Scottish garden designer launches petition for Minister of Horticulture

Perth-based garden designer Lewis Normand is calling for wider recognition and support for the industry in his petition to establish an individual Minister for Horticulture.

Rows of primrose plants at the nursery of Pentland Plants Garden Centre in Edinburgh which risk going to waste under the continued closure of garden centres in Scotland.

Hailing from Fife, Mr Normand has spent most of his adult life working in nurseries and the horticulture industry across the UK.

He has decided to speak up for an industry whose concerns, he feels, have for too long been sidelined.

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Mr Normand’s Change.org petition hopes to bring awareness to some of those concerns by campaigning for a Minister of Horticulture to better represent the huge UK sector served by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Lewis Normand is behind the petition calling on the UK Government to appoint a Minister of Horticulture to advocate and support for the horticultural sector

“As I’ve gotten older and more militant, I’ve realised that things don’t change unless you have a direct influence in that change” says Mr Normand.

“My ambition here is to draw attention to our issues and encourage further discussion whereby we're brought forward into the agenda rather than just be tacked on as an afterthought to agriculture and fisheries.”

Pointing out the Horticultural Trade Association valued the industry at more than £24 billion in 2018, Mr Normand argues the sector received similar levels of recognition and support as industries like fisheries.

He said: “There are half a million lives dependent upon it in the UK. One in every 62 jobs, you know, it's a lot of people and they're contributing significant amounts, like £4.5bn to the Treasury each year.”

Bernhard's Nursery in Rugby, where Lewis works as a plant supplier and garden designer

The public’s growing appreciation in lockdown for outdoor spaces, parks, gardens and plants fall under the umbrella of horticulture and has also highlighted the industry’s significance, Mr Normand says.

“In my industry, we've also got a great opportunity to improve people's lives,” he says.

"And we did so more than ever before last year because people in lockdown have been engaged in horticulture – loving their gardens, loving their outdoor space, loving growing their own food and just embracing the outdoor spaces they can use.

"So people are thinking about horticulture, but they're probably not thinking about it in terms of what its needs as an industry are.”

With garden centres in Scotland and Wales shut under lockdown restrictions and new Brexit rules causing delays and eye-watering costs on imported plants and seeds, Mr Normand’s concerns are echoed by other horticultural traders.

Carolyn Spray, co-owner of Edinburgh garden centre Pentland Plants, says the challenges she and her father are facing in running their much-loved business are deeply concerning.

“At the moment it's just really hard because you have no idea what's going to happen,” she says.

“On the nursery side of things, obviously we buy cuttings in a lot at this time of year from all over the world. Now what we’re finding is that either it’s costing a lot of money to get them checked when they come in, or some cuttings arrive and are actually dead before we even get to put them into compost, because they've taken so long to get here.”

Ms Spray adds: “We've got greenhouses full of beautiful primroses, because we supply lots of garden centres in Scotland in the north of England, and there's just sitting in a greenhouse because there's nowhere really open to sell them.

"We grow enough to supply the whole of Scotland but if we don't sell them soon, they're basically going to just be wasted.”

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