Registrations for this year's Four Oaks Trade Show are coming in thick and fast. For the large number of overseas exhibitors taking part, it is a prime opportunity to cement relations with clients and fill their order books. And although some are seeing demand for cheaper varieties, most report steady sales figures from their UK buyers. We asked a selection what they will be offering at this year's show.
Marco Desii, Tesi Ubaldo
"When we come to Four Oaks we have to meet the needs of British buyers. British consumers like formal gardens with shaped trees, so we're offering cones, balls and pyramids as well as the ordinary tubs. People often want to buy these in tubs and boxes. This sort of plant sells better in Britain than it does in Italy.
"We sell shrubs, trees and conifers. This year, we expect to bring about one-and-a-half lorry loads. People like yew hedging, because it is upmarket. We also bring some deciduous trees and Mediterranean specialities such as Quercus ilex (holm oak), which is evergreen, and various types of Photinia."
Jorgen Jokumsen, Zenflora
"We specialise in potted plants - both for indoor and outdoor use. Around 98 per cent of Danish plants coming to the UK come through us. We sell straight to the supermarkets and DIY outlets, so we need to be able to offer large quantities.
"We hope to show off our specially packed marketing concepts. We want to sell pots for occasions such as Mother's Day and Easter. This year, we're looking at wallflowers and ferns - often in the same pot.
"They will also be promoting Christmas trees. We sell a large number in Britain - around 85 per cent are Nordman fir and 10 per cent are Norway spruce. There's an increase in people buying Norway Spruce because the trees are cheaper."
Yoav Scholz, Cohen Propagation Nurseries
"We're based in Israel and we've been coming to the show for at least 12 years. We reckon that we meet around 70 or 80 per cent of our UK customers at the show. Space is very limited, so we probably won't be showing any plant material. We sell unrooted cuttings for bedding and baskets, so we don't need to show finished plants.
"We are holding spring trials in California, where we show off about 100 varieties. Once we get the results, we'll talk to growers in Britain about them. We'll also be able to see which varieties are making the most impact. We've got some very good dahlias. We're particularly promoting 'Mystic Fantasy', which has flamingo-pink blooms, and we've got a very wide variety of fuchsias, lobelias and phlox."
Jakob Kolff, Kolff Plants
"We have the biggest stand at Four Oaks. We represent a group of 30 nurseries and every year we sell virtually the same thing. It is mainly rooted cuttings, rootballed hedging, Italian specimen plants and two-to-three-litre pots of nursery stock.
"Hedging is always a very good seller, particularly yew and box. Yews between 1.25m and 2m are in big demand. We sell a lot of plants in twoand three-litre pots for the amenity market. A new nursery - WJ Crum - has joined our group. It produces small trees of up to 10cm girth, primarily for growing on. We also sell a lot of rhododendrons and skimmia. Much of our material is suitable for garden centres and supermarkets.
"Because of the hard frosts this year, there is a shortage of laurel and Photinia. We covered our plants during this period, so most of ours survived. We expect that these will sell at a premium and there will be a strong demand. Prices of many of our products have risen over the past couple of years - some items by up to 20 per cent."
Ian Sadler, Diderk Heinje
"Most of the plants we sell have finished flowering by the time that Four Oaks comes around. We will show some plants, but we're more interested in using the show to meet customers.
"We sell a huge range of nursery stock and trees to the retail and cash and carry trade. Our rhododendrons on Inkarho rootstock are lime-tolerant and suitable for almost any garden. There is a lot of interest in the yakushimanum dwarf rhododendrons, which grow up to around 1.2m and are good for small gardens. One of our best-selling lines is Hydrangea 'Limelight', which has 15 and 20 flowers. And we do vast numbers of our popular Garden Girls heathers.
"We'll also be displaying our grafted pines and conifers. We've got one Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker', which has a wonderful white-flecked foliage and is a dwarf variety. With conifers, we do anything from two-litre to 100-litre pots. And we're doing patio garden bonsai. We offer a very wide range with a very swift delivery time - usually within the week. We want to make everyone aware of the range and quality we offer."
Anthony Andrews, Elsner PAC Jungpflanzen
"Our catalogue comes out in the summer and Four Oaks is the first opportunity we have to display the actual plants. We mainly sell pelargoniums - as unrooted and rooted cuttings - and we're always looking for new varieties.
"Pelargoniums are increasingly popular because they are robust, don't need much water and have lots of colour. We mainly do zonal varieties for bedding and ivy leaf varieties for hanging baskets.
"We'll be promoting two new varieties. 'Happy Face Magenta' is a round-flowered, trailing ivy pelargonium that is well branched and free flowering. 'Rosita' is new to the dark-leaf series of zonal pelargoniums. It has attractive semi-double flowers of rose pink with lighter centres.
"We'll be showing new ranges of New Guinea impatiens and mildew-resistant petunias. We also have a range of bedding plants from Westhoff, including some interesting verbena and lobelia."
Wim Takkebos, Nursery de Limieten
"The concept of an 'instant garden' is still really big in England. We tend to sell large rootballed evergreens, particularly to the landscaping market. These include landscaping firms, contractors, builders and specialist nurseries.
"We will be bringing a lot of evergreen holly and we expect Ilex aquifolium 'Limsi' to be one of our biggest sellers. This is a very hardy plant, featuring red berries from October and relatively small spines. We are selling them with the heads shaped into cones.
"We expect that landscapers will use them instead of varieties such as Quercus ilex, many of which died in the hard frosts earlier this year. They are used both as screening and as single decorative trees. We offer them as standard trees on a clear stem, usually between 3.5m and 4m in height.
"We also hope to sell a lot of hedging - beech, hornbeam and Taxus. These are shaped into panels and sold as trees between 2m and 4m in height."
Peter Bernard, Solgrow
"We'll be representing a series of Israeli growers specialising in plant propagation, taking over from Agrexco, which has closed. We sell entirely unrooted cuttings.
"The growers include Cohen, Jaldety, Nima and Schwartz. Most of these organisations are expanding by around 15 per cent a year. There's huge interest in Israeli production because it uses the best technology and there is very good virus testing. It's very clean material.
"Nima and Schwartz produce pelargoniums. Jadelty produces unique textured and shaped perennials and annuals such as coleus and iberis and has recently-developed Iberis 'Masterpiece', which has purple and white foliage.
"We want to let people know that these growers are still in business. For the coming season, we are focused on increasing sales of open stock material, which is available to all clients and potential clients as well as private stock material in which clients can hold their own mother stock with us in Israel."
The Four Oaks Trade Show takes place on 4-5 September. For further details, see www.fouroaks-tradeshow.com or call 01477 571392.