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National Gardening Week 2017

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National Gardening Week

Is National Gardening Week missing its audience?

National Gardening Week takes place from 10-16 April, with the aim of encouraging new gardeners to get involved.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, despite the Royal Horticultural Society’s assertion that it has become ‘the country’s biggest celebration of gardening’, it absolutely has not. I’ll bet there are bigger celebrations at a good sale in the gardening department at your local DIY store.

child gardening
Indoctrinating children at an early age…

According to the RHS bumph, “Thousands of people, gardens, charities, retailers, culture and heritage organisations and groups get involved and you can too.”

Check out the what’s on section of the National Gardening Week website – there is a sparse selection and nothing in NE England – the nearest events are in North Yorkshire, at the RHS’s own Harlow Carr and in York and Malton.

You can register your own event on site but as this piece was written a week before the launch day, you’re going to struggle to get an event in your community planned, running and publicised in a few days.

My suggestion? Give the kids a packet of cress seeds, or easy hardy annuals that flower quickly, like English pot marigolds (Calendula) – look for kids’ ranges of seeds in garden centres or DIY stores and plant away. Hopefully, you and the kids will get hooked. It can be as simple as that. It was for me.

Easter bunnies
Easter bunnies… enemy of National Gardening Week

The timing during the Easter holidays seems sensible at first until you check out likely venues’ websites – you can’t move for eggs, bunnies and treasure hunts. This is the first big holiday of the year for tourist attractions and they are going to go with sure-fire winners that the public expects  – usually including chocolate rabbits.

I’m sure the TV gardening programmes will give it some publicity, but you’re only going to be watching Gardener’s World if you already like gardening…

I really want National Gardening Week to work – I’m an RHS member and the organisation does do some great charitable work, despite my moaning.

Calendula Nova
Calendula Nova – bright, breezy and easy to grow

However, National Gardening Week completely misses the mark, despite being well-meaning. If you’re not a gardener, you’ve probably never heard of it, let alone turn up at an event at a large private garden miles away with an entry fee. If you’re not interested and don’t drive, why would you make the effort to travel there?

Surely a better way to get working-class people on tight budgets involved is to bring the news to them – city centres, retail parks, public parks – even a tie-in with the dreaded DIY chains.

Come on RHS, yet again, another opportunity missed.

For more information, visit www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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