Move from Sandown attracts 80% more people to Southern Growers event

The Southern Growers Exhibition attracted 80 per cent more people after its move from Sandown Racecourse to Roundstone Nurseries in West Sussex.

Numbers were up from 400 to 700 and exhibitors rose from 65 to 120. Organiser Kieran Daly, marketing manager at Munro South, said many exhibitors had already booked bigger stands for 2010.

Kings Seeds new commercial development manager Ian Riggs, formerly of Sakata, commented: "The proof of the pudding will be in 2010. If you relaunch a product there is always a bounce."

Delamore sales manager Terry Maslen said its new giant-flowered balcony Geranium mix Gerainbow was attracting interest. He revealed that customers were ordering later this year by an average of a week. "There is still a lot of caution despite the good year we've had."

Seiont Nurseries owner Neil Alcock said the improved show was helping extend reserve taking for 2010. He added: "People are definitely reserving later and later. They could be reassessing or looking around for deals. The supply chain is getting more professional."

Pentland Plants owner David Spray said his biomass boiler made it profitable to grow his 90,000 early-crop poinsettia this year.

He added that the recession had not hit his retail business. "I can only think people think the recession has finished and want to go and spend some money. Gifts and plants are excellent."

Spray said he sells one pallet of peat-free for every 150 of peat and that his growing Petersfield coir/soil/peat mix is as low peat as he can make it. He added that one council had recently reverted from peat-free to peat grown bedding because of cost and quality.

Delegate Peter Catt of Liss Forest Nursery said peat reduction had to be Europe-wide and on a level playing field: "Why should we do it and the Dutch get away scot-free?"

Spray said the euro had made European-grown plants less attractive in the UK. XL Horticulture owner Les Lane added that UK expertise in polythene was improving export quantities, with 100 tonnes going to South Africa and 20 to Germany, plus rolls to the Bahamas.

He said two years of sustained marketing in Norway had opened up Scandanavian markets.

Commercial Horticulture Association marketing manager Stuart Booker said growers taking advantage of the euro such as Johnsons of Whixley, Guernsey Clematis, John Woods, Seiont, Oakover, David Austin, Whetman and Golden Grove were booking fast for IPM Essen (26-29 January) and Salon de Vegetal (17-18 February) but subsidised space was still available.

More than 200 people took tours of Roundstone with production manager Edgar Popov and grower manager Lynne Seabrook, who said 70/30 peat reduction and alternative packaging trials were in place.

The show will return on 10 November 2010.

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