ISU summer trip: magnificent gardens and a wide selection of plants
Changed habits effect English horticultural production and garden cultur
Over 60 participants from 13 member countries of the International Hardy Plant Union travelled around the South of England and North London from 6-11 August and visited scenes of garden pilgrimage such as Great Dixter, Bressingham or Beth Chatto as part of the ISU Summer Days 2016. The visits also included the highly successful garden centre Coolings in Sevenoaks and companies such as Howard Nurseries in Norfolk, Palmstead Nurseries in Ashford and the nature reserve in Rye. The perennial gardeners were impressed by the luxuriant, magnificent and inspiring plant selection often found in front of historic buildings, along with the special product ranges and many expert discussions.
English producers and garden centres have different views about the future of British horticulture. Robert Chapman, Joint Managing Director of Palmstead Nurseries, one of the largest English producers of nursery stock, expects Brexit to bring about better protection against plant imports and therefore strengthen domestic production. English producers who also took part in the trip were concerned about Brexit due to the risk of economic/scientific isolation and price rises for vital resources.
The sound economic situation and growing building activity is currently providing growing sales of perennials and nursery stock, reported Chapman. Christine Howard, owner of Howard Nurseries, also confirmed good levels of demand. Both companies offer a range specifically for landscape gardening and pay particular attention to a distinctive suitability of the types for use in the garden.
Paul Coolings, owner of the Coolings Garden Centre, had a critical view of future demand. He now generates 20% of turnover through his cafe. “We are happy when we are able to sell customers individual plants after they have visited the cafe” he joked. His garden centre is ideally equipped to do this, offering an exceptionally wide range and many stimulating plant varieties. He also offers events, including cinema and theatre performances. “Customers used to come with lists of plants, nowadays they have no idea about gardening” said Coolings summarising the situation. Therefore he no longer has a 10 year plan for his own business, instead he tries to adjust flexibly to the changes in consumer behaviour.
In order to appeal to visitors and customers, owners of smaller nurseries such as Merchants Hardy Plants in Laughton and Sussex Prairie Gardens in West Sussex also offer at least one very distinctive show garden, and often a cafe as an additional attraction. In the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society, such as Hyde Hall in Chelmsford or in the gardens of West Dean, North Chester, this is already the case as a matter of course.
During an evening discussion the ISU executive committee agreed closer cooperation between the International Hardy Plant Union and representatives of English horticulture with the famous plant breeder and garden designer Adrian Bloom, from Bressingham Gardens.
During the assembly of delegates which took place as part of the Summer Days the delegates passed changes to the statues. In future it will no longer be the assembly of delegates, but rather a general meeting accessible to all members which will be the supreme body of the ISU.
Convivial evenings in Great Dixter and the Bressingham Gardens rounded off a programme which participants unequivocally described as a success.