Horticultural tours have been an important activity of the Society for many years or should I say decades. Starting around 1985 under the direction of the late Margaret Watling they initially were restricted to a Spring or Autumn garden visit plus an out-of-town sojourn. Under Margaret’s tutelage Freda Hunter took over in 1986 and the tour programme grew steadily reaching its zenith in the 1990’s.
“It was a time when many people liked to visit showcase gardens to learn about new plants and how they were performing” mused Freda.
“They enjoyed the camaraderie and would share their experiences with other CHS members in the All About Gardening sessions”. The annual tour programme became a major source of self-funding for the Society.
In 2012 Freda retired from her position as Tour Manager and was succeeded by Gail Scrivener. She decided to stay on in the new role of Tour Director in which she could mentor Gail and oversee the whole CHS programme. In April last year a small team was formed to relook at the tours programme and 5 key criteria were identified to help in the evaluation of potential or suggested tours.
These were – practical and safe, interactive, educational, appeal and relevance to CHS’s mission.
In the past year 14 tours were hosted by Gail or Freda, 8 of which were part of the Ellerslie Tour Programme. A survey of members in 2012 revealed the preferences for the more distant destinations and accordingly 3 of last year’s tours were out of Christchurch, with a 3 Day Wearable Arts Tour to Wellington, a 3 Day Rose Festival Tour to Timaru and a 7 day trip to Doubtful Sound, enjoyed immensely by all participants.
An affordable half day Look & Learn programme was introduced in this period and tours were held in Christchurch or its immediate surrounds. These have been well supported and have proved a popular activity while attracting some younger new members. This popularity may also indicate that the membership is getting older and the multi-day trips are too expensive for many, or that health issues and other factors make them less attractive than they were in Freda’s halcyon days.
Photo Credits: Main Photo: Amsterdam Tulip Gardens (from left-right) 1. Elizabeth Peacock & Curator of Museum of Tulips, Amsterdam 2. What a view, Chatham Islands 3. All Aboard, Whitianga 4. Elizabeth & Freda ‘At the Falls’ Rapaura Water Gardens, Rapaura
We are aware that the competition for the discretionary dollar has intensified dramatically in the past twenty years. The rise of the café society, the emergence of winery-based restaurants (and associated tours) and the increased competition within the tourism industry itself have all exacerbated the challenges we face in developing a tour programme that will prove attractive to members and financially viable for the CHS. Superimposed on all of these competitive forces is the “just-in-time, search and buy online” phenomenon.
Whilst there has been a decline in number participation the tours team is most appreciative of the support it receives from our members, and have been working hard on planning a varied and interesting programme for the future and continue the development of the Look & Learn programme.
To grow the numbers will require a significant increase in the promotion of our annual tours programme both within the CHS and to the general public. CHS management, supported fully by the Board remains committed to an annual programme of high quality tours at a reasonable cost to its members.
We look forward to hosting you on a CHS tour soon.