Geraint Richards the head Forester for the Duchy of Cornwall mentioned in Gardeners World (July 2018) ‘start buying plants on values.. not value’. This was within a piece in reaction to the governments campaign to counter the ‘smuggling’ in of plant material from abroad. A further report suggests that the importing of plants for the domestic market is the weak link in the UK’s biosecurity network.
As a personal reaction to this I need to admit a couple of things, I have bought back material from abroad over the years, wild grass seeds collected from alpine meadows, cuttings from Greek Mountainsides of wild Oregano and Thyme.. tucked into my wash bag and wrapped in a tissue. I have seen this as one of the nicest mementoes of any trip, I get bored by beaches after a day! I wont be doing it any more, the threat of Xylella Fastidiosa is immediate and on our doorstep.. it seems.
The second thing I need to admit is my doubts, my doubts are raised by convenient isolationism and my (horrific) memories of the perceived and promoted effect of rabies on the UK. Growing up in the 70’s Rabies was something that mainland Europe had and only our channel stopped it sweeping across the nation, we were one step away from hydrophobia, mad dogs and frothing at the mouth.
I know this did not happen, Rabies (as was the threat of nuclear annihilation) hung over us.. chased us.. worried us.. but it seems that a disease sits over the channel with the ability to strike fear in to every gardener, grower, farmer, wildlife lover and its effects will be profound. But it is all happening at a juncture (not unlike the 70’s) when we our (have) questioned our relationship with Europe and to isolate ourselves further emotionally could look like a blunt tool. When does biosecurity become a political tool? Disease is as a important facet of nature as any part? Is the balance in our hands or nature? crikey thats deep!
I see loads of cheap imported plants from abroad when I visit shows and garden centres, they are normally in full bloom, healthy and doing what blooms do.. selling themselves! They can offer great value for money but I would say 99% of people purchasing don’t ask or care where they were grown.. it is what it is. The importer wants to sell units to pay his lorry costs, passed on to the growers staff at the nursery, pesticide bills, heating bills and then make a profit (normally subsidised by his/her government). If you are a garden centre in the UK that defined, reliable and consistent stock is a godsend! trolleys of units, plants flying off the shelves with not to many questions.
So is the government focus on this issue what it seems? As a business who grows the vast majority of what it sells (on a small scale) I am happy to see the focus return to UK growing of plants. Will this be matched by the kind of subsidies that European nurseries get? as a company we get nothing… no support. I have seen so many brilliant growers who are struggling in the UK and I hope that Government and consumer soon recognise the value of our own growers.