1st March 2010:
The awards took place on this Friday night just gone, sadly without our involvement this year. We chose not to enter last year with all the building work going on with the new classroom, car park improvements and the creation of the organic kitchen garden. The thought of an unannounced visit from the judge while all this was going on made us decide to take a year out. This would have been our third year in a row and we would have loved to have retained a three star award and perhaps even a special award.
Our first year of entry was a fantastic achievement as we got our aimed for three star status as well as the Best Specialist Garden Centre. It was a night of celebration and followed up with fantastic coverage which certainly drew in new customers.
I was interested to see who had got what awards and what really surprised me was that there were only 22 garden centres out of the whole of Ireland this year. This really is a very low number and perhaps something that needs to be reviewed by Bord Bia to ascertain why there is such a low take up. Yes it does cost money to enter, however for new entrants or for garden centres who have not been involved for five years there is a reduced fee. There may be the fear of being audited however the process is one to assist entrants increase standards.
I had also wondered about whether some garden centres and I include myself in this that it would be hard for some garden centres to progress beyond a certain level. However Lusks Garden Centre have proved this theory is not entirely true. In 2006 Lusk’s Garden Centre entered into the An Bord Bia Garden Centre Quality assurance awards. After the preliminary adjudication the judge awarded Lusk’s with a two star rating. In the successive years 2007 and 2008 Lusk’s climbed the rank with a three star award in 2007 and four star award in 2008. Well even better this year they achieved the five star status as well as the following awards Plant Centre of the Year, Best Plant Quality and the Continuous Improvement Award.
Perhaps if the categories of garden centres was altered to have small, medium and large to reflect the true diversity in the range of garden centres there could be an increase in the number of entries. For example the winner of this years Small Garden Centre of the year was deservedly awarded to Cois Na h’Abhann Garden Centre. However certainly not a small garden centre in my opinion.
We shall see what The Secret Garden Centre does next year, until then we shall be focusing on The Green Awards next week where we have been shortlisted as finalists in two categories.
Full details of the award recipients can be seen on the Bord Bia website