The event, now owned by HTA and GIMA, attracts 250 garden writer visitors, who are shown new products and ideas, mainly aimed at the garden centre and direct sales market.
Garden Beauty is a new website from Lowaters Nursery selling garden-ready plants to the public. Ian Ashton was promoting the site, which he said took homegrown Lowaters' plants to gardeners who could not get them at local garden centres. He said 700 varieties were listed and once packaging, service and systems were in place, the site was relatively easy to run. With new players such as Wyevale Garden Centres entering the market this year, Ashton said consumers are now ready for online plant sales.
In the chems and ferts market, there is everything to play for after SBM took over Bayer and with Scotts being close to being sold. Ecofective, Vitax, Westland and Neudorff all said they were expanding. Vitax's Colin Wetherley Mein said "stability" was helping his company. Neudorff's Thorston Bungener said the market was increasingly open to alternatives, as did Westland , using the example of its new Resolva Natural Power.
Roundup's Gary Philpotts said the company's gel wand was proving popular and its glyphosate-based product had gained market share in an overall chems market that saw a small decline in 2016. Philpotts said the gain in market share shows most consumers are not bowing to campaigns against glyphosate.
Box protection was also a theme, with SBM promoting Buxatrap and box grower TopBuxus seeing great interest in its box blight protection products.
Some British suppliers such as Forest Garden said their home sourcing and production was helping sales. The Hillview Group of garden centre's Boyd Douglas Davies said promotion of 'Britpot' plants from growers such as Wyevale, Hawkesmill and Bransford was a focus.
In seeds, T&M, Suttons and Mr Fothergill's reported fair starts to the season. Fothergill's is to take over the RHS licensed seed contract from T&M.
T&M is now back supplying Daily Telegraph offers again. T&M's Paul Hansord said he believes there is more interest in mail order plants but suppliers need to make sure they pack and deliver well to ensure repeat business, adding: "People are looking for bigger and more garden-ready convenience gardening plants."
Hayloft said sales had begun slightly flat but were picking up. Director Derek Jarman said UK growers had their "best prospects since the 1970s".
Rustic Garden Supplies were a highlight with on-trend ranges of pots and continers with rust and silhouette planters creating interest.
Among the most interesting launches were Scotts Black Magic premium compost and plant food. Scotts added that buying into its well-known brands meant any purchaser of the company would not be taking a risk.
Premium products were a focus, with Bord na Mona's Jason Pike saying a trend to dumb down and meet a price point was being replaced by quality. He said Steve Harper is back at the company, replacing Charles Farmer, adding that early sales looked promising. Meanwhile, Lolly Lee has left Briers.
Suttons said it expected to sell out of it dwarf mulberry. Stuart Gooden from Planters is joing the company, while James Wong's How to Eat Better (about cooking, storing and finding superfoods) begins on TV on 24 February and is published as a book on 6 April.
Crest Garden promoted metal and wood mini versions of its Kent & Stowe spades and forks. Elho said it was seeing success in the urban indoor and patio/balcony market for its pots and containers, while Gardena had a novel balcony toolbox containg brush, secateurs and small tools.
Outdoor fragrances were launched by Adar. Wonderwall was on show and is now in garden centres including Longacres, Tong and Coolings.
Prize winners were: best new products voted by visitors Tin Hat Shed, runner up Robomow. Best stand was Bulldog Tools.