A plant hailed by judges as a "stunning, eye-catching flower" with a name that "perfectly captures" its look and the ability to stand out in any garden or garden centre display took the Best Bedding or Pot Plant prize at this year's Four Oaks Trade Show Awards.
The plant is Petunia 'Night Sky' from Ball Colegrave - one of eight exhibitors at this year's show to take home "winner" awards and one of nine to secure high commendations from the annual awards event hosted by Horticulture Week, premier media partner to the Four Oaks Trade Show. It remains the largest and most comprehensive event in the UK for all involved in the garden industry, from growers and garden retail buyers to garden landscapers and designers.
Among the other winners were XL Horticulture, which claimed the Best Professional Product or Service award for SunMaster Cool, and Phytolux, which won the Award for Technical Excellence for its Attis-7 LED Plant Growth Light.
The awards were judged by Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie and Horticulture Week's expert technical editor Sally Drury, who has been testing professional kit and machinery for Horticulture Week for more than 30 years.
Horticulture Week editor Kate Lowe chaired the judging and presented the winners with their trophies at a special awards reception that was attended by more than 200 exhibitors after the first day of the show.
Here we present some more detail on this year's winning entries, together with comments from our judges on the new products and plants that impressed them most at the show.
The 45th Four Oaks Trade Show took place at the 9.3ha nursery site in Cheshire's Lower Withington on 8-9 September.
BEST BEDDING OR POT PLANT
Petunia 'Night Sky', Ball Colegrave
Petunia 'Night Sky' has an extraordinary new colour pattern that really shines in baskets and containers. The combination of white spots on dark-violet flowers is strongly suggestive of a constellation in the night sky, making it a perfect stand-alone item as well as being a first for petunia.
Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Iain Wylie had the following to say about it: "A stunning, eye-catching flower. The name 'Night Sky' perfectly captures it. A plant that will stand out in gardens and in garden centre displays."
Petunia 'Night Sky' recently received the 2015 Fleurostar Award, presented by international plants industry body Fleuroselect to Selecta Klemm director of breeding and research Andrea Dohm and 'Night Sky' breeder Antonella Capo at an event held in the Netherlands. The plant was also a strong customer favourite at Ball Colegrave's Summer Showcase in July.
It has a vigorous semi-trailing habit with excellent branching and early flowering, making it a perfect plant for patio baskets and containers. Ball Colegrave recommends growing the variety in a 10.5-13cm pot.
Good specific cultural information is available for growers to get the very best plant habit and flower quality. It is available in a Ball 84 tray with high-impact colour labels.
Petunia Happy Magic Cremissimo, Channel Island Plants
With a strikingly different colour this novelty petunia has an upright and mound-forming habit, flowering all season until frost. Channel Island Plants says it enjoys good weather tolerance.
Osteospermum '3D' Series, Ball Colegrave
This new osteospermum form has a double flower, allowing it to stay open for longer as well as adding huge retail and garden appeal.
BEST RETAIL PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Remin Volcanic Rock Dust, Remin (Scotland)
Remin volcanic rock dust is the brand name given by Jennifer Brodie to 100 per cent natural, freshly crushed and finely ground rock from a Scottish quarry. The product was launched on the market shortly after the 2014 Four Oaks Trade Show.
Remin is a soil and compost improver - or, to be more precise, a soil and compost "remineraliser". It is beneficial to add to the soil as a top dressing or to the compost of any crop at any time of year, says Brodie, provided the ground is not frozen. It is also effective as a compost activator and a wormery tonic.
The rock dust contains most if not all of the macro and micro minerals and trace elements required for healthy growth. Brodie says she launched her own brand because having worked with it for 10 years she has first-hand experience that it "does what it says on the tin".
To date, plant food has concentrated on feeding the plant, not the soil. Remin recognises the health of volcanic areas of the planet and is building on this wisdom.
It is approved by four organic certification bodies including the Soil Association. Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Sally Drury called it: "A great holistic solution for boosting soil fertility."
Bagged Bare Root Irises, Howard Nurseries
Great for point-of-sale purchases, Bagged Bare Root Irises - a one-year iris rhizome in a plastic bag - make irises readily available during the ideal time to plant them, ready for next spring.
Jekka's Herbs range, Mr Fothergill's Seeds
From the herb expert Jekka McVicar, this new range of seeds combines well-known and more unusual culinary herbs with Jekka's recommendations for growing and use on each pack.
BEST PROFESSIONAL PRODUCT OR SERVICE
SunMaster Cool, XL Horticulture
SunMaster Cool is the first of a new range of films from XL. DuraCool uses a microfine aluminium additive as its diffuser to reduce the summer temperature inside the greenhouse by 25-30 per cent. Not wanting to reduce winter temperatures by that amount, it is also thermic and anti-drip.
The product uses another new technology that makes the outside of the film super smooth so that it sheds dust and fungal spores. This enables it to stay clear of algae for longer. It is the first of the 160-micron (640 gauge) films with a six-year warranty being phased in by XL this autumn.
Available in widths of 8m, 10m, 12m and 14m, it can be cut to length to fit any tunnel and is delivered next day as standard.
Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Sally Drury said SunMaster Cool is: "A clear solution to reducing temperature without loss of light."
Nano 6 Trolley & Pallet Wrap, Wrap It Packaging
This trolley and pallet wrap offers the strongest wrap available gauge-for-gauge with 50 per cent less weight. It is fully recyclable and features high puncture resistance as well as a glass-like appearance to allow excellent viewing of products in transit.
BEST NURSERY STOCK INTRODUCTION
Salvia 'Love & Wishes', Wyevale Nurseries
A member of the 'Wish' series, Salvia 'Love & Wishes' features deep-purple flowers along with deep-burgundy calyces, dark-green foliage and dark stems that combine to create a stunning plant.
Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Iain Wylie described it as a "stand-out entry with a huge impact from its rich purple flowers". The plant grows to an ultimate height of 80cm and flowers from June to November. "It is very free-flowering and has the potential to enhance the garden border all summer long," added Wylie.
Bred by John Fisher in New South Wales, Australia, 'Love & Wishes' is the third in the 'Wish' collection of Salvia. It launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in conjunction with Dyson's Nurseries and went on to pick up "best in show" at the HTA National Plant Show with Darby Nursery Stock and Kernock Park Plants before taking the silver award at Plantarium in the Netherlands.
Hydrangea 'Ruby Tuesday', De Jong Plant
A beautiful long and rich flowering dark-red hydrangea with black/green spots that is part of the Magical Four Seasons brand. Winter hardy, the plant is suitable for terrace and garden use.
Photinia 'Pink Crispy', GC Stolwijk
Developed by Van Oploo Tuinplanten, 'Pink Crispy' features marbled foliage with splashes of lightand dark-green as well as intense red stems. New shoots are a startling bright-pink in colour.
BEST PROFESSIONAL EQUIPMENT
Polytunnel Roof Fan, Northern Polytunnels
The winner of this year's award for Best Professional Equipment was described by Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Sally Drury as: "A good affordable answer to removing excess heat from multi-span polythene-clad structures".
The £165 polytunnel roof fan is designed to do just that - exhaust excessive heat from polythene-clad greenhouses - and it is usually used in combination with a temperature switch.
The roof fan is straightforward to install. Users simply cut out a 30-35cm hole in the polytunnel cover, insert the fan from the inside in a rotating motion and clip it onto the support bars.
It requires a single-phase 220-240V power supply and comes with a mesh guard on the inlet.
Specifications:- Airflow: 4,600m/hr (2,700cfm
- 200W (0.9A) motor
- IP55 protected
- Weight: 7.5kg
- Top diameter at cowl: 42cm
- Overall diameter at base: 57cm
- Overall height: 39cm
AWARD FOR TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE
Attis-7 LED Plant Growth Light, Phytolux
The Attis-7 has been developed with a number of UK research scientists, horticulturists and growers to provide a generic, low-energy and commercially viable option for producers to extend the growing season.
The organisations that have been working with Phytolux include Rothamsted Research, Syngenta, the Food & Environment Research Agency, University of Oxford, University of Bristol, University of Reading, Newcastle University, Moulton College, Glinwell, Flavourfresh and Wight Salad Group.
With proven field results, the Attis-7 uses a passive cooling system, consumes fewer than 206W and has a physical footprint comparable to the equivalent high-pressure sodium alternative.
The thin-profile Attis-Panel system was introduced this September, featuring up to 14 individually programmable wavelengths. Phytolux says it provides a fully controllable solution for university and research growth chambers and is ideal for vertical and urban farming.
Four Oaks Trade Show Awards judge Sally Drury said: "It offers an impressive range of wavelengths that are individually programmable."
Botanigard WP and Majestik Bio-insecticide Synergy, Certis
Combining Botanigard WP (a bio-insecticide to control whitefly in various crops) with Majestic (a spider mite insecticide for all horticulture crops) offers growers the capacity to target the entire whitefly pest life cycle in an integrated pest-management system. Multiple modes of action lessen the chances of resistance developing.
BEST OVERSEAS STAND
GC Stolwijk from Boskoop in the Netherlands produced a show-stopping stand that no one visiting the Four Oaks Trade Show could possibly have missed - a pink Cadillac supporting sales of its Photinia 'Pink Crispy' (highly commended in the Best Nursery Stock category)
MOST INNOVATIVE STAND
Moles Seeds sold the outcome of its products with a beautifully presented and mouthwatering exhibit. Its contemporary drawing-based branding was used to support the display, which was designed to suggest a retail experience.