For more than 30 years, Royal Horticultural Society's Plant Finder has been a record of the hundreds of thousands of plants available in cultivation in the UK and, importantly, the nurseries that stock them.
Ahead of next week's release of the 2019 edition of the book (in which we will feature - more on this next week), the RHS have released some sobering facts regarding the nursery trade in the UK.
Numbers of independent nurseries listed in the annual book have almost halved in the past 19 years, now numbered at 482, down from 837 in 2000. 80 nurseries are de-listed on average each year. This compares with 61 new nurseries listed on average, so the overall trend continues to be down.
James Armitage, editor of RHS magazine 'The Plantsman', argues that challenges nurseries face are not just a threat to business, but have wider ramifications for plant diversity in the UK. The potential consequence of specialist nurseries closing is the long-term loss of expert knowledge and rare plants. "My main concern is over the loss of diversity," he says. "An awful lot of rare plants are only offered by small, specialist nurseries. The rest of the world doesn't have the cultivated plant diversity we do in the UK, and we shouldn't take it for granted. It is incredibly important in terms of biodiversity."
There is no doubt that the challenges independent nurseries face are many, but we hope that by offering something a bit different, providing great service and being innovative with our offering, we can help to keep a diverse plant offering available in the UK.