Protecting the future of horticulture

Statement from RHS Director General Sue Biggs, 31 March 2020

The RHS is deeply concerned about the threats facing the Ornamental Horticulture sector due to Covid-19, as are all our partners in the industry body, the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group, which includes HTA. Our sector is made up of hundreds of family-run businesses who have delivered world-class plants for us all to enjoy. In this time of great uncertainty, the RHS wants to ensure that people can continue to enjoy gardening, something that is much needed for the mental and physical health of much of our population. If steps are not taken to support the growers that underpin one of Britain’s favourite past times and £24.2 bn industry, then many of these businesses will cease to exist, and vital growing skills will be lost to the country.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, says; “By the end of June, we estimate that the Ornamental Horticultural industry will face £687 million in lost sales which would balloon to a staggering £1.198 billion by December 2020. Behind each of these numbers is a family or business struggling to keep their passion for plants alive. Everyone at the RHS stands with them and calls on the UK Government to act now to save the Ornamental Horticulture industry. It is vital that we ensure that all of us can continue to enjoy gardening and the many benefits it brings.”

Dibleys Nurseries

Horticultural Skills Report 2019

A new Horticultural Skills Report, released in October 2019, outlines the skills gaps in the ornamental horticulture sector, finding in particular shortages of technical skills and supervisors despite businesses’ anticipation of growth in employment.
For many years the horticultural industry has spoken of a skills gap, which has now been proven through extensive industry research. More than 1,000 organisations responded to a survey, undertaken by Pye Tait Consulting, to outline their current staffing situation and plans for the future.

The results outline a gap in specialist technical skills, professional and supervisor-level roles, potentially compounded by anticipated growth in employment in these areas of 23% over the next two years. The report also showed that the industry is largely unaware of government education initiatives and struggles to find apprentices.

The OHRG and the RHS will be seeking to combat the issues highlighted in the report in the coming years through government influence and providing skills solutions.

Download the pdfs:


Horticulture industry worth £24 billion

An earlier report revealed the significant value of the UK’s ornamental horticulture and landscape industries. The  report , released in October 2018, was commissioned by the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group (OHRG). In light of its economic importance, the industry contends that it isn’t being taken seriously by Government for the immense benefits it delivers.

Despite ornamental horticulture supporting 568,700 jobs,  generating a £24.2 billion GDP footprint  and £5.4 billion in revenue for HM Government in 2017, the industry has been largely ignored and receives little direct support or fiscal incentives. Yet it delivers exceptional public value in terms of the environmental benefit it provides to the nation.

The OHRG is calling on Government to:

  • Create opportunities for the industry to scale up UK production in light of Brexit
  • Nurture innovation funding in horticultural science for environmental resilience and health benefits
  •  Support the development of a skills roadmap, to ensure a pipeline of talent to meet current and future workforce needs.
Read the full report into  the economic impact of ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK (1.1MB pdf) – October 2018

Download the PDFPreparing for a post Brexit Britain

In light of Brexit the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group (APPGHG)  began an inquiry into the future of the horticulture and gardening industry in 2018. In October of that year, we launched a report outlining nine recommendations to Government 700kB pdf) to support the industry.

Horticulture and Brexit - where next?

Background to the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group

Click to open pdf The Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group is a body of industry leaders and innovators, including retailers, gardening charities and industry bodies, that have been championing the immense value and benefits of ornamental horticulture to safeguard the nation’s future.

The first cross-sector action plan, designed to increase growth and competitiveness for the ornamental horticulture industry, was created by leaders from across the sector. The plan, which was launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2015, addresses 12 priority areas where government help could encourage the long-term growth of the sector.

The Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Action Plan 2015-2020 unified the shared concerns of experts from across the ornamental sector and focused on those areas that have the greatest growth potential, providing major benefits to the health and well-being of the environment and society.

The organisations involved in the OHRG include the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI), Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Arboricultural Association (AA), Grow Careers,  the Horticulture Innovation Partnership, the Horticultural Trades Association, Landex, the National Farmers' Union and the Royal Horticultural Society  and they will continue to guide its development.

Useful links

Audio and slideshows from the Health & Horticulture Conference 2016

Action Plan update 2016 (514kB pdf)

Special report: The economic impact of ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK (1.1MB pdf)


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.