got to attract more young people in to the industry and accept that the majority of entrants are career changers in their 30s and 40s. We have to realise green space will be the issue of the next 50 years in the UK and train a workforce to look after it."


Tony Arnold, chairman, Professional Gardeners' Guild (PGG)

"In 2008 the PGG intends to continue to raise the profile and image of the professional gardener. To do this we are going to have a larger advertising campaign and articles in more magazines, explaining what the guild does and to raise awareness of what gardeners do.

"We want to make gardening as a career more attractive to young people and those contemplating a career change, showing them that it is an interesting, worthwhile profession. We will continue our own training scheme and aim to get on board with the Green Skills initiative. We also need to encourage employers to improve pay and working conditions for gardeners in the UK."


John Breach, chairman, British Independent Fruit Growers Association (BIFGA)

"This year has been a good year (sales of English Bramleys are up 22 per cent on 2006) and next year is looking good too, thanks to the demand for locally grown produce. Supermarkets have at last realised that there is a demand. We have been telling them that for a long time but now they are taking notice of it. I can see no reason why there should not be a strong demand again next year.

"I expect we will see high sales of Braeburn and Gala and of some of the new varieties that are being marketed such as Jazz, Reubens and Kanzi.

"Growers will also be doing a bit of replanting next year - we (British growers) only supply 30 per cent of the market but there's plenty of scope to do more."


Mike Calnan, head of gardens and parks, National Trust

"We are currently planning ahead for next year and there are four main areas we are looking at. Firstly, we will undertake a major plant recording exercise as we have received the sponsorship to do that. We also plan to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and to explore how we need to adapt in response to present and future climate change.

"Our third priority is to improve the standards of conservation across the trust. And fourthly, we are aiming to improve the range of training opportunities for National Trust garden staff by putting together fast- and slow-track training schemes so people can progress up through the organisation. We also want to open up additional career entry points into the organisation."


Steve Smith, CABE Space steering committee member

"It would be nice to see more performance indicators for parks, although not so many that we use them as lampposts. I'd like to further link parks with the health agenda and revisit why public parks were put there in the first place by the Victorians. I want to see the country tackle the obesity problem by getting overweight children off their backsides. Parks are the nursery slopes and from there people can graduate to gyms.

"Training is also important, and how we can attract more people to the industry and fill the skills gap. We've had an apprenticeship scheme for 120 years at Oldham but there are still a lot of us in our 50s and the young ones are only in their 20s. Lastly, more basic revenue funding is still needed and there is still too much reliance on volunteers."


John Watkins, head of gardens and landscapes, English Heritage

"The two main priorities for us are preparing for global warming and focusing on skills in the green sector. To address this we are holding a conference early in 2008 on climate change and the historic environment, where we will be developing policies for the organisation.

"To focus on skills we will continue to promote the Historic & Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme. Its lottery funding runs out in two years. We need to ensure it continues because it has been developed into an excellent scheme that 80 people have already benefited from.

"We are also key partners in the Green Skills initiative, which has been set up to encourage young people into green careers.

"There are also projects at 10 of our gardens in 2008."

in particular the construction of new gardens at Kenilworth Castle, the restoration at Chiswick House and Gardens if lottery funding is forthcoming in January and conservation work at Wrest Park.


Nigel Thorne, president, Landscape Institute

"One of the key issues for the Landscape Institute in 2008 is the launch of our major campaign - "I Want to be a Landscape Architect" - which will seek to address the growing workplace demands for landscape architects. A survey completed by members in August revealed that 52 per cent of respondents were turning away work because of staff shortages. The project aims to raise awareness of the benefits of landscape architecture as a career with young people. With the growing understanding of the importance of the environment, we will argue that there has never been a better time to train to become a landscape architect.

"More broadly, we would expect landscape architects to continue to lead the way and embrace the need for action in tackling climate change. We would hope this will include projects incorporating sustainable drainage, an increased use of recycled materials and an increased use of green specifications."


Richard Hirst, chairman, NFU horticulture board

"I think one of the big priorities is to make our lords and masters very aware - with all the concern about global warming, carbon issues and regulations we're facing within both the edibles and non-edibles sectors - that we need to be seen as being at the forefront to solve those problems.

"At the same time, we need to create greater awareness of the benefits of production in this country.This involves whatever we're involved in. Everything we grow in this country absorbs carbon dioxide. We're providing a countryside that people expect, that is well-managed and looked after through a profitable industry.

"We are the solution to a lot of these problems and we need to make people aware of that. Over-regulation could mean that is not the case. This goes from Chrysanthemum growers in glasshouses to tree nurseries to peas in east Norfolk."


Neil Huck, senior contract manager, Ground Control, and former president, BALI

"The issue of sustainability and recycling is raising its head more. Clients are asking for environmental policies and action within the grounds maintenance industry. I think that is not a bad thing. The landscape industry should be leading the way, because planting trees and shrubs absorbs carbon. There's a lot more encouragement across Europe with Green Cities than in the UK.

"I also think training and the lack of skilled people is going to be an issue next year. I'm looking at it in a big way with Lantra, where I'm on the landscape industry group. The Olympics is the project everyone will be talking about. But it has been a bit unfair, saying only companies with more than £70m turn-over are allowed to tender for the north park contract. We've registered with Ground Control online. The Olympic Delivery Authority says it's happy to accept consortiums, but each member still has to have a turnover of more than £20m."


David Gwyther, director general, HTA

"Next year is going to start with economic challenges that will potentially affect everyone in the industry. They will have to try that much harder.

"Retailers will be keeping an eye on the multiples and high-street stores and will be polishing their customer offer in response, with more excitement in their stores and more care for customers - more help and advice, cafes and hospitality.

"Growers and suppliers are going to have to look at new buying groups emerging and are going to have to continue trimming their costs and competing more effectively, something they can do through lean management. Growers have to work together more on logistics and sales and marketing.

"Landscapers are better placed than most because people will be even more time-poor, even though they will be tighter on cash than in 2007."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Fagus sylvatica woodland

Native trees and shrubs – part one

In the first part of a special round-up, Sally Drury details native trees and shrubs that can attract grants and potential income.

What are the best measures to reduce the risk of slips and trips?

What have been some of the highlights from 180 years of Horticulture Week?

For Horticulture Week's 180th anniversary, many former and current contributors have shared memories of their time at the title.