I am writing this from my hotel in Christchurch. It is a rebuilt hotel that we stayed at in 2010. It was destroyed in the earthquake and has been rebuilt like so many parts of southern parts of the South Island. I am here to attend the 2016 New Zealand Region IPPS conference after being part of the 2016 International Tour and Board meeting.
The International Plant Propagator’s Society is one of the best professional associations in the world. It has a fundamental belief in the collection and sharing of knowledge on propagating and growing of plants around the world. On the tour and at the conference I met and worked with growers from all over the world. It was interesting to listen to the issues facing the different regions. Last year we were in southern USA and their biggest concern was the changes in their labour laws. For as long as they can remember they have had access to cheap semi legal workers from Central America. This has been stopped and they are looking at how to mechanise and do the same production with less people.
This year their spring has started with a bang and many of them are having record sales. Most of the growers do woody perennials which means their production times are in the years and not months. There are now massive shortages in all pots sizes. A good problem to have. Speaking to growers from UK who are having issues with slowing sales due to the confusion with their position in the European Union. Their economy is in suspension whilst they wait to see if they will stay in or leave the Union. Some of the NZ growers are suffering very dry conditions resulting in low demand and higher costs. The drought is a problem and we all know that it will end, just when?
The great thing is that whatever is happening in their nursery they are all positive and love their industry. They are keen to meet other growers from around the world. Friendships formed at these conferences are long lasting and transcend national borders. We all have similar issues and similar solutions. It was good to catch up with NZ growers who I haven’t seen for 10 or more years. Not a lot has changed – just older with grey hair.
What was interesting is the change in plant trends across the world. USA is just moving into the edible fashion. Typical of USA they have even produced a new class of plants – edimental. These are plants that are edible varieties but have been bred to look good in pots etc. The classic case for us in Australia are those pretty and compact chillis like Medusa. The attractive and colourful fruits are as pretty as any flowering shrub – and edible. Europe is similar to what we are doing, just in huge numbers. They have relatively high labour costs and strong competition across all sectors.
I have been going to IPPS conferences since 1990 and have attended them in Europe, NZ, USA and Japan. Some conferences are quickly rewarding as I have learned a new technique, solved a problem or found a new plant. Others have not yielded instant results but the information goes into the mass of knowledge gained over time.
All this information helps you to get a more thorough understanding of how a plant grows and how it sells. If you can attend any IPPS conference you should. They are held once a year in each region. Australia’s are usually held in May. NZ and Sth Africa are usually in March/April and Europe, Japan and USA are in September/October. Go to www.IPPS.org to see when and where they are being held. This year is in Adelaide and the theme is ‘Food for Thought’. There are several good overseas speakers presenting and then 2017 is in Perth.
May already and winter weather is settling in. We want it to be wet enough to fill the dams, cold enough to kill the bugs and give the winter chill needed for many plants but we also want the weekends to be warm, dry and sunny so that people keep buying the plants. Not a big ask, really.
Have a great autumn and plan now for a really good spring. Remember if you don’t have the plants on the ground you can’t sell them. The US nurseries are all wishing they had put down more plants last year.