Horticulture Week Podcast
Legendary plant breeder Peter Moore reflects 40 years and 45 plants
Plant breeder Peter Moore, who has been creating new plants for 40 years, tells HortWeek about his new breeding and his vast experience in the production of new plants.
He started work at Hillier in 1960 with some legendary Hillier propagators.
In 1997 he left Hillier’s to become propagator at Longstock Park Nursery in Hampshire. He is still responsible for the National Collection of Buddleja held at the nursery and is also a member of the RHS hardy plant trial committee.
Plant collectors like Sir Harold Hillier and Roy Lancaster were early inspirations, but it was Peter Dummer, the great Hillier propagator and plant breeder who was his biggest influence. He showed and monitored Moore in the skill of plant breeding so he made my first hybrid Pete Dummer came up with the name Aztec Pearl, possibly his greatest success. The first hybrid of the genus launched at Chelsea in 1989.
He talks about how he has spent hundreds of hours plant breeding. All the stamens are carefully removed before pollinating and the flowers are covered with a pollinating bag. Nothing is left to chance.
The most rewarding of the plants he has raised is Choisya White Dazzler, is available at most garden centres in the UK, listed in the RHS Plant Finder and sold in the EU.
Moore discusses the state of British plant breeding, Brexit, peat, what Chelsea winners are still around, how he markets plants and the help John
Hedger, Neil Alcock, Charles Carr, Plantipp and Genesis have given for the 45 plants he has raised over the years.
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25. ICL on vine weevil control16:30Vine Weevil control is one of the biggest issues for many growers and ICL deals with many queries about the pest.In this podcast, ICL's Sam Rivers explains what vine weevil is, what the pest's life cycle is and what plants they feed on. He highlights their effect on heuchera, primula and Portugese laurel.Control options start with cultural control. Products available for vine weevil control include nematodes and Lalguard. Rivers explains how these work and gives tips and advice on application.
24. Make Parks Sexy Again! - the joy of parks with Paul Rabbitts30:02Veteran, and very proud 'Parkie' Paul Rabbitts (currently working at Norwich City Council) fell into parks work after qualifying as a "really bad" landscape architect. Finding "everything was going down the route of being computer aided design and CAD - that sent a cold shiver down my back" he thought "I don't want to do this...which is one of the reasons why I moved into managing parks. Thank God!"His latest tome, People's Parks: the Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain, continues where the late parks historian Hazel Conway's People's Parks left off. It explores parks "beyond the Victorian era, right, through the Garden Cities movement, right up through austerity, Covid" and on."I just felt it was timely to bring what she'd done up to date but also kind of reinvigorate...interest in the kind of history and heritage of parks and why we have them, why we enjoy them and why they're so important".Among the fascinating facts unearthed during the research of the book was the vast difference in staffing of parks, with hundreds of qualified gardeners and park keepers employed in the days of London County Council. He also explores "Parkitecture" over the years, the marked change in the number and design of children's play areas, changes in parks management, tendering, and of course, funding leading to "a decline and eroding of what we do in parks." As ever on the Horticulture Week Podcast, the issue of labour shortages arises: "How is it you will attract somebody to work in parks these days? There's no pathway like they used to be. No career pathway at all...We're not getting the applications and where we are getting them, the quality is not very good."He speaks with characteristic passion about his love for the work he does and the work being done by Parks Management Association, APSE and other organisations to "make parks sexy again!" He also discusses severe local authority budget cuts and financial constraints which have forced some, such as Birmingham, into bankrupcy plus the myriad of pressures post Covid and arising from the 'cost of living crisis'. The logical consequence of all this is, he says, "there is going to be a greater emphasis on the third sector and on volunteers" and a "greater emphasis on commercialization".So, times are hard, he says, "but actually there's some really good stuff going on out there. I mean, the number of friends groups that we've got across the country are just incredible.As a Green Flag awards judge, Paul gets to see the best of parks and sometimes the most curious, like a bear pit "in the middle of the Wirral"There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful as some local authorities are "really making a difference".
23. The potential and limitations of Biodiversity Net Gain with landscape architect Alexandra Steed32:17The requirement for developers to implement minimum Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) standards became law on 12 February, and having already worked on projects this week's Horticulture Week Podcast guest already has considerable experience in the field.Although Alexandra Steed was speaking from Vancouver for the podcast recording, her landscape practice is based in London and South East England. Highlights include developing green and blue landscape infrastructure strategies for South Essex Estuary Park and masterplanning a 25% increase of footprint of Canterbury.The latter is a project that reflects the aims and concerns of BNG:"It's really looking at how we can improve the landscape while we're bringing about new development. So you know the two can happen hand in hand.Development doesn't necessarily have to mean that a landscape is harmed in any way or brings about negative consequences. In fact, if we plan in a landscape-led sort of way, then we can actually bring benefits to that landscape."Now that BNG is here, with the hope it will help reverse a rapid decline in biodiversity in UK landscapes, Alexandra nevertheless has a number of concerns:"I would say my biggest concern is that biodiversity net gain is being considered on a plot by plot basis. So rather than looking at a landscape in its kind of regional capacity, or you know, at a watershed level, where all of its natural processes and systems are taken into account - instead, we're dividing it up and trying to apply improvements on a plot by plot and piecemeal basis. And nature just doesn't work that way...so right from the start, that brings about a lot of problems"She explains her fears that measures taken could become a 'box-ticking' exercise, potentially "a homogenisation of habitats that are easy to deliver" and improvements restricted to the plot boundary, leading to disconnected islands of green space and "not getting the benefits of enriching the larger landscape".Alexandra is also concerned there will be a lack of governance and ongoing management and stewardship exacerbated by a lack of funding for in-house expertise within local authorities.More broadly, Alexandra is passionate about interconnectedness and people's connection with nature as a necessary means to heal the planet. Her book, "Portrait to Landscape: A Landscape Strategy to Reframe Our Future" explores the role policy makers, developers, landscapers through to individual citizens.As she says, it is "about how we deal with our landscapes because it expresses everything that we as humans believe about nature and our relationship to nature.So it's not just important for those of us working in the landscape industries, it's important for everybody to understand this and to understand the power held there and the power for rehabilitation within our landscapes."Presenter: HortWeek senior reporter: Rachael ForsythProducer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor
22. Plant Collection holder Jonathan Sheppard takes his 'hobby' to Chelsea Flower Show25:50Former corporate lobbyist/political adviser Jonathan Shepherd is tentatively "proud to be called a bit of a horticulturist".But horticulturist he very much is. The National Plant Collection holder is a veteran of Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2022 and 2023 where he won silver gilt for his Cosmos collection display (he also has a hollyhock national collection). In 2024, he makes his exhibiting debut at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.So with all the work of growing and nurturing some 3,000 Cosmos to select 100 in peak condition in May 2024, what's in it for him?"Commercially it's a ridiculous decision because doing flower shows, it costs a fair amount of money. He is conscious, if a tad sceptical about the need to address sustainability as a grower. He grows in peat-free compost, favours terracotta pots over plastic ones, but he tries not to "over-egg what I do".But in the run-up to Chelsea, his plant collections are recovering from a severe flooding event which will provide a dramatic narrative backdrop to his exhibit at Chelsea.He narrates the events of 20 October 2023 in the wake of storm Babette:"By 4.30 in the morning we heard the upstairs toilet start bubbling, which I think was a sign that all the drains had been overloaded. And we literally packed the car and kind of evacuated...filling the car with my precious seeds for the National Plant Collection.""I think that part of the flower show is actually focusing on flooding and resilience this year...well what better story to say that a grower that's been flooded out can come back, can come to Chelsea and show award-winning flowers?"The experience chimes with his interest in water conservation; his two plant collections survive solely on the 20,000 litres of the rainwater he stores over winter. It's a far cry from his former life when Jonathan was, he jokes, "one of those nasty lobbyists that people imagine" working for clients such as Royal Mail, Boots and the Woodland Trust - "essentially working in the political arena to either guard against threats that come from Government because all legislation has unintended consequences, or indeed spotting opportunities".He says he is actually proud of some of the work lobbyists do, "keeping Government in check and ensuring that perhaps some decisions that they take, that can be quite ludicrous and ridiculous because they haven't got all the information, perhaps get amended or changed or influenced".He contemplates what horticulture should be lobbying for: "If I was the industry, I'd be gearing up for the next election...what are you going to be wanting from whoever forms the next Government? What are your five asks?" He asks for "certainty" on peat and a more joined-up approach.Despite the recent attention lavished on the industry during the Lords Horticulture Enquiry and subsequent report, the work is not over, he says."There has to be a realisation...that once you've had a big piece of work, right, we're there, we're done...but politics doesn't work like that.."It's following through on that and ensuring that you don't let Government off the hook.As for the future, as his "hobby" takes an ever greater hold of him, Jonathan is contemplating possibilities, maybe even a third national plant collection. Watch this space.
21. Lee Stiles of Lea Valley Growers' Association warns about potential 2024 salad shortages21:03Lee Stiles, Lea Valley Growers' Association secretary, has been outspoken about the state of the UK protected salads sector, which saw market failure in 2023, with empty supermarket shelves and reduction in UK production.Stiles sees energy, labour and prices as the big three problems facing UK tomato and cucumber growers. Until recent years energy and labour were more controllable, he says, but those factors have fallen away and now "price is king", regardless of anything else. Government policies seem to work against each other in areas such as labour, though Defra strives to do the right thing.With an increasingly high profile in the media, he has not had to pitch a story for two years. The media wants to know what is happening on the ground rather than what the BRC, supermarkets or the Government is saying, so Stiles gets daily calls from around the world.And on the ground, he predicts there could be more empty shelves this year due to ongoing issues in Europe and North Africa with viruses and market prices. One certainty, he says, is that production volumes from British growers have not increased: "There will be a gap. Retailers will either pay more or have empty shelves."But he adds that there is a fine line between warning about problems and "spooking" the retailers and the public: "UK growers are stable now after two years of decline and small business closure." He says the is the same as in Europe. Few can invest in new machinery and are just concentrating on keeping their heads above water.Government help for smaller producers has been too little too late and any help "avoids the underlying problem of low prices". Meanwhile primary producers are not making money he says, intermediaries deal with the retailer, so loyalty and service standards matter less:"We're 10 years into a supermarket price wa and it seems to be getting worse. There's not enough profit in the supply chain at the moment which means the trend for British producers closing will accelerate, reducing self-sufficiency and food security."He would like to see loss leader legislation to stop retailers selling at less than the cost of purchase. It is used to protect producers in France, Canada and Germany, for instance.But regardless, Lee says, whoever comes in next politically, "will inherit quite a mess".
20. A life in professional gardening with Alan Mason of the Professional Gardeners Guild25:39Garden designer and professional gardener Alan Mason was a founder member of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild. He became chairman 45 years later, taking over from Tony Arnold in September 2022."I avoided being chairman for as long as possible", he says. " I was vice chairman. I had been treasurer. I had been secretary, but it was never my desire to become chairman. It just happened."He has enjoyed the support of the "fabulous team" on the committee around him and says "in the last 12 months particularly there have been some very exciting developments. It's a great place to be at the moment."He talks about the focus for the Guild, which, as with all trade associations, is how to drive up the membership and also how best to serve it. The importance of visiting each others gardens and learning ways to cope with pest and diseases, planting tips and the like from other head gardeners is still key: "There's more information to be gleaned from other head gardeners than there is from Google."He wanted to be a footballer, but while waiting for his break, began a four-year horticultural apprenticeship and studied with the Institute of Groundsmanship and later Askham Bryan College. "I thought I might become a groundsman. Surely I'll get spotted kicking a football at lunchtime. I'll be playing for England in a fortnight. It never happened."After completing his studies he landed the job of head gardener at Bramham Park, a French style garden where in some ways, his learning was just beginning:"I always said I learnt more in the first six months as a head gardener than I had in eight years at college. And that's not meant to be a slur on what they taught me at Askham Bryan. It's just that when you're in position, you have to learn."Castle Howard's Brian Hutchinson formed the Professional Gardeners Guild around this time and Alan was offered the gardener's manager's job at Harewood House which is where he got his TV break when Yorkshire TV started filming there.After leaving Harewood in 1987 he set up a garden design business, got a contract in France, bought a 14th century manor house set in eight and a half acres and decided to create a garden there which Yorkshire TV (later on Channel 4) turned into Le Manoir - "and this was 25 years before Escape to the Chateau".Alan talks about PGG's work with horticultural charity Perennial and how he's looking to make links with other garden organisations including National Trust and Historic Houses.He's also involved with encouraging people into the industry via traineeships in collaboration with English Heritage, Historic and Botanic Gardens Trainee Programme and the MacRobert Trust. "It's so easy just to become an insular little group for head gardeners. And we don't want that at all. We want to be what Brian Hutchinson thought we should be at the very start, great for our own members, learning from each other."Alan talks about his view on pay grades for gardeners, financial pressures and how, post-Covid, many places have replaced professionals with volunteers."What the PGG does is offer a salaries and rates guideline...you can use that guideline to show to your employer...and very often it does help with negotiation."It is a negotiating tool, but it will never be perfect. But it is a great assistance. And I know that other professional bodies look to the PGG for our salaries and rates guideline and use it as a good example.
19. Why horticulture should get on board with the benefits of horticulture therapy with Annabelle Padwick20:54Annabelle Padwick is a professional gardener, well-being practitioner and founder of Life at No.27.Her first experience of horticulture was growing on her allotment in 2015. She was having psychotherapy at the time and "hoping that I could learn some new skills, but also [hoping] it might help with my mental health at the same time". She soon quit her marketing career and founded her social enterprise CIC organization, Life at No 27 which supports children and adults from as young as five by combining horticulture therapy and counselling and "trying to give people of all ages access to mental health support that works".The organisation receives referrals from the NHS, works with school children and in schools, and has therapeutic sites in Northamptonshire and Wales. Annabelle is fundraising to try and open more sites and operate in more schools.A "child-led sort of approach" allows young people to learn how to grow their own food and "connect with the environment and wildlife". It runs after-school clubs and liaises with schools to help children with "challenging behaviour, (as much as I don't like that word)", anxiety, and poor self-esteem and helps them stay in mainstream education.Her biggest goal, she says, is to gain sponsorship from a horticultural firm on an ongoing basis and to garner more general support from the sector.Regards mental health support within horticulture, more could be done Annabelle says: "I'd be interested to know... how many organisations in the industry do have a mental health support policy...there's definitely value in companies investing in this area".A witness at the 2023 Lords horticulture enquiry Annabelle argued "we need to up our game in terms of horticultural therapy", training, defining what is horticultural therapy and of course, funding.There is an irony, she says, in "the amount of people that are isolated as horticulturists within the industry that are struggling with their mental health" which "doesn't add up either with how much in the media we're saying gardening can help".Getting horticulture on to the schools National Curriculum would also "massively help kids mental health and just the knowledge of where food comes from" as well as offering time outside the classroom.Annabelle set up Growing for Wellbeing Week (3 - 9 June 2024) to help with fundraising and "where we can really push our messaging on a bigger scale, but also offer resources to... colleges, secondary schools, universities, care homes."With access to mental health services for adults and young people severely stretched, she would like to be able to have more qualified professional councellors and offer a "wraparound service".The project has a partnership with Prince and Princess of Wales' Royal Foundation which she hopes will help, "if anyone's interested in supporting us then them coming forward."Annabelle admits frustration with the "definite lack of interest [from the horticulture sector so far], which is frustrating on many levels. But I think there's a lot more for industry to do because it makes sense, doesn't it?"
18. Confessions of a landscape gardener with Alan Sargent25:02Landscape industry veteran of 53 years, there's little Alan Sargent hasn't seen when it comes to landscape and garden projects. And now he's decided to write some of the more curious, humourous and even scandalous ones in his latest book, "Confessions of a Landscape Gardener".With a career spanning 5 decades, he reflects on how his stories take readers back to a time pre-internet, pre mobiles, even pre-telephone! So part of the challenge of relating the stories was "trying to describe to somebody how different world was, 50 years ago, in the world of landscaping".Although the industry is making strides towards being more environmentally friendly, with electric vehicle fleets and sustainably-sourced landscape materials, Alan says he sees a new "butter mountain" on the horizon in the form of ceramic paving as it is not recyclable.He says: "I probably condemns about 800m a year" of artificial turf, thereby consigning vast amounts of plastic to landfill because of poor installation practices.Legal hot spots include peat-free alternatives as growers sue growing media producers as their products fail to perform as promised and "wipe out whole batches of plants". He forecasts that it will become "quite an issue".A prolific self-publisher of books, Alan's next opus, due just in time for Christmas 2023, will be the "A-to-Z of Paving" which will cover all aspects of paving projects.Alan is of course a HortWeek man through and through having written more than 100 articles for the title over his tenure. Find his impressive and essential catalogue of advice for landscapers and gardeners, his Sargents' Solutions, at HortWeek.com.
17. TV Garden Ninja Lee Burkhill on passing on garden knowledge21:16Garden designer Lee Burkhill - better known as the Garden Ninja - is a career changer (from law in an IT setting).After a part-time RHS garden design course (which he thought of as a passtime), couple of competitions and RHS shows later, his career took off, "like being strapped to a rocket!"I suppose it has been incredibly rapid compared to people that maybe went to horticultural college or university to study design. But having said that, it really feels to me like it was always my passion."He advises entrants to horticulture to take maximum advantage of any opportunities to gain knowledge: "If you can volunteer for someone, do it, you'll learn something. If there's a competition, if there's something, something or some way you can get involved, you never know what's going to come of it.Lee never planned a career in TV, but the opportunity on BBC's Garden Rescue programme (co-starring Charlie Dimmock) came about after Lee had built a profile on YouTube with gardening advice. But gardening TV is not a bed of roses he says: "It's been a tough year for garden media...The fact there's a cost of living crisis, all of these things impact on a huge level because for a lot of people hort design plants are a luxury. They're not a necessity. So it's the first thing to go. "There's Garden Rescue, there's Gardener's World - that's still the two main garden shows that have funding...looking at the viewing figures and the response from the public, it seems to be a show that has a really good feel-good factor."Lee explains what inspires him to keep coming up with fresh design ideas, the working dynamic with Charlie Dimmock, and what he hopes to add to the show:"Since I've joined, I've been really pushing for more knowledge. Like, let me explain the 'why' about these plants, the why about the design, so that people can then interpret that to their own gardens rather than just showing them lots of nice things, nice plants, nice layouts.He is also passionate about the need to improve diversity in horticulture, to get horticulture into schools and address career issues such as wages:"We should open our doors a bit more, explain things more, help people, welcome them in. You know, there's enough cake for everyone in terms of hort and gardening."While he's not planning any more shows for now, "when I next do one, I'd like it to be sort of a bit left field, the next level of Garden Ninja",he says. "I'd love to create a garden that looks like Mother Nature's finally got revenge on what we've done to the planet...kind of like scary garden [with] flame and smoke and a crevasse and stuff like that."And he's got a few ideas for his own show: "not necessarily a makeover show like garden rescue, but something that just gets me really hands deep in design and plants and the why - why does this work?"