2021 is now off and running and hopefully we can leave the ravages of BREXIT behind us in the month of February, although our growers will continue to seek assurances on the availability of labour as the season progresses. COVID continues to impact all of our personal and professional lives in one way or another and more so in the ornamental sector. Garden Centres continue to enjoy being open, but our ornamental and historic gardens need good news on lockdown. Let’s hope the drawbridge is lowered in early May and we have a reprieve of sorts!

Growing our Chartered Institute continues to be our top priority and I am pleased to be able to share news on new employees and appointments at HQ, Council and Management Board level.

Helen Sessions joins the Institute in February to take up the role of Development Officer. Helen joins us from the National Trust in England and brings much varied experience from her current role. The focus of our development officer will be to grow our membership, to ensure we have adequate representation on industry bodies and to introduce our programme of Chartership accreditation to members and the industry. This is a very exciting phase in our growth plan, and we look forward to welcoming Helen in person and in the virtual world.

I am particularly delighted to welcome the Director of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to Council. Mr Richard Barley has accepted our invitation to become a Trustee and join the Council of Trustees. Richard brings a wealth of experience to Council, from the Ornamental and Botanical sector and we look forward to hearing more about this aspect of Horticulture.

As our AGM approaches in April, we start the process of identifying and preparing the officer changes for the period 2021 through to 2023. Susan Nicholas is our current Vice President until April, before she takes up the role of President. We are now in a position to confirm that the nomination for Vice President at the 2021 AGM will be long standing member Mr David Richardson. As many of you know David is Director of Horticulture at the Commonwealth Wargraves Commission and will bring an international perspective to the work of the Institute. This position and proposal will be delivered to the AGM on Saturday 24th of April and I recommend that you support this motion.

Finally, on the subject of AGM, it is my great pleasure to welcome the Editor of Horticulture Week, Mr Matthew Appleby to deliver the annual ‘James Bruce Lecture’. Like so many meetings in the last year this AGM Lecture will be conducted by Video Conference. If there is anyone more informed about the broad church of Horticulture, then it surely is Matthew. His extensive knowledge of the industry and subject will be fully revealed at the 2021 AGM, a not to be missed event ….

I look forward to seeing many members at our interest group meetings, Management Board and Council meetings in the coming months. Whether I recognise you with your new hair style is another matter!

Gerald Bonner CHort, FCIHort