Congress Ireland – Rachel Doyle


Rachel Doyle, Ireland’s leading garden retailer, introduces a stunning line-up for the upcoming International Garden Centre Congress, which is being hosted in Ireland from August 10th to 15th. The International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) was founded 55 years ago and the first congress was held in Germany. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation committed to the continuous improvement of the garden centre industry worldwide. We are dedicated to supporting national garden centre associations and our members by providing the forum to promote business and networking opportunities, which includes an annual congress.

The IGCA board consists of past President Nick Stodel, South Africa; President Rachel Doyle, Ireland (this is the first time Ireland has held the Presidency); First Vice President John Zaplantynsky, Canada; and Second Vice President Koichi Akatsula, Japan.

The other countries with representation on the board are Italy, UK, Denmark, and Australia. The board meets twice per year with other meetings held on Skype or conference call.

The international congress is held each year between August and October in a different host country. This comprises of the business meeting and AGM where the officers are elected. The affairs of the association are administrated from Canada. A concentrated business study tour for the next generation of garden centre owners was set up in the UK in 2009. This was an incredible success and provided a huge learning curve and networking event. For the Irish congress this is over – subscribed and we have a waiting list. Since 1960 the congress has been held annually in various countries around the world most recently in the UK 2009, Japan 2010, Italy 2011, Germany 2012, and in Australia 2013.

This event allows garden centre owners to network and exchange business information and ideas, as well as visiting amazing garden centre in these countries. Each country also creates a wonderful social programme and visits to incredible locations. In Denmark in December we have allocated the countries that we will be visiting up to 2020. We are offering tours before and after the congress for delegates wishing to come early or stay after the congress has finished.

People travelling from all over the world won’t just come for one week but will usually spend two to three weeks in the country, giving a boost to our economy. During the congress we can showcase the best our country has to offer in horticulture, in our garden centres, our wonderful home grown nursery stock, and our famous quality Irish food and drink. For example, we have 43 UK delegates registered and they are the crème de la crème of the English garden centres.  This provides an opportunity for our nurseries wishing to export to network with these potential customers. I really believe that “people buy from people first” and once the introduction happens then the relationship and business follows. At Arboretum we always say it is as a result of our attending congresses around the world that we have learned so much from our peers. We have developed lasting friendships with leaders in the horticultural field and from their help have been introduced to important business contacts.

Each delegate is given information about the venue we are about to enter and two people are asked if they would do a critique on the garden centre. There is no pressure on anyone to speak but most participants are happy to participate. They give a great overview  which generates discussion. Each delegate is given a feedback form and asked to list three things they really liked and three things they think should be improved upon. On the feedback forms there is an option for more information. The feedback sheets are collected before the next stop and are given to the participating garden centre. The tour guides impart important information on the history, culture, landscape, countryside and economy as we travel around the country. Depending on the dynamic of each group healthy discussion can develop and we intend to have roaming microphones which make it easier for the shy people who may not be comfortable speaking in a group. The importance of this networking and information sharing cannot be overemphasised, it is tremendous! We have a number of press, media and authors registered who will return to their own countries and write about their Irish experiences. We will ensure that it will be very positive.

Every few months I write about what is happening in Ireland. That information is sent to Leigh in Australia who collates the information from all the countries and sends it back to us. This will now be circulated through the new Retail Excellence Ireland Garden Group. It makes interesting reading and it is surprising how many similar challenges we all face. THE IRISH CONGRESS This would not have happened without the support of Bord Bia. We have now over 200 delegates from 18 countries registered. We believe we will make a profit, and the money will be ring-fenced to promote gardening in Ireland next year. We have had great support from the industry and we will be telling you more about this when all our sponsorship is sorted. Thanks to you all who have committed to sponsorship.

We are based in the majestic Carton House in Co Kildare for the full week (10 to 15 August).

Saturday 9 August A game of golf is been arranged on one of the courses in Carton House.

Sunday 10 August Another optional event is a trip to a corporate box in Croke Park to enjoy the all-Ireland hurling semi-final. Sunday evening registration and an informal get together in Carton House.

Monday 11 August

● Visit Johnstowm Garden Centre ● Newlands Garden Centre ● Croke Park
● National Botanic Gardens ● Glasnevin Cementery and Museum
● Black tie dinner in the Mansion House. We hope to have our President Michael D Higgins in attendance.

Tuesday 12 August
Jones Garden Centre The Garden House Malahide Malahide Castle and Avoca Trinity College Jameson Distillery for an Irish night

Wednesday 13 August
● Arboretum Lifestyle & Garden Centre
● Altamont gardens ● Kilkenny Castle
● Gowran park for lunch ● Afternoon at the races in Gowran
● Dinner and entertainment in Arboretum Lifestyle & Garden Centre

Thursday 14 August
● Powerscourt Garden Centre and gardens ● O’Connors’ nursery and lunch
● Cois Na habhann Garden Centre
● Killruddery House and Gardens
● BBQ and entertainment

Friday 15 August
● Japanese Gardens and National Stud
● Orchard Garden Centre
● Guinness Store House for tour and a taste of the black stuff
● Grafton Street for shopping
● Gala black tie event in Carton House

This is an action packed week! On Thursday afternoon the study tour will break away and do some team building having fun canoeing on the Barrow. For anyone wishing to join the congress we will have a limited number of day passes. Retail Excellence Ireland is working with us with a view to putting on an extra bus for the new garden group to join the congress for a day. I know the delegates from all over the world will have an amazing and memorable stay in Ireland.

Rachel Doyle
President IGCA