The country has spoken and it’s out of the EU we will come. There will now be a period of some uncertainty as we come to terms with the new reality and begin the process of untangling ourselves from a host of EU agreements, trading arrangements and legislative commitments. This is the point at which we will realise just how far an influence the EU has had on so many parts of our lives. Gardeners won’t be immune.
There are legislative commitments such as the EU ban the use of glyphosate (aka Round Up) that we might be happy to abandon, and others such as the EU restrictions on certain neonicotinoids thought to harm bees that we may be less certain about losing. There will likely be changes to the free market for plants. At the moment garden plants are relatively cheap because of an integrated plant production system across Europe. This open movement allows young plant material to flow from producers on mainland Europe to UK growers without hindrance whilst the supply of finished plants to complement the UK production is equally as important to provide additional availability to the garden centres. Whilst border controls are important to all of us we do not want to find impediments coming into place to complicate the movement of plants into or out of the UK, tying us up in red tape which may prove more difficult than we have enjoyed in recent years.
There could be a different way of looking at this though. The UK imports £1bn of plants a year but exports just £50m. This could represent an opportunity for UK growers to fill the gaps in production currently taken by imports, particularly with a weakening pound. There might also be benefits for the control of pests and diseases, if there are new border controls, the UK might be able to introduce restrictions over the movement of plant material from EU countries and businesses that could limit the transmission of plant pests and diseases like Chalara (Ash die-back). This might though depend on recruiting a new cadre of plant health inspectors and whether that is likely to be a policy priority is up for questions.
Horticultural labour, much of which is low paid, is filled by EU nationals, the prospects for such jobs being filled by UK nationals is uncertain. Many horticultural producers have complained over the years that these are not jobs that British people are willing to take up. Linked to this is the issue of funding for horticultural training education and apprenticeships. The new apprenticeship levy designed to pay for training of a new generation of horticultural professionals is essentially a tax on SMEs and larger businesses, and must be threatened by any decline in the UK economy.
Interesting times. Let’s see what happens.
Although the news is full of debate focused on increasing house prices, there is not much discussion about the contribution of gardens to property values. Does all that investment in soil, bloom, decking and parasols make a difference? Some evidence suggests that whatever house prices are doing in different parts of the country, a well-designed and well kept garden can add between 5% and 20% to the value of a property. It’s not just the landscaping and planting that matter, it seems garden furniture too adds to the appeal of a garden and suggests to new owners how a garden might be used. Estate agents agree that selling a house in summer relies in part on a decent garden.
However, a note of caution has to be added. Well designed means simplicity: gardens which are very ornate and complicated, implying lots of work are likely to worry potential buyers who are not keen gardeners themselves. This is as true in larger rural gardens as in smaller urban gardens. Most estate agents would probably tell you that investing a lot of money into a redesign of your garden for sale purposes won’t be worth it as the return isn't there. For many buyers, gardens are now being treated much like interiors. New home owners like to “redecorate” gardens to their own tastes.
Probably the most important thing is to make sure the garden is neat and tidy with a slightly lived in look, so that buyers can imagine, or you can tell them, all about the fantastic benefits of pottering about outside, getting fresh air, and enjoying another “room” on summer nights.
A recent poll of 1,500 UK adults revealed that 80% of people who garden are satisfied with their lives, compared with 67% of people who had other hobbies, and just 55% of people with no hobbies at all.
It’s clear that extracurricular interests have an impact on wellbeing, but what is it about gardening in particular that lends itself to greater levels of satisfaction than other hobbies? Lucy Hall, editor of Gardeners’ World, thinks it comes partly “from nurturing something” and that there is “a natural optimism that no matter how bad the weather, there’s always next year.” We’re inclined to agree: it’s hard to think of many other hobbies that offer the same creative escapism and stimulation of the senses.
Professor of environment and society at the University of Essex, Jules Pretty, says the latest academic research “clearly shows that engagement with green places is good for personal health”. She added: “There would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with what we at Essex call green exercise. Gardening falls into this category - it is good for both mental and physical health, and all social and age groups benefit. It provides a dose of nature.”
We’d love to know how and why gardening makes you happy. Leave us a comment to share your thoughts!
Now that the long Easter weekend is nearly here, there should be plenty of time to get out into the garden as well as enjoying eggs, buns and rabbits with family and friends. Gardeners are very likely to be getting onto the soil to perform traditional Good Friday jobs like planting potatoes. According to some, this tradition comes from the idea that spuds planted on Good Friday were “Baptised” overcoming any restriction on eating a food not mentioned in the Bible. Others believe planting on Good Friday afforded protection from the devil who wouldn’t be able to blight the crop! Other commentators put this potato planting date down to the tradition of gardening by the moon, and the fact that Good Friday is always a good day in the lunar cycle to plant root crops.
Whatever the weather this Easter weekend, gardeners will also be celebrating the start of longer days and spring flowers by sowing packets of seeds themselves or perhaps even buying new plants from nurseries and garden centres.
The celebration of spring flowers is another Easter favourite, taken from the tradition of many European cultures where women herald spring by wearing flowers in their hair and hats, this is the origin of Easter bonnets. This celebration of flowers signifying the birth of a new year combined with British and north European traditions of wearing new clothes at Easter, again as a mark of renewal, carried the idea of Easter bonnets across to the States where they have become a really important feature of American Easter parades. As an 18th century almanac writer put it:
“At Easter let your clothes be new
Or else be sure you will it rue”
This idea that you might be followed by bad luck if you didn’t have something new to wear lasted well into the 19th century.
Brilliant! Another great reason to turn towards the Genus shop and ensure that the new item of Easter clothing is one of ours!
Colourful potato varieties on sale in a South American market
The days are getting longer and, despite the most dreadful weather over the last few days, there is a sniff of Spring in the Genus garden, so we have started thinking about our growing again!
February and March are traditional months to start chitting potatoes particularly those early varieties like Orla, Arran Pilot and Pentland Javelin, once the threat of hard frosts has past. Gardeners led the way in maintaining and bringing back some of the many ‘heritage’ varieties of potato that we used to grow in Britain. Before the 1950’s it was quite usual to find tens of different varieties in gardens, allotments and the local grocers. Modern production techniques and the demands of the supermarkets drove the decline to reliance on just a few commercial varieties. Conserving and storing potato genes has become a major concern not just in Britain but throughout the world, as so many people rely on the potato as a key staple in their diets. Collections of old varieties may hold the key to better taste and nutritional characters, but also to disease resistance and the ability to withstand different kinds of environmental conditions. All of this is important in the light of climate change and increasing consumer demand. You'll never think potatoes should be huge, round and white ever again!
It’s the month when resolutions are made and so very many people think about dieting to lose the extra pounds gained over the festive season. A recent survey showed that about 6 in 10 people were planning to shed weight or concentrate on improving their fitness for their New Year promise. The good news for gardeners is that gardening substitutes for diets. Yes REALLY! Getting out there and involving yourself in digging, bending, walking, lifting, planting, weeding, pushing and kneeling makes gardening a moderate to strenuous kind of exercise. Estimates vary according to how much you do of which kind of gardening activity, but gardening for more than 30 minutes can help to lose between 150 and 300 calories. Gardeners will be exercising all the major muscle groups as they undertake different gardening jobs, so toning happens as well of course! Clyde Williams of Loughborough University believes that an hour of heavy work in the gym would use about 700 calories, something that can be achieved by three hours gardening varying tasks. You might even consider a gardening weight loss and exercise routine (Wiki has an example and even Bunny Guinness devised one too ). So, all in all, there IS a reason for getting out into the cold January garden and doing a little bit of this and that for the gardener’s sake as well as the garden.
It’s that time of year again and the search for Christmas gifts at full throttle. Gardeners past enjoyed a now familiar set of innovative products bought as special gifts. During the early 1830’s the first self powered cylinder lawnmower was invented by farmer and textile mill worker Edwin Budding (not far away from here at Stroud in Gloucestershire). He got the idea watching rotary machines cut velvet in the mills. As middle class British affluence grew lawnmowers became the must-have gadget for Victorian gardeners. During WWII practical gifts really came into vogue. Items such as gardening tools, books, bottling jars and seeds were very popular so that people could “Dig In” and feed themselves. In 1942 National Growmore arrived - the first synthetic fertiliser with artificially produced nitrate, potassium and phosphorus in exact quantities and always to hand. Some gardening magazines even recommended a bag of fertilizer as an exciting Christmas gift. In 1972, Texan George Ballas was washing his car at a car wash when he noticed the nylon filaments scrubbing his automobile without damaging his paintwork. He wondered if the same principle could cut weeds without damaging tree bark. The strimmer was born and and became one of that decade’s must-have gardeners' tool.
This Christmas gardeners have a huge array of gifts to choose from. Books, gadgets, tools, and of course the latest innovation is the arrival of technical gardening clothes and performance gardenwear. It’s not too late to buy Genus trousers, gilets and tops for that favourite gardener in your life!
Caroline Donald, in the Sunday Times, picks the best in horti couture to get you outside, however bad the weather
She says, "Genus's showerproof gardening trousers are fantastically practical and comfortable; I have hardly taken them off all week."
With the extended autumn and above average warmth, it has been a little time coming, but we are now putting the Genus garden to bed. The herbaceous borders are being pruned back, weeded, and some plants lifted and stored away ready for next year. The garden here is on an exposed rise that tends to get the worst of the winter wind and any frost that might be about. For us it is indeed the time of year to dig up our dahlias and store the tubers away from the risk of winter frost and cold Dahlias have become one of the colourful late summer stars in the Genus garden. Such a lot of bright blousy colour studding the borders - part of our autumn colour treat! One of our most favourites is Rip City, a strong and easy grower with great black-crimson flowers. We are in the process of cutting down the plants and lifting the tubers which we then leave to sit in a cold greenhouse to dry off naturally, before we brush off the soil, trim and leave to sit in trays ready for planting next year. For many gardeners there has been a rediscovery and return to planting traditional plants such as the dahlia in the last few years. We have written before about garden fashion and gardening trends, and enjoying the beauty of dahlias is one we certainly endorse. Such a varied flower, the National Dahlia Collection based in Cornwall has over 1600 different species and cultivars including open daisy-like flowers through to the most ornate of pompoms. There is a dahlia for every soil and position it seems. Some varieties such as Dahlia coccinea are great for bees too. Considering all the pleasure they bring us, we don’t mind a little work lifting, trimming and storing these garden jewels.