The Garden Centre Association (GCA) Trust has announced that not one but two candidates this year will go to the International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) Congress.
The GCA Trust recently invited applications from employees of member garden centres to receive a sponsored place at the IGCA in September.
Trust chairman Sue Allen said: “Eight candidates applied and all were of exceptionally high standard, making the choice very hard for the Trustees, to the point where they decided for the first time to send two lucky delegates to the IGCA, which will be held this year in the Niagara Falls region of Canada. I’m delighted to reveal that Zoe Willis of Perrywood Garden Centre and Liz Dowling of Millbrook Garden Centre were both selected.”
She continued: “As a regular attendee of the IGCA Congress for many years, I appreciate just how much can be gained from the experience, not just in learning about how garden retailers in other countries respond to challenges in their own market place, but also in meeting and sharing knowledge with delegates from the other 18 member countries.
“It continues to surprise and dismay me when I realise how many strong members of the GCA do not take advantage of the unique opportunity offered by the annual Congress. It is telling that all this year’s applicants for the award came from centres who already fully appreciate the benefits of the international organisation.
“Mark Scott from Gordale, who won the place in 2016, can confirm that the experience was truly life-changing and his employers Jill and Peter Nicholson were delighted to benefit from his enthusiasm and new ideas upon his return.”
The object of the GCA Trust is to advance education in horticulture among the general public, and in particular among horticultural students and garden centres, by the provision and administration of scholarships and bursaries, including prizes to foster such education.
The Trust also aims to assist horticultural students to study, research into and gain experience of horticulture and landscaping.
A delighted Zoe (pictured left) explained: “I’d just like to say how excited I am with getting a place to go to congress; it is a fantastic opportunity.”
Zoe is now looking forward to liaising with Liz, who is a brand manager at Millbrook Garden Centre, to discuss their forthcoming trip together.
Perrywood Garden Centre manager Simon Bourne said: “We are so happy for Zoe. She loves travelling and meeting people and is potty about plants, so we know she is going to love the Canada trip. We can’t wait to see what she posts on social media and the ideas she then brings back to the rest of the team. It’s an amazing opportunity – huge thanks to the GCA Trust.”
Liz (pictured right with Millbrook managing director Tammy Woodhouse), who is based at Crowborough, said: “I am so excited to have won a place on the trip to Canada, the itinerary looks amazing and I can’t wait to go! I am looking forward to meeting other people within the industry and seeing the garden centres and nurseries in Canada. What a fantastic opportunity!”