Ornamental horticulture unveils plan to grow £10 billion sector


Ornamental horticulture unveils plan to grow £10 billion sector


Leaders from across the £10 billion a year ornamental horticulture sector have launched a 12 point action plan designed to help secure the future of the industry.


The plan, which is the result of six months of meetings between industry experts facilitated by Defra, identifies a dozen priority areas where government and industry could work together to encourage and aid long-term growth.


Among the changes the sector would like to see over the next five years are:

  • Gardening considered as a treatment on the NHS
  • Public bodies and publicly funded works and projects to use UK plants
  • International garden expo to be created to showcase UK horticulture
  • Modernisation of the supply chain to improve relationships and competitiveness and reduce dependence on imports
  • Introduction of a higher level of horticultural apprenticeship to addresses skills shortages
  • Garden centres and retailers should be exempted from the Sunday Trading Act


Speaking about the plan, ornamental roundtable Chair and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Director General Sue Biggs says: “Annually horticulture contributes £10.4 billion to the UK economy and employs around 300,000 people. It is a major economic force that has the potential to contribute even more, and we hope this plan will be a major step in our journey to overcoming the barriers that are holding the sector back.


“If we hadn’t come together to develop this plan,” Sue Biggs said, “the likelihood is that we would be fighting on many different fronts, with varying degrees of success, to highlight our relevance and justify our existence. Now we are united, focused and more determined than ever to ensure that the 12-point action plan is adopted, and that the benefits of a growing ornamental horticulture sector are enjoyed by generations to come.”


RHS Vice President Lord Heseltine said: “Horticulture has an important role to play, not just at the community level, but also across education, training, housing, health, business and employment.  By drawing these areas together in a coherent strategy we can harness the great potential of the ornamental horticultural sector.”


The 12 asks of industry and government will focus on:

  1. Horticulture careers: apprenticeships, GrowCareers and Ambassadors
  2. Horticulture and the National Curriculum in England
  3. Commercial and promotion: promoting garden tourism through VisitBritain, GREAT Britain campaign, Heritage Lottery Fund
  4. Sunday Trading: to make the case for garden retailers to be exempt from the Sunday Trading Act
  5. Garden Expo: to support an international garden exposition
  6. Modernisation of the supply chain: improve the sector’s competitiveness and encourage sustainable trading relationships through the development of a best practice hub and new mechanisms to buy UK grown plants
  7. Financial incentives: identify and harness the financial mechanism, including VAT regimes, that could help level the playing field between UK sector and its European competitors
  8. Science R&D: to harness government revenue streams to drive innovation, conserve, identify and harness the potential of plants
  9. Sustainable resourcing of the horticulture sector: watering, growing media, pesticides, land for development, energy and waste management. Secure access to essential resources for growers to support long-term planning by the sector
  10. Plant health and the National Pollinator Strategy: Plant health: develop an integrated and robust response to the threat from pests by developing joined-up rapid reaction. Encourage environmental and pollinator-friendly behaviours
  11. Human health and horticulture: building the case for horticulture’s role supporting well-being  and as a treatment for specific physical and mental conditions
  12. Society and horticulture: more and better-quality green infrastructure in towns and cities, with planners given the tools to incorporate these into new and existing developments

The organisations behind the development of the first-ever cross-sector action plan include the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Grow Careers, the Horticultural Development Company (HDC), the Horticulture Innovation Partnership, the Horticultural Trades Association, Landex, Lantra, the National Farmers’ Union, the RHS and YoungHort. These organisations will continue to guide its development over the next five years.


A representative from the horticultural sector will lead and drive each of the 12 challenge areas and will feed intelligence into a steering group. To ensure rigour, each group will be encouraged to draw on expertise from both within the sector and beyond, including from across government, to inform their work.


Project Group

Lead Organisation


  1. Horticulture careers (apprenticeships, ambassadors and Grow Careers)


Martin Emmett

  1. Horticulture and the National Curriculum


Sarah Cathcart

  1. Garden tourism

Garden Industry Marketing Board

David Arnold - Garden Industry Marketing Board

  1. Sunday trading


Raoul Curtis-Machin

  1. Garden Expo

Garden Industry Marketing Board

David Arnold - Garden Industry Marketing Board

  1. Modernisation, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the supply chain

Set up a supply chain industry board

David Denny

  1. Financial incentives


Michael Parker

  1. Science, research and development

HIP (Horticulture Innovation Partnership)

Mark Tatchell

  1. Sustainable resourcing of the horticultural industry


Chris Hartfield

  1. Plant health and the National Pollinator Strategy

HTA – Secretariat

Raoul Curtis-Machin

  1. Human health and horticulture

Health Forum

Dr William Bird (TBC)

  1. Society and horticulture


Dr Alistair Griffiths


Click here to download the plan here.