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Garden Press Event

Garden Press Event, London 2011

John Mason of ACS Distance Education reports on a key day of networking and product launches, withing the British Horticultural industry.
Held on February 3rd at the RHS headquarters, over 70 companies mounted displays at the event attended by hundreds of garden writers, TV and radio presenters and industry leaders.

John commented: “Having attended the “revealed” events at MIFGS many times, I could see paralells; except this was on a grander scale (to be expected in a much larger market). For me, it was enlightening to meet colleagues, swap ideas, and discover the trends and concerns that are driving the UK industry”

I asked several nurseries how the economic downturn was affecting them. The concensus was that discretionary buying on things like garden furniture and statuary was down; but plant sales seem to be coming through a rocky period and returning to normal.
The industry overall seemed boyant and optimistic, particularly when you consider that this is a country where the government has cut 20% from the budgets of most government departments.

Observed trends….

Potting Media
The UK has traditionally used “peat” based potting mixes, but that has been changing.
“Vital Earth” announced the launch of their “first ever, green-compost based plant food”
www.vitalearth.tv

New Plants
Many of the well established UK plant breeders continue with business as usual, partially because their income is spread across many parts of the world.  We can all learn a lesson here, that international trading can be a buffer against a national economic downturn. David Austin Roses, a typical example, was displaying their latest cut rose  “Kieira”

Internet
The internet is becoming increasingly significant in the gardening marketplace.
Charlie Dimmock was front and centre promoting Gardening Direct www.gardeningdirect.co.uk   John said “Lots of people talked to me about marketing on the internet and networking through social media. Sarah Squire from Squires Garden Centres www.squiresgardencentres.co.uk have an online newsletter you can subscribe to. Hillier Nurseries have set up an online shop (see  www.hillier.co.uk).

Education
Government colleges like Pershore and Writtle are under tremendous pressure with cuts of 20% to their budgets. At the same time, there is an increase in enrolments through full fee for service courses at private colleges. Eg. Academy of Distance Learning in Canterbury grew enrolments by over 50% last year.

Vegetables
As in Australia, vegetable seed sales have grown dramatically. John commented: “ I found talk back radio in the UK is currently full of people discussing growing vegetables at home, far more than what I hear back home in Queensland”
Pippa Greenwood (well known TV presenter) was promoting her “Grow Your Own” enterprise. See  www.pippagreenwood.com

Chemicals
The influence of the European Union is having a big affect upon the range of chemicals available. Chemicals that may have been acceptable to the UK government are now being banned in the UK as a flow on from bans in other EU countries. It is very interesting that products which we know and accept widely in Australia, are becoming illegal in the UK. This situation is obviously giving impetus to the development of alternative methods for pest, disease and weed control.

Networking with Industry
The following bodies were all present at this day, and are valuable contacts for anyone interested in the UK Horticulture Industry:

Garden Media Guild
The GMG is an association for professional garden writers, authors, photographers, broadcasters, editors, lecturers and allied trades.   www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk

GIMA
Gima is a New Product Digest, representing the Garden Industry Suppliers across the UK    Contact: Neil Gow (Director) See www.gima.org.uk

Horticultural Trades Association
Andrew Maxted  Director of Marketing   www.the-hta.org.uk

British Association of Landscape Industries
Established in 1972, this is the leading trade organisation for landscape industries
Daniel Young   Communications Officer  www.bali.org.uk

Plant Heritage
www.plantheritage.com

Institute of Horticulture (UK)
The peak body for professional horticulturists in the UK   www.horticulture.org.uk


Future Events
This is an annual event. If you are planning on a trip to the UK early each year, think about tying it in with the next Garden Press Event.
John Mason, principal of ACS Distance Education (www.acsedu.co.uk)  is a member of the Garden Media Association in the UK.

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