Grower and breeder exhibitors at the HTA National Plant Show will be promoting plants they hope will be prominent in garden centres in 2016 and beyond. Dozens of new launches from 100 grower/breeder exhibitors are lining up for the show, which saw 60 per cent of exhibitors take new orders from new customers at 2014's event.
According to the HTA, some 79 per cent took orders from current customers at the show and 27 per cent took orders from ex-customers. Seven-in-10 visitors were looking for new suppliers, while three-quarters wanted to catch up with existing suppliers too.
This year, more impulse and themed offers are evident. Hillier is introducing a perennial colour collection, for instance, as an antidote to the old-style typed availability list.
Companies such as Javado and Garden Centre Fresh have pushed the seasonal and themed collection list for easy ordering, quick delivery to fill gaps and to exploit good weather during the season.
Javado partner Chris Campbell says an RHS Chelsea Flower Show launch springs into the National Plant Show perfectly. "Chelsea is a fantastic launch pad for a new plant to the public and with the publicity," - and the National Plant Show backs that up for garden centre customers.
Javado won best in show at Chelsea in 2013 with Mahonia 'Soft Caress' and in 2014 with Hydrangea 'Miss Saori', and took the hat-trick with its entry Viburnum 'Kilimanjaro Sunrise' this year.
Campbell says: "This year a number of (retail) customers are stocking our Chelsea plants of the year in Chelsea displays. We've seen steady sales with the mahonia and after a year the hydrangea is selling well."
Among the runners-up from Chelsea that will be on display at the National Plant Show are Dianthus (Allwoodii Group) Tequila Sunrise 'Wp15 Pie45' (Cocktails Series) from Whetman Pinks and Blechnum brasiliense Eruption ('Alceru') from Seiont Nurseries.
HTA chief executive Carol Paris says the build-up to the show has gone "incredibly well". She agrees with Campbell that the new plant award "complements" the Chelsea best plant award, so much so that the RHS sponsors the National Plant Show awards. The message through National Plant Show growers is that they all have ample stock of these plants for sale in 2016.
HTA president Stan Green says, while the sixth annual show is bigger than ever, the industry needs to "sharpen elbows" for its share of the leisure pound. He adds that as plants become "more ubiquitous we need to be ever more creative in the way we promote them and the service we offer". The HTA-supported initiative Love the Plot You've Got aims to get future customers interested in plants and gardening, making it easy for the media to talk about the benefits of buying plants.
Commenting on the current season, exhibitor Geoff Caesar, managing director at Bransford Webbs Plant Company, says he is in the midst of a busy year but is "never going to be a huge amount up" on 2014 because the Hereford-based nursery is not growing much more than last year. He could have grown more of some plants, with geraniums 'Pink Spice' and 'Chocolate Candy', hebes and hostas doing well.
Some colder weather meant the market has fluctuated, with it being "reasonable" and "not as steady as 2014", he adds. "But we've not had two consecutive wet weekends and we are still weather-dependent." Colour and impulse are more and more important, with colour rather than the promise of a green plant key as the season goes on.
Promotional lines are also essential. "We have over 200 promotions and over 1,000 lines but we try and make it easy and sell one kit, such as spring magic shrubs, and not offer 25 varieties you have to pick through", says Caesar.
"Guys working in garden centres want the supplier to help them with listings and offers," with a lot of retailers wanting trolleys that are mixed and topical. This support makes their jobs more "doable", he adds.
Hillier Nurseries will be launching its Perennial Colour range with its new point-of-sale material and plant labels at the show. The nursery recently brought out a hedging range too.
It will be launching two new plants at the show. The first is Cotinus 'Candy Floss', a smoke bush with soft purple foliage and plumes of flower-like fairground candyfloss. The second is Weigela middendorffiana 'Mango', a selection with sulphur-yellow flowers speckled with a mango-orange throat.
Another dual Chelsea and National Plant Show exhibitor is dianthus breeder and grower Whetman Pinks. The company, owned by Carolyn and Edward Bourne, has gone into a joint venture with Ed and Fiona Marley and their brother-in-law David Langmead of Plant Marketing International.
They have formed a new company called Plant Genetics International that now owns the business, with all five as directors. The company will continue business as usual and as well as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the National Plant Show it will also be at the Four Oaks Trade Show this year as well as featuring on QVC.
Whetman Pinks will be launching several new varieties of Pinks during 2015 bred by Laetitia Moucheboeuf, who heads the breeding and research team. A new range called Whetman Cocktails is the star of the show - fully hardy, fragrant, intermediate-height garden pinks with enormous single blooms.
Garden Centre Fresh will be showcasing its extended range of Kew-licensed indoor and outdoor plants. Director Matt Graham explains that the focus for the company at the HTA show this year will be threefold:
1 Continue to build on its customer service to increase sales across the existing customer base.
2 Add to the expanding Kew Selection range now just finishing its first full year following its launch at last year's HTA show.
3 Launch of the David Colegrave Orchid in partnership with the HTA.
He adds: "Garden Centre Fresh sales to date (year-on-year) to its UK customers have been up by just over 50 per cent, thanks partly to an increased customer base but also thanks to our own show (January 2015 in Honselersdijk, South Holland) that generated higher than budgeted early-season sales, despite the slower start to this season compared with the same period last year for many centres and suppliers alike."
Further business expansion is planned linking into a new company headed by Graham called The Plant Yard. It will capitalise mainly on UK-grown opportunities for UK garden centres.
A nursery/consolidation centre is currently under construction in the UK. From The Plant Yard, plants from mainly UK growers will come in, be reworked as trolley deals (full trolleys of one offer) or mixed trolleys (several offers on one trolley) and then be dispatched direct to UK garden centre customers.
The Plant Yard will also offer those harder-to-source plants into garden centres and landscapers alike, and from September they can buy direct from its "small but perfectly formed" cash and carry. The company will launch at the start of July.
Wyevale Nurseries will launch Leucanthemum 'Daisy Chains' and Geranium 'Little Charmer' as well as its 2016 promotional catalogue at the show.
Sales and marketing director Adam Dunnett argues that his stand is going to break the mould. "We're going there with a stand asking some questions about people trying to create an inside room outside," he explains.
"People are decorating now in the garden and the stand questions whether people want a garden or want to decorate in the garden and bring the indoors outside and make the garden another room. Are we doing enough to meet that demand? It will be interesting to see the reaction because it will be different to just having a couple of Danish trolleys on display."
Beckworth Emporium horticulture manager Mike Easom says: "The show is definitely useful. It's good to keep in contact with old suppliers and to find new ones. There are usually really good deals there so it is worth going to maximise your margins."
Plant sales to date are "good" and "on target", though better, more consistent weather could have helped, especially early in the season. The food side of Beckwith means a consistently high footfall so impulse plants sell best, such as phlox, nemesia, marguerites and ceanothus.
Roses are also doing well and homegrown bedding is up as well, he points out. Value for money for the offer makes the bedding attractive but Aldi is now undercutting at £1.79 for a 10-bedding pack compared with his £2.99. "Garden centres need to be price-conscious," says Easom. "Even petrol stations are putting in a cage of bedding at the front now. Garden centres are changing - they have to be different."
Beckwith trades rather than being a stockist of plants and has "clarity" in its offer, he explains. Easom says he hopes the season will continue after its patchy start and Beckwith is well-placed to do well later because July and August footfall is as good as June due to the catering and outdoor living offers bringing people in.
Fairweather's Wholesale Nursery has won the category for best herbaceous perennial for the past four years at the National Plant Show, including last year's best-in-show winner Trollius 'Dancing Flame'.
This year Fairweather's will be launching Scabiosa 'Kudo', a free-flowering pink variety with blooms that last until the autumn.
Fairweather's Sharon Lowndes says: "Agapanthus 'Twister' is the first deciduous bicolour brought to the market, and Scabiosa 'Kudo' is a fantastic freeflowering scabious, flowering from spring through to autumn and resistant to mildew."
Chelsea plant of the year finalist Blechnum brasiliense 'Volcano' is a new selection made by Neil Alcock, having been launched by Rickards Hardy Ferns at Chelsea. The first UK trade plants will be available from Seiont Nurseries at the National Plant Show.
Alcock chose the plant as the brightest red form from a batch of spore-raised plants in 2008. It has been tested through several west coast winters, where mature plants have survived temperatures down to -5 degsC, although frost-free conditions are recommended for the best yearly displays. The young selection was sent to a large specialist fern propagator in Europe that has initiated it for future world-wide supply.
- Nursery Fresh will be launching 'Breakthrough Rose' to raise money for charity, with £1 from every sale going to Breast Cancer UK.
- Ball Colegrave will promote new varieties for the 2016 season and its West Adderbury trial grounds summer showcase (13-31 July).
- Benary has new genetics in Nonstop Joy Yellow and a new colour in Boliviensis type San Francisco to sit alongside Santa Cruz.
- Bryants Nurseries will promote its bedding and vegetable plants in both packs and pots. This year the nursery is introducing a range of summer bedding plants in a jumbo pack and has improved the presentation of its 9cm pot vegetables with a printed pot.
- Channel Island Plants has new and exclusive varieties including Bidens Beedance, Surfinia Sumo, Nemesia Sunpeddle, Petunia Titan, Double Calibrachoa Calohas, Novelty Petunia and Happy Magics.
- Earley Ornamentals will be introducing the new tuberous Begonia 'Fortune Salmon Bicolour' to its 'Quick & Compact' range. Also new will be SunPatiens Compact Hot Lilac. Earley's compact branching nemesia will also be promoted with Amelie and Wisley Vanilla.
- Florensis Flower Seeds UK will promote its Petunia Viva, Osteospermum Astra, Nemesia Nuvo and Verbena Venturi as well as the Toscana Ivy Leaf and Zonal Pelargoniums from producer Van Der Haak.
- Tendercare will offer a specimen plants-tailored sale-or-return stocking plan.
- Guernsey Clematis Nursery will be featuring its hanging basket with Clematis Chelsea Evipo100(N) and Clematis Picardy Evipo024(N) on its stand.
Elsewhere at the National Plant Show
The Bedding & Pot Plant Centre Open Evening on 23 June is part of programme of technical events that has been developed to complement the first day of the HTA National Plant Show this year.
The programme, which is a combination of events from the British Ornamental Plant Producers, GrowSave and AHDB Horticulture, has been designed to coincide with the show to provide a technical training element to the popular plant-based trade show.
Event HTA National Plant Show
Where Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ
When Tuesday 23 June (9.30am-5pm) and Wednesday 24 June (9.30am-4pm)
Admission Free to trade - register online at www.nationalplantshow.co.uk
How to get there
By road from the North West Leave the M6 at J2, following signs for Warwick (A46). After joining the A46 from the A45, take the exit signposted Stoneleigh NAC and follow signs to Stoneleigh Park.
By road from the North Leave the M1 at J21, following signs for Coventry (M69). At the end of the M69, follow signs for Warwick. After joining the A46 from the A45, take the exit signposted Stoneleigh NAC and follow signs to Stoneleigh Park.
By road from the South Leave the M40 at J15, following signs for Coventry (A46). After approximately eight miles on the A46, take the exit signposted Stoneleigh NAC and follow signs to Stoneleigh Park.
By Rail Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick and Warwick Parkway rail stations are all situated on the main London Marylebone-to-Birmingham line, while Coventry is a regular stop on the Virgin West Coast Mainline. From these mainline stations you will need to take a short taxi or shuttle bus ride. Taxi ranks are based at both Warwick Parkway and Coventry stations. Alternatively, you can use the complementary shuttle bus.
New Plant Awards
Will it be a vibrant perennial or a distinguished shrub that will capture the judges' hearts this year? One of the highlights of the HTA National Plant Show is the RHS-sponsored New Plant Awards.
Each year, the show's exhibitors - who find that the competition is a useful way of showcasing their finest new plants to their garden centre customers - together submit around 100 plants into the contest. Stocks of last year's best-in-show winner, Trollius 'Dancing Flame', are currently arriving in stores in time for the summer season after the orange-hued beauty wowed last year's judging panel.
Hannah Darby of Darby Nurseries, which last year jointly submitted the winning plant along with Fairweather's nursery in Hampshire, says: "Winning best-in-show has helped to promote the plant. It has exceptional flowering potential. It's a plant that's very striking and I suppose in that sense it was either going to be love it or hate it."
Giving the thumbs up (or down) to this year's entries is a panel of industry judges made up of HTA president Stan Green, RHS executive vice-president Jim Gardiner, RHS trials development manager Mark Heath, Amateur Gardening news editor Marc Rosenberg and Notcutts representative Colin Dale.
Bronze, silver and gold awards will be made for each of the categories, which include annuals, herbaceous perennials, houseplants, shrubs and climbers. As well as the best-in-show award, visitors will be given the opportunity to vote for their favourite plant, with the winner being announced on Wednesday (24 June) afternoon.
The ballerina-like flowers of Abelia 'Pinky Bells' and the good-enough-to-eat lilacy-blue flowers of Caryopteris 'Sunny Blue' were just some of the vibrant new varieties that were introduced to visitors at last year's HTA National Plant Show by Protected Varieties (ProVar). This year, the not-for-profit organisation that helps promote and collect the royalties for the protected plants of 17 renowned plant breeders is set to unveil even more appealing new plants. Breeder Peter Moore's Antirrhinum 'Pretty in Pink' will no doubt catch the eye. Moore explains that the variety, which flowers all summer long, is the result of 20 years' breeding. "The first cross was made 20 years ago and hundreds of seedlings have been rejected since," he says. Other new plants that ProVar is showcasing include a 10-strong selection from Essex-based Genesis Plant Marketing, which is celebrating 25 years of marketing and licencing business this month. The evergreen shrubs Euonymous Dan's Delight and Escallonia Golden Carpet are among the plants from Genesis.
British Plant Fair Marketplace
Visitors who are in the mood for a spot of shopping can head to the HTA National Plant Show's British Plant Fair Marketplace. This area will be donned with shelf samples of plants from many of the growers exhibiting at the show.
While the exact list of growers has yet to be confirmed, regular exhibitors traditionally include Bransford Webbs Plant Company, New Leaf Plants, John Richards and Allensmore. This popular feature enables people to place a central order for any combination of shelves, with a total minimum order of just two trolleys. The order will then be delivered with just one delivery note and one invoice.
Bransford Webbs managing director Geoff Caesar says: "The Marketplace is a great opportunity for retailers to try out suppliers they have not bought from before, buy from multiple suppliers and keep things simple with only one delivery note and one invoice. The Marketplace appeals to larger buyers who may want to try new product lines or suppliers and smaller centres who want to buy from different suppliers without having to achieve individual minimum orders."
CRoP cost-reduction programme
HTA members will have the chance to visit a special stand this year opposite the HTA hub that has been set up to inform them all about the CRoP cost-reduction programme.
CRoP enables HTA members to save money on essential business expenses because it gives them discounted rates for some core products and services. Partners include HTA Utilities, carry home trays supplier Cardway Cartons and bags and packaging supplier Alpha Packaging.
A lively mix of stands and new product launches will also be forming part of this year's HTA National Plant Show. Visitors can vote for their favourite "Plantie" from a display of exhibitors' favourite plant selfie photographs.
Exhibitors with exceptional trade stands can earn a prize for the best plant display. Last year's winner was Lovania Nurseries, whose alpine display was a gardening-themed dining table consisting of trowels and forks for cutlery.
Seminar sessions: Talking Plants
From trekking across the globe in search of new plants to tirelessly touring the UK and showing people how to make the most of their gardens, the dedication of this year's HTA National Plant Show seminar speakers will undoubtedly radiate throughout the exhibition hall.
Collectively named Talking Plants, the free, interactive and inspiring seminar sessions will include talks from horticulture devotees Chris Collins, Kevin Waters and Tom Hart-Dyke.
Tuesday 23 June, 10am
Horticulturist, broadcaster and television gardener Chris Collins is the first speaker at 10am on 23 June. He will be talking about the Garden Industry Marketing Board's Love the Plot You've Got roadshow. This initiative is currently seeing Collins visit various shows, venues and garden centres to help inspire 30- to 45-year-olds to make the best use of their outdoor space. The campaign follows the findings of industry research which revealed that gardening skills and knowledge once handed from one generation to another are being lost, leading to a lack of knowledge or confidence among this particular age group. The campaign has therefore seen the creation of four specially constructed outdoor spaces including the Entertaining Garden, the Container or Portable Garden, the Edible Garden and the Balcony Garden. Collins' talk will largely focus on the public's response to the initiative - which, according to campaign manager David Arnold, has so far been positive. "The Love the Plot You've Got roadshows have been extremely well-received so far with plenty of engagement from the audience we were seeking to attract," says Arnold. "Many beginner gardeners have come along looking for ideas and inspiration, as well as people who are downsizing from a large to a small garden. People can really relate to the spaces and importantly are signing up for more information via the website and social media."
Tuesday 23 June, 3pm
The second horticulturist who will be "Talking Plants" is independent garden centre consultant Kevin Waters. His presentation at 3pm on 23 June will explore ways in which garden centre staff members can experiment and innovate within their planterias to maintain their centres' identity, heighten interest in garden plants and ensure that their planterias remain integral parts of their offers. He says: "Restaurants, lifestyle, gifts - they are all vital organs in the body of the modern garden centre. But it is plants that are the lifeblood of the industry. If we, as an industry, are to survive and thrive we need to keep the heart of our business pumping."
TOM HART DYKE
Wednesday 24 June, 10am
Plant hunter and broadcaster Tom Hart Dyke will also be talking about survival - specifically, how he survived his harrowing kidnapping ordeal in South America 15 years ago. In his seminar at 10am on 24 June, Hart Dyke will explain how while in captivity he first developed ideas for a "world garden" for his family's ancestral home, Lullingstone Castle in Kent. He says: "This is our 10th year since building the garden. It's been built on goodwill so my talk is a big thank you. Without people's generosity, the garden wouldn't have been made possible."
EXHIBITOR LIST AND STAND NUMBERS
Agrumi 149, 150
AHDB Horticulture 5b
Allensmore Nurseries 100, 101
Anglo Aquatic Plant Company 102
Armlee Nurseries 2
Association of Professional Landscapers 164
Ball Colegrave 45
Beaver Plants 119, 118
Blackmoor Nurseries 105
Blue Ribbon Plants 59
Bransford Webbs Plant Company 116, 117
Bridge Nursery 87
British Ornamental Plant Producers 6
Bryants Nurseries 173
Burston Nurseries 99
Cadeby Tree Trust/The Christmas Cabin 12
Channel Island Plants 13, 14
Chapel Cottage Plants 85, 92
Chessum Roses 62
Classiflora Zelari 40, 49
Cobbins Nursery 145, 146
Container Centralen 16
Country Garden Plant Sales 124
Country Herbs & Plants 3
Craigmarloch Nurseries 139
Darby Nursery Stock 58, 63
David Austin Roses 130, 131
David Colegrave Foundation 176
Delamore Young Plants 68, 67
DeRee UK 10, 11
Early Ornamentals 140
Emerald Group 36
Europlants UK 134, 135
Fairweather's Wholesale Nursery 93
Farplants Sales 89, 90
Florensis Flower Seeds UK 38
Flowering Plants 15
Forest Edge Nurseries 94
Frank P Matthews 98, 103
Garden Centre Fresh 69, 70
Garden Centre Plants 74, 79
Garden Connect 160
Garden Industry Marketing Board 169
Gardeners Kitchen 147
Gedney Bulb Company 113, 120
Golden Grove Nursery 115
Guernsey Clematis Nursery 151
HA Trim Christmas Trees 143
Hawkesmill Nurseries Co 80, 81
Hillier Nurseries 97, 104
HSK Gardening & Leisure 106
HTA Hub HTA Hub
HTA Insurance Services 159
i2i 161, 162
Jackdaws Field Nursery 50
Jadecliff 132, 133
Jasmine Nursery 109
Javado UK 158, 165
John Richards Nurseries 29, 30
Johnsons of Whixley 83, 84
Kernock Park Plants 129, 136
Key Essentials 176
Kilworth Conifers 138
KinderGarden Plants 60
Kingfisher Nursery 34
Kirton Farm Nurseries 144
Lovania Nurseries 107, 108
Lowaters Nursery 121
Meredith's Nursery 55, 56
Moles Seeds (UK) 31
Morley Nurseries 57
Mr Fothergill's 28
Needlefresh Direct 71, 82
New Forest Plants 41, 48
New Leaf Plants 24, 33
New Place Nurseries 72, 73
Nursery Fresh Plants 110, 111
Oakgate Nursery 61
Ornamental Plants 122, 123
Osberton Nurseries 78
Pacific Nurseries 51
Parker's Nurseries 46, 47
Pentland Plants 128, 137
Pickmere Nurseries 170, 171
Pinetops Nurseries 39
Profit Plant UK (Batchmere) 37, 52
ProVar PROVAR AREA
Quality Ornamentals 43
Quantil 26, 27
Ravensworth Nurseries 42
Rectory Garden Nurseries 35
Seiont Nurseries 174
Skylark Nurseries 156
Spanish Plants 148
Syngenta FloriPro Services 76, 77
Taylors Bulbs 125
Timber Displays 8
Trade Roots Horticultural Sales 95, 96
Viking Nurseries 44
WD Smith & Son 53
West Kington Nurseries 25
Whartons Nurseries 64
Whetman Pinks 88
Worfield Plants 66, 65
Wyeplants 141, 154
Wyevale Nurseries 86, 91
Yorkshire Plants 142
Young Plants 157, 166