First weekend in the office for over two months after trips to China, NZ and Adelaide for IPPS and nursery visits. As usual the IPPS Australian Region conference was a great success with some valuable information gained.
After 27 years of IPPS conferences I still enjoy going. It is usually a bit of stress getting away from work, packing and then travelling to the location. However it just feels so good to meet all these old and new friends all sharing a passion for plants. The IPPS family is a warm one that welcomes people from all parts of the horticultural industry. We all love to learn more about plants and to share the knowledge we have. I have spoken to many people from other industries and they all find our philosophy of ‘seeking and sharing’ inspiring and wish their industry did the same.
The only negative is that when we return it is usually the start of winter and the weather turns cold. This year is no exception with some very cold days coming up. However I have lived in places that don’t have a winter and I found them lacking. The autumn colours, winter flowering shrubs and even the structure of the leafless deciduous trees all make the gardens just as pretty as the other seasons.
We are just planning our production for the second half of 2016 and it is interesting that the plant palette is quite broad and there doesn’t seem to be any particular trends. Sure edibles are still popular and the demand is moving away from the standard lines to more exotic varieties. Perennials are fashionable again but so are native plants and even the grass like plants are back in favour. Ornamental conifers, azaleas and even indoor plants are coming back to the garden centres. I remember in the mid nineties visiting huge nurseries growing acres of Azaleas whereas now there are very few of these nurseries left and the Azaleas are only a part of their range.
As a plant lover I find this new ‘trend’ most pleasing. Economically there is far more money in large nurseries producing a small range of plants for selling through box retailers with a limited range. Philosophically we are far better off as a community with growers producing a wide range of plants for sales through specialist nurseries and garden centres selling multiple cultivars of different genera. It is more interesting and rewarding for customers and staff when the retailer has a changing display of different plant types.
I have long been an advocate of range over numbers and when we sell out of a particular plant we should replace it with something different. If a retailer has a large batch of plant X then when they are all sold the retailer should bring in a batch of plant Z. It maybe a year or even two before plant X is back on the ground. This keeps the nursery constantly changing and gives the gardening public a reason to keep coming in. It is the same with a restaurant. My personal preference is for those that change their menu every few months. I used to stay at a hotel in northern Germany every year. After ten years the menu still had the same eight lines. I found this quite interesting but boring.
It is winter and we need to encourage people into the nurseries and into the gardens. Unlike northern Europe and USA our gardens don’t become frozen wastelands in winter and there is still plenty to do. There are lots of edibles that perform better in winter and it is a good time to prepare the garden for and to plant out the bare rooted roses, fruit trees and nuts. It is also important that we get out of our centrally heated, locked up houses and into the crisp clean fresh air. It is a real pleasure to sit on the back patio with a large bowl of homemade soup [pea and ham] and a bottle of red wine with an outdoor heater or one of those new portable fireplaces.
Only a few weeks and the winter solstice will be here then the days start getting longer (and warmer) and the plants start preparing for spring growth. Next thing we know it will be spring, footy finals and Christmas will be here again. Life just rolls on so get out there and enjoy it. We work in a great industry and every plant we produce helps the world and cleans the air. Each one is a little oxygen machine.