Here is the second part of our in-depth review of the final event of the current Horticulture Wales project, staged at Powis Castle near Welshpool…
Bethan Jones, Project Manager for the specialist Menter a Busnes programme Total Food Marketing, shared some valuable lessons the growers – who were predominantly from the ornamentals sector – could learn from the Welsh food and drink industry. Provenance is a particularly important USP for food and drink consumers in Wales, similarly in Scotland too, a trend that could possibly be mirrored in the ornamental sector. Bethan also spoke about the impact of trade exhibitions and events, along with using special dates in the calendar such as Welsh Food Fortnight or St David’s Day to increase publicity and drive sales.
Some effective advice on how to use PR to promote a horticulture business came next from Justine Scouller of Far Hill Flowers. Justine explained how she set up her cut flower business in Monmouthshire back in 2012 and had successfully tapped into an increasing consumer demand for ‘locally grown’, something that many florists perhaps hadn’t quite got to grips with, although some are now catching up quickly. She also shared examples of how she had used the national ‘British Flowers Week’ celebrations last month to really promote her business – she sent free samples of her flowers to local businesses, arranged special ‘Lonely Bouquet’-style giveaways and competitions, shared countless pictures of her flowers on social media, and more. But just as importantly, she also informed her local newspapers and other media outlets of all these activities, securing some great coverage and ensuring her efforts led to great publicity for her business. The end result? More exposure and new orders too, tangible benefits.
Rhiannon Smith of Llandeilo-based cut flower growers Plas Flowers then shared an update on the progress of a number of growers who are aiming to form a nationwide association to promote the sector under the banner of ‘Growers of Wales’. Although still very much in the early stages, the idea has received extremely positive feedback so far, with a number of ornamental and edible growers are already willing to participate and work collectively in areas such as branding, marketing, and quality standards.
The guest speakers were rounded off by Dr David Skydmore, Project Director of Horticulture Wales, who took the opportunity to remind attendees of what the project had achieved over the past few years, and what kind of support the industry may require moving forwards onto the next round of the Wales Rural Development Programme. He also offered his thanks to the Horticulture Wales team for their hard work.
To end a jam-packed day, David Swanton, Garden Operations Manager at Powis Castle, gave a very brief history of the garden and the work of his team, before the group got the chance to explore the 26 acre garden, and the on-site plant nursery, for themselves.
Plant Health Seminar
Staged as part of the day’s activities was a special one hour plant health seminar. Hosted in the castle’s brewhouse – which offered attendees some rather welcome respite from the scorching sun and the sweltering marquee – the session was headed up with a guest presentation by Dan Munro of the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI), who explained the role of the agency and how it leads the fight against the spread of harmful pests and diseases by controlling the import, movement, and keeping of plants and plant products.
Dan revealed as many as 20 to 25 new potential pests and diseases were being added to the UK Plant Health Risk Register every year, mainly due to improved awareness and better technology. He also gave an insight into how some pests and diseases actually get into the country in the first place, as well as how the agency subsequently controls and eradicates the problem. He also revealed some of the most pressing potential threats they are currently monitoring, such as the bronze birch borer (a wood-boring beetle currently native to North America) and bacterial leaf scorch of oak (which is spreading on olive trees in Italy).
Horticulture Wales Dr David Skydmore also gave the group a whistle-stop tour of the online UK Plant Health Risk Register, which brings together more than 750 pests and diseases. He explained how growers can use the database effectively to find out about and mitigate potential threats to their crops. In addition to Dan and David, Richard Lewis, consultant to Horticulture Wales and Senior Lecturer in Rural Studies at Glyndwr University, was on hand to discuss any pest or disease problems growers had, as well as handing out plenty of free factsheets covering common issues such silver leaf, anthracnose, and mildew.