20 March 2013 By Billy Hawkins
There are many times when we pause to reflect how lucky we are to have horticultural friends who are willing to share their expertise with us; gardeners are a generous bunch!
On this occasion, Sarah Wain from West Dean Gardens hosted a morning of instruction for our sales team, the better to advise our own customers on horticultural questions they may have when growing under glass. We certainly haven't become overnight experts but as John Lawson commented “I learnt more today about growing than I have over the last 20 years (of selling greenhouses)".
The ten strong Alitex team was described by Sarah as "an enthusiastic bunch", so clearly everyone was having fun; the feedback from the morning is testament to Sarah's coaching skills. The confidence the Alitex team have gained in their own understanding of what growing is all about is clear from the team's comments.
As Mark Godfree says: "Yesterday’s visit to West Dean was excellent. Sarah was very knowledgeable about growing under glass and provided some useful information and tips. It was great to hear from someone outside Alitex about how to go about it and to get her thoughts and recommendations.A very worthwhile visit."
Elaine recently visited Donaldson's Nursery as part of the "Learning from growers about growing", 2013 initiative at Alitex and she was very impressed.
"I thought it was brilliant – Sarah is a fountain of growing knowledge and her enthusiasm contagious. It was great to see such an extensive collection of greenhouses of different styles (pit, monopitch, ¾ span etc) and all the different growing environments as well, with practically every crop covered that the average domestic grower may be interested in. And as well as that, you have the historic setting too – everything is immaculate, so you can get a good understanding of how a walled kitchen garden can be set out and the crops trained (e.g. espalier, cordons etc). It was also good to see the stores and understand just how many tools, fertiliser, pots and other kit a gardener has to consider."
Paul Hewitt from our Clean and Care Team commented, "I found yesterday to be very informative, full of useful tips and “musical” words! Sarah has a skill to deliver complicated details in a simple fashion that is easy to understand and keeps the listener engaged. Brilliant!"
On the strength of this feedback I am very much looking forward to my visit in a few weeks. There's nothing better than learning from the professionals at this time of year - I can then head straight home and put into practise what's been learned.
For more information about West Dean Gardens click here. To follow Sarah's seasonal news, keep reading the Alitex blogs.
Workshop (2) went really well last Thursday...
The second group was predominantly Alitex designers as the first had been sales and Sarah commented on how different the types of questions were; the Alitex designers wanted to understand air flow and the rationale for doing X rather than Y. My own observations were more practical - such amazing order throughout the gardens and behind the scenes really allows you to appreciate the hard work which goes into the West Dean gardens. Sarah, Jim and their 9 gardeners and up to 40 volunteers keep immaculate order throughout - the process is as visual an achievement as the actual gardens. Sarah is a brilliant communicator and her enthusiasm and passion for plants and horticulture is evident. Keep an eye on our twitter account for her wonderful top tips.