Show Preview: HTA National Plant Show 2017

Leading British growers will be showcasing their latest offerings at this year's trade plant show at Stoneleigh Park, writes Matthew Appleby.

HTA National Plant Show: hall of sundries added for more rounded exhibitor offer
HTA National Plant Show: hall of sundries added for more rounded exhibitor offer

The HTA National Plant Show has had its first big change since transforming the market for trade plant shows on its launch in 2010. The show is bigger this year with a new hall of sundries, which adds a more rounded offer to the 100 British-based growers who exhibit. But for most exhibitors the show will remain all about new plants and ideas from leading British growers.

The Bransford Webbs Plant Company will be promoting Proven Winners shrubs, with the range expanding for 2018. Hardy Garden Orchids from Anthura are also new from Bransfords, as is a larger range of hebes, plus hellebores in the Rodney Davy Collection.. Kernock Park Plants is the UK licensee for Proven Winners, the biggest plant brand in the USA with a $6m marketing budget. Kernock's business development lead Mark Taylor hopes the brand will gain traction here now that Bransfords is growing the shrubs for sale in UK garden centres from this spring.

Taylor says he hopes to "ride the wave" of increased exposure now that Bransfords is involved. His stand will have a beach-style theme and will show off Proven Winners brand combinations. Kernock and Bransford could link to put the brand into the retail concepts award.

"It's a case of banging the drum about bedding in 10cm pots, which is value-added and extends the season," he explains. "Consumers will buy if they're inspired. They'll buy three different plants to make up a plant combination in a container."

Taylor says a range of big pot seasonal plants at the end of the season works for an inexperienced gardener demographic. "We're not aiming Proven Winners particularly at people who know what they're doing. The brand is like Heinz baked beans - you know what you're going to get. The plants are trialled, robust and disease-resistant, because they're Proven Winners."

New varieties from Hillier Nurseries will include Viola hancockii, with silvery-blue foliage and scented white flowers; Kniphofia 'Happy Halloween', with spikes of orange-yellow flowers buds; and Persicaria 'Purple Fantasy', which has attractive leaves.

Liner producer Seiont, now part of Lovania, is launching Sambucus Golden Spark, licensed through Genesis Plant Marketing. The medium-growing shrub has bright golden variegations at the tips of each leaf that turn creamy yellow. Masses of white flowers produced in early summer can be used in the same way as native elderflower.

Ball Colegrave will present a selection of new and recently introduced perennial novelties for premium twoto three-litre retail colour sales for May to July, including Alstroemeria Summer Paradise and Summer Break.

Coreopsis UpTick, Digitalis Foxlight, Lavandula Bandera Pink, Salvia Mirage Series, Salvia Rose Marvel and Verbena Santos Purple will also feature. Ball Colegrave will host its 2017 Summer Showcase on 10-28 July.

Earley Ornamentals will show Penstemon Pentastic, described as programmable, fast-growing, a particularly good option for retailers looking to extend summer sales and good for end-customers wanting plants that will flower into the autumn, with flowers re-blooming a few weeks later with pruning. Bred in the UK by Fred Yates, Pentastic is disease-tolerant, has a naturally compact habit and is self-branching with short flower spikes. The plant won "best new variety - herbaceous perennials" for Genesis Plant Marketing in the 2017 Horticulture Week Grower of the Year Awards.

Managing director Simon Earley says: "This introduction has been in the pipeline for some time and we were delighted to hear that Pentastic is already an award winner. It's certainly a new favourite here and we believe a great commercial option for our customers. As a UK independent we're always keen to nurture UK-bred choices and are looking forward to showing it. We've definitely seen a growth in interest in perennials and have expanded our range accordingly."

March and April were busy, he adds, and Brexit may have aided business. "There's been a bit of a swing because of the euro and Brexit helping a bit. A lot of customers are trying to support UK-based companies a bit more."

Wyevale Nurseries will also show the new Penstemon Pentastic in mature form in rose, pink and red; Agapanthus His Majesty; and Phormium Blondie, which has a narrow weeping habit.

Johnsons of Whixley has a Prestige range of hardy 10-litre plants grown in the Vale of York, a five-litre Patio range and a value-for-money Garden Champions range of twoand three-litre plants. Garden Gems are high-impact twoand three-litre impulse plants, ideal for bed-end displays.

Newey Garden Ready now offers "the complete package of plant products" including ornamental bedding from Newey Young Plants; perennials, herbaceous, grasses, alpines, shrubs and liners and from Newey Perennial Plugs & Liners; and trees, soft fruit, wild flowers and perennials in retail-ready stage. Newey also holds Florafest at its nearby Whitminster base during the National Plant Show.

Farplants has a new small-pot range aimed at first-timers who have little or no garden knowledge, while Lowaters will be exhibiting its collection of hebe, Mediterranean, perennial and shrub lines.

Beaver Plants, which has a 30-acre nursery in Lingfield, Surrey, and supplies collections including hostas, lifestyle, ferns and aquatics, will be launching a new 10.5cm budget collection of grasses and perennials. Osberton Nurseries will be exhibiting a range of new and traditional varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias from three-litre lines to 40-litre showpiece specimens. New 7.5-litre ranges include Dwarf Lilacs, Hamamellis and Sarcococca.

Benary will focus on begonia introductions including Nonstop Joy Mocca White, a semi-trailing begonia described as perfect for baskets. Quality Ornamentals will be exhibiting a range of pack and pot bedding grown specifically for the independent garden centre market.

Glendale Horticulture, the "green services" division of Parkwood Holdings, is made up of Merediths, Mahoods and Coblands. It operates from 12 sites producing more than 18-million plants a year and has developed a new range for 2018.

Parkwood chairman Tony Hewitt says sales have been going well at Glendale this spring. "We have a big sales team of reps on the road, which is part of the new strategy I brought in a couple of years ago to invest in sales. We have four people selling to independent garden centres and that market is at £2.5m sales now, up from nothing two years ago.

"Merediths did a lot with the independents 20 years ago but had nothing when we took over so we made a strategic decision (to move into the independent market)."

He adds that a move into buying more British has not happened yet. "At our last board meeting I heard the Dutch have held prices despite the euro making them more expensive," he reports. "I can't see that happening for ever."

Florensis Flower Seeds UK has an expanding range of MixMasters, while Premium Christmas Trees will have new products including handmade decorative foliage and its unique range of slimline Nordmann fir trees. Green Team GB, the sales branch of Green Team Christmas trees group, has large plantations and logistic centres in the UK.

Also at the show, the RHS will be showcasing its RHS Chelsea Flower Show plant of the year for 2017 and The British Ornamental Plant Producers will be celebrating the 21st anniversary of its certification scheme.

Show sponsors include Floramedia, Garden Connect, Hortipak, ICL, Joy of Plants, Sinclair, Timber Displays, Towergate Insurance and XL Horticulture.

Sundries and services

Exhibitors in the new sundries section of the show include Sinclair, now part of Westland, which supplies growing media to growers as well as perlite, vermiculite and hydroleca, and fertilisers including controlled-release Sincrocell and Sincron+ top dressing.

Also exhibiting is Melcourt, whose Sylvamix range is being used by growers. For retail nurseries and garden centres the same formulations can be found in the RHS-endorsed SylvaGrow range, to which Melcourt is adding Soil Association-approved SylvaGrow Organic this season.

Bulrush, Bathgate Horticulture, Clover Peat Products, ICL, Jiffy and Petersfield Growing Mediums are among other growing-media suppliers at the show.

Northern Polytunnels, which offers complete growing solutions including water collection and storage, heating, ventilation, air-circulation fans, irrigation, dehumidification machines and polytunnel twin-skinning kits along with various horticultural fabrics, will also be attending the show. Greenhouses include singleand multi-span polytunnels, extra-high poly-houses and open-sided canopies.

Cambridge HOK and Hotbox International will also be exhibiting, alongside suppliers such as BHGS, Certis, Fargro, USP Creations and XL Horticulture.

Garden Connect aims to help sell more plants online with Google. Managing director Edwin Meijer explains: "In the UK alone 500,000 people are looking for information about hydrangeas on Google every year. Imagine the number of people looking for information about fruit trees, bulbs and compost.

"Every day millions of search queries are being made by UK consumers. Those people are looking for tips and places to buy plants. We help customers to tap into this potential."

CSY, Easitill, Open Retail Solutions and Swan Retail are among other IT suppliers at the show. Machinery will feature from Hortec, Mechanical Botanical and New Leaf Irrigation; labels from Elburg Smit, Hortipak, IML and Joy of Plants; and pots from Poppelmann and Teal International.

Show features

The New Plant Awards will be hosted in the new plant area. The categories cover annuals, herbaceous perennials, houseplants, trees and conifers and shrubs and climbers. Judges will highlight the victorious plants at a seminar session, detailing their benefits and how they can bolster a planteria offering.

Show details

HTA National Plant Show

When: 20-21 June
Where: Hall 2, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ
Tel: 0333 003 3550

Show seminars
Tuesday 20 June
10am: Saving our trees - the Phytothreats project
11am: New Plant Awards announcement
11.30am: BPOA Home Grown Award presentation
12.30pm: HTA Nursery Supply Show grand opening
3.30pm: Are we growing the right plants?

Wednesday 21 June
10am: Saving our trees - the Phytothreats project

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