Seabrook on...Product showcase and valuable networking at Four Oaks

The Four Oaks Trade Show is a must on my calendar.

Four Oaks Trade Show serves a dual role: it presents an impressive range and number of companies exhibiting their wares and equally, if not more importantly, it is a great meeting place. I had difficulty moving more than a few yards down each avenue without bumping into other visitors to exchange greetings and information.

Where else can you meet and speak to the managing director of a major garden goods and compost manufacturer; learn that PAC has bought into a 25ha propagation unit in Kenya employing 800 staff and securing its cuttings supply for the future; see Rob Chapman of Victorian Violas, who is now supplying wholesale to garden centres (what a great line for independents wanting to offer something different and special); and hear that more than 70,000 three-litre Gerbera Garvinea ‘Sweet Series’ will go into Aldi in a week’s time?

While visitor numbers on the first day looked to me to be down, it is inevitable when nurseries, manufacturers and retailers are merging into fewer and larger operators. Beekenkamp, for example, adding a new nursery of more than 12 acres of glass to its current 80-plus acres, now employing a dianthus breeder and introducing a new range of compact dahlias. 

There are always new plants and products to see. I had been to numerous trials this summer, including Ball Colegrave at West Adderbury, yet missed Coreopsis Up Tick Series — ‘Up Tick Gold & Bronze’ looks a real winner. 

Breeders Seeds is planning to introduce UK-grown sweet pea seeds and is busy rogueing and reselecting mother stocks — long overdue, if my experience is any guide — of popular Spencer cultivars.

I have long felt that it is time we used Spanish tunnels in the UK to grow cut sweet peas and harvest seeds. A bit of overhead protection guarantees crops regardless of weather and gives a superb large-seeded sample. 

Among the sundries suppliers the Fargro anti-reflection treatment, which gives a three-to-four per cent light gain and similar increase in cucumber, pepper and tomato crops, is an interesting development. The first redesign of mole traps for 100 years (EasySet Mole Trap — www.beagleproducts.com) could be the answer to my current problem mole.

German-made cutting hand tools from Berger were new to me and its lightweight Topiary Shear 2510 with tension adjuster, self-sharpening, sap groove and shock-absorbing buffer is a good example of its well-designed kit.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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