Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors predict fresh retail fillip

Show gardens' 'achievable' planting triggers nurseries' hopes that visitor enthusiasm will feed through to renewed sales.

Cleve West took the Daily Telegraph to its third consecutive win - image: HW
Cleve West took the Daily Telegraph to its third consecutive win - image: HW

A hot and windy RHS Chelsea Flower Show gave its audience a glimpse of the garden look of the future, with exotics, pastels and wackiness to the fore.

The garden industry is hoping for a Chelsea fillip after sales flattened significantly in mid May, falling by as much as 30 per cent in some garden centres compared to 2010.

HTA president Caroline Owen said: "I think Chelsea will pick things up. It always does." The gardens were "very achievable", she maintained.

Hillier managing director Andy McIndoe, whose garden won the company a record 66th Gold Medal, said: "Trade does go up towards the end of May. Chelsea gets gardening in everyone's minds, whether or not they like the TV coverage."

B&Q horticulture category manager Steve Guy, whose company's garden won a Gold Medal with a record-breaking 9m-high vegetable tower garden, said: "We've had a good start. The bank holidays have been fantastic. It's gone off a little since - people are potentially spent up. But now in the run-in to the next bank holiday with pay days things will pick up."

He said garden furniture in the £300-£500 range had sold unexpectedly well, while propagation and seeds were "disappointing" as gardeners turned to young vegetable plants.

Homebase trading director Amy Whidburn, whose company's Tom Hoblyn-designed Cornish garden won a Silver Gilt, said grow your own, including grafted plants, was a strong area for the DIY/garden centre chain. Bedding, which launched this month a fortnight earlier than usual, was also strong, she added.

Cleeve Nursery owner Alan Down said: "Sales are back to normal levels. The fruit and vegetable side had dropped away significantly because people have planted their plots and done everything much earlier this year. However, there is potential for pots and container plant sales. People will come back enthused and fired up and asking for things, the same as other Chelseas."

Down praised Chelsea's wild planting, with muted pastels, as did Dobbies horticulture head Neil Fishlock. "Pastel shades were coming through and natural planting, although there were more exotic and Mediterranean plants than I expected," he said. "As ever, standards were outstanding."

- Exotics
- Pastels
- Roses
- Tall gardens
- Huge trees
- Wild planting
- Rhododendrons
- Water recycling
- International outlook
- Plants for dry/seaside gardens

- Bedding
- Propagation
- Lots of hard landscaping

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