Peter Seabrook's notebook

Flowers, mini cyclamens, chrysanthemums and the HTA conference in Chester have caught our diarist's eye.

16 August: Fothergill's Kentford trials had patio-type sweet peas still in flower and excellent direct-sown hardy and half-hardy annuals. Large-flowered Rudbeckia 'Cappuccino', Fleuroselect Gold Medal-winning novelty for 2008, and Johnson's World Kitchen newly designed seed packets look promising. I also managed to join in the celebrations for the retirement of Brian Pinker, managing director of Burall Floraprint.

30 August: I went to Knebworth House, Stevenage, to attend the Briggs & Stratton/Snapper Mowers press briefing. It is a pity that customers can't see working mowers in such a wide range of models and try them as we did here. At ProVeg, Cambridge, I saw John Burrows' tomato, cucumber, onion and lettuce trials. Bush tomato 'Maskotka' showed resistance to blight and promises to be a good patio pot subject.

1 September: The National Amateur Gardening Show, Shepton Mallet, is a perfect place for a lawn mower demonstration. Good weather brought plant sales and the National Dahlia Show had some wonderful blooms.

7 September: David Kerley's petunia trials are packed with excellent vegetatively propagated cultivars; 'Red', 'White' and 'Blue Fanfares' make a patriotic hanging basket combination.

8 September: I visited Hillmount Garden Centre, Belfast, on behalf of Unwin/Westland. Spring-flowering bulbs sold well and mini cyclamen were popular. Catering at Hillmount is first-class.

13 September: At the Writtle College Graduation Ceremony it was good to see so many promising young people coming into our industry. I was interested to hear 24 students on the MSc course are coming from 16 different countries.

17 September: Time for Glee - congratulations to Tom Wood (Notcutts) Nurseries, who picked up two awards. Are my calculations right - did 16 UK nurseries drop out of the show this year?

27 September: Eastgro opened my eyes to the scale of Tamar Nurseries' container plant production. One of the exhibitors reminded me that July rainfall severely curbs peat harvests, so good-quality peat composts could be in short supply next spring.

Hargreaves is introducing some excellent new asparagus varieties and I wish its primocane blackberry breeding work well. Orchard Nurseries have stunning crop of cyclamen (Morel), the uniformity across good strains is outstanding.

28 September: On a clear blue-sky autumn day Hyde Hall Garden has marvellous views. It is time, however, someone made the container plant sales area a little more appealing.

11 October: Everything was on display at the Aalsmeer and Horti Fair Exhibitions, Holland - from miniature cyclamen to power units big enough to light up Bognor. Agralan showed Green-Remove, microbes to remove moss, algae and lichens. A completely new mildew eradicant (Koppert) could be the introduction of the decade.

14/16 October: The HTA conference in Chester kicked off with a well- researched and passionately delivered lecture on climate change by Charles Notcutt. The penultimate presentation by Palmers Garden Centre, Leicester, on its Plan and Plant scheme deserved much wider debate.

Champion jockey Richard Dunwoody gave one of the finest end-of-conference lectures I have ever heard: what a professional. And Bridgemere Nurseries had a stunning display of homegrown garden chrysanthemums, three for £10. On a cold wet afternoon they lit up the container area and attracted sales.

8 October: At Writtle College I discussed plans for their £28m new building proposals. I was struck by how trees have grown since I helped plant some of them 50 years ago.

9 October: The funeral of Owen Gale took place in Worcestershire. He was a lecturer on fruit when I was at Writtle, later deputy principal at Pershore. The Royal Horticulture Society's Fruit and Vegetable Show at Vincent Square: the Wisley Apple exhibit warranted its own tour of the country for display on garden centres.


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