According To Seabrook … Recognising the value of industry experience

This, however, pales into insignificance compared to the 60 years of loyal service given next year by Keith Snell and Chris Smy to WD Smith & Son, Essex. Nursery manager Keith and lorry driver Chris are known to countless retail customers across the South East and beyond. The RHS has a long-service award and our trade should make more of this recognition. Experience, when it comes to growing, handling and selling plants, is everything. You can gauge it instinctively when seeking advice from someone who knows. Growers need to have experienced a cold winter, a mild one, a wet one and a dry one, and the same goes for springs, summers and autumns. Add these up and unlike cookery, where a recipe can be repeated several times in a day and 80 times a month, we only get 80 chances in a lifetime to cultivate a crop, for example, of tomatoes.

Consumers are prepared to pay for time when it comes to buying instant effect with larger plants, so why do we not expect to pay for the value of hard-won experience? While there is innovation and modern methods, what has been around comes around, so it might be single dark-leaved dahlias today rather than the water lily cut-flower types of yesterday. Propagation, planting times and cultivation are best guided by experience.

I salute all those who stick at it through good times and not so good, when the weather can deliver unwelcome setbacks. Congratulations Chris, Keith and all those who have served our trade so well. My sincere thanks for the smiles you have cultivated on consumers faces over the years.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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