With a world in turmoil it is easy to see why gardening is such a popular past time. Like sport it allows the participants to shut out the world and focus on something positive. Some of us love native plants, other the challenge of trying to grow exotics from different climatic zones, others the stimulation of growing our own food plus many more passions. Listen to any gardening program on the radio or television and hear the love the callers and presenters have for growing plants.
The beauty of gardening is that there are no downsides. Sure some people get upset if you try and grow exotics in certain regions but even then all plants create oxygen. All plants soften the built environment and create a feeling of peace. I am a regular presenter at garden clubs and there seems to be more younger people joining and getting involved. All the members love the social interaction of like minded people and just love learning about plants. Not just their favourite ones but all plants.
Unlike other industries there are very few rogues in horticulture. In fact so many of our professional growers are really nice people. Di and I have made lots of really special friends through our time in the industry. People with whom we enjoy spending time with and whose knowledge we respect. One such person is Margy Clemma from Whistlepipe Gardens in Perth. Margy was a passionate plants person with a PhD in botany and a real love of perennial plants. Margy also gave freely of her time to help WA nursery industry deal with so many of its quarantine issues and was a strong supporter of IPPS. Margy and her local team delivered a fantastic conference in Fremantle in 2010. Margy passed away in late August after a relatively short illness. Our industry will miss her passion.
I have said it before we must make sure the knowledge of people like Margy, and the many others that leave us each year is passed on through the industry. This is where conferences like IPPS and garden clubs and plant fairs are so important. Most of us will or have been asked to speak at clubs, present at shows or attend fairs. These are not always convenient and there is not always money available but we should support them. The people that attend are our bread and butter customers and are often the future leaders of our industry.
As an industry we rely on our end consumers to keep the money moving through. There has been a shift over the past two decades where the big stores are dominating the retail sector and most houses are now sold with an established garden. These two factors have generated an overall increase in plant sales to the community and a greater awareness of the benefits of a nice garden. The negative is a reduction in the range of plants that are making their way into our gardens.
It is the garden clubs and plant fairs that counteract this by exposing people to rare plants, unusual plants and old fashioned plants. So many great garden plants struggle to get through the industry because they don't present well in small pots. They are too large, don't flower in pots or just hard to grow. However present them at a rare plant fair and they literally walk out the door. We grow Salvia discolor which is a stunning sage with black flowers and silver foliage. It is hard and slow to grow in a 15cm pot so doesn't sell well through the industry but when we take it to rare plant fairs it nearly always sells out.
The Australian population is growing by 2000+ houses per week so there are plenty of new gardeners even if many will only have balcony gardens. Let's make sure they have access to new, rare, old and unusual plants - ornamental and edible. Let's keep looking for interesting plants not just ones that look good in a 15cm pot. Let us also keep the knowledge flowing and make sure we pass on what we know to the next generation of gardeners and horticulturalists. Say yes next time you are asked to share your passion with a school, garden club or other public forum. Have a great spring and sell lots.