Retailers and growers are set to thrash out their differences at two trade body supply chain summits this autumn, after a spring of rejected orders and poor plant sales.
Some garden centre buyers claim that growers lack perspective on the retail market, while growers such as Baginton Nurseries have withdrawn from some of their retail markets (HW, 5 July), citing high risks.
Hillier plant buyer Pip Bensley said: "It's a difficult one because a lot of growers say: 'Tell us what you want and we'll grow it.' If you take everything, that's lovely, but if not they say it's entirely your fault. They have no comprehension of the market.
"I find it increasingly difficult to deal with that sort of nursery. I want someone with their eye on the market and I want a nursery to come to me with ideas and a complete package.
"We're all working with fewer people - our buying department is minute and we don't have time to work for someone else. I want nurseries that understand what people are looking for and not growing the same thing for years and years.
"Maybe they could look at shortages. At the moment I can't get lobelia for love nor money because everyone has been really cautious."
Bensley added that "some younger nurseries are much wiser" and creating demand by promoting direct, citing rose grower David Austin as an example.
British Protected Ornamentals Association chairman Ian Riggs has arranged a workshop on 9 October to help growers with their negotiating skills. He said: "Lots of retailers don't have electronic point-of-sale (Epos) systems to analyse sales, and ask growers for the same as last year. Maybe growers should ask more questions."
The free event will feature the NFU's Peter Kendall, Nina Winter and Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, Garden Centre Association interim chief executive Iain Wylie, and high-street and multiple retailers. Riggs said: "It's not to promote confrontation, but to promote a dialogue for everyone's interest."
He also suggested a retailer-grower code of practice: "I don't think it will cost retailers money because all they want is a reliable source of quality product."
An HTA Seasonal Plant Focus on 21 November will discuss supplier and retailer relations. The HTA has also been giving planteria managers Epos advice to determine what sells in today's tighter spring market.
- BPOA Build Better Business event, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, 9 October.
- HTA Seasonal Plant Focus, Young Plants, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, 21 November.