Agenda: How local horticultural societies can continue to develop

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Judging by the volume of cars seen in garden center parking lots and observing customers carrying plastic trays or pots of bedding plants or plastic bags of compost, it appears the retail gardening industry is surviving in this era of pandemic. We are told that garden homes now sell more competitively as buyers seek to secure personal outdoor space. Will this translate into renewed interest in creative flower arrangements and market gardening? Hopefully worries about the negative effects of global warming will not stifle any burgeoning enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, garden clubs and horticultural societies from Ayrshire to East Lothian and across the country have seen their activities curtailed. Some, like the Bothwell Horticultural Society, have stories dating back to the mid to late 19th century. They may now be discovering the need to reconsider how they approach their primary goal. Lifestyle television programs that aim to promote the interests of the horticulture and home industries – The Great British Bake Off comes to mind – reveal an ongoing nationwide interest in domestic industries.

Any form of association which does not attract new members will disappear; for example Bothwell and Uddingston Rotary and other clubs have ceased to function. Showcasing the lifestyle, crafts, and gardening efforts in the community will help survive where others have been forced to close. Relevance is essential, along with the use of effective communication tools, to promote and maintain interest.

In this important time of climate change awareness, garden clubs should want to help people find out what they can do to help save the environment or reduce the carbon footprint of their gardening practice. Also, independent clubs can take action. One example is tree planting goals. Some local authorities are suggesting hundreds of thousands of plantings over the next decade. Garden clubs can help by securing smaller, more selective plantings in their own localities. All efforts to replace lost forests for the benefit of commercial development, as evidenced by the famous Amazon forests, should be welcomed by horticultural enthusiasts around the world. Planting trees means enriched soil, biodiversity and absorption of carbon dioxide emissions. Using the talents of club members, we can all become a little ‘greener’.

Home gardeners and home garden growers are aware of the vagaries of the weather and climate. They always try to protect the plants from wind, rain, heat and cold. The prospect of wetter winters and hotter summers, as predicted by the climate change campaign, means a greater focus on irrigation and drainage needs. In addition, trees, shrubs and plants do better if they are in the right place. This presents the opportunity for an exchange of views between fellow gardeners, professional horticulturalists and other specialists.

What must local horticultural societies do to maintain a living presence in their communities?

The simple suggestion is that they should state their purpose. Provide learning opportunities through demonstrations and lectures; organize shows and recognize achievements; invite participation and collaboration from community groups and use social media to stay in touch.

Bill Irving is a member of the Bothwell Horticultural Society. For more information on membership, contact [email protected]


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