Dazzling display of new plants at Four Oaks Trade Show 2017

A wide range of first-time exhibitors and established names will showcase a wealth of new varieties at September's Four Oaks Trade Show, says Matthew Appleby.

Osteospermum 3D Berry White - image: Ball Colegrave
Osteospermum 3D Berry White - image: Ball Colegrave

Show details -Four Oaks Trade Show

Where Farm Lane, Lower Withington, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 9DU
When 5-6 September (Tuesday 9am–5pm, Wednesday 9am–4.30pm)
Website www.fouroaks-trade-show.com
Event director Pat Coutts
Tel: 01477 571392
Free registration www.fouroaks-tradeshow.com/pre-register.htm

Since starting in 1971, the Four Oaks Trade Show in Cheshire has become a fixture on the professional horticulture calendar. Now in its 47th year, there will be plenty for those attending to catch up with the latest offerings from both young and finished plants.

New for this year’s show on 5-6 September will be first-timers as diverse as Italian hardy stock nursery Mondi Plants and British instant screening specialist Readyhedge.

Young plants and cuttings suppliers are a big draw and established British companies Channel Island Plants, Botanics International, Thompson & Morgan, Earley Ornamentals, Floranova, Ball Colegrave, Breeders’ Seeds, Volmary, Kernock Park Plants and Seiont will all feature among the exhibitors.

Calibrachoa Can Can - image: Ball Colegrave


Ball Colegrave will present its recently introduced novelties along with a special preview of new
"game-changing" varieties for the 2018 season. These include introductions in Calibrachoa, celosia, dianthus, digitalis, hybrid impatiens, Lavendula, osteospermum, petunia, salvia, Trixi and verbena.

"Bringing you the best genetics from breeders all over the world is simply not enough," says Ball Colegrave marketing manager Stuart Lowen. "At Ball Colegrave all new plant varieties are thoroughly evaluated at our West Adderbury trial grounds for pack, pot and garden performance. Our ‘Tried & Tested’ policy brings you an assurance and complete confidence that all our new introductions will perform on the nursery, at retail and in the garden."

Ball will also announce the top varieties chosen by visitors to this year’s Summer Showcase event, possibly including some of the 700 experimental varieties being trialled.

Ball Colegrave’s latest introductions include Calibrachoa Can Can Double Apricot Red Eye, Osteospermum Serenity Blushing Beauty and 3D Berry White, Verbena Endurascape Magenta, Dianthus Rockin’ Red and Petunia BabyDoll.

Independent UK plug producer Earley Ornamentals will be launching its 2018 product supplement at Four Oaks. Earley Ornamentals managing director Simon Earley says: "Being independent gives us the freedom and flexibility to refine and develop our product offer so that as an independent UK plug producer we are able to deliver excellent commercial growing opportunities for an evolving marketplace.

"We’re mindful of the changing environment, consumer horticultural habits and shifting seasons, and our Earley experts select the best genetics from the world’s leading breeders. With access to such a wide portfolio of varieties, we can assure an innovative assortment of quality young plants with production tailored to customer needs exactly."

Nemesia ‘Bordeaux’is among new varieties set to be displayed at Four Oaks - image: Earley Ornamentals

Expanding range

The Earley Nemesia range will be expanding in 2018. New varieties on show will include ‘Bordeaux’ and ‘Lilac Queen’. Also featured will be new colours Compact Magenta Imp and Compact Purple from Earley’s SunPatiens range, which offers opportunities for the domestic market and large landscape projects given its design flexibility.

Award-winning Penstemon Pentastic will also be on the stand. Other new additions will include SuperCal × Petchoa Light Yellow as well as products from the Fuchsia collection and the large-flowered Pansy Premier, which features an extended colour range for 2017-18.

Newey Perennial Plugs & Liners, combining Eagle Plants and New Place Nurseries, offers perennial and shrub plugs and liners in alpines, ferns, grasses and architectural varieties, herbs, herbaceous and shrubs. Newey is the exclusive UK distributor for Dümmen Orange. Other featured partners include Vitroflora and Tusczynscy.

New plants include Rudbeckia SmileyZ series (Laughing), Thalictrum ‘Nimbus White’ and Passiflora ‘Snow Queen’, winner of the 2017 HTA new plant award for shrubs and climbers. Heuchera ‘Forever Red’ has "the reddest leaves ever", while Festuca ‘Intense Blue’ "is one of the best blue forms with dense tufts of bluer-than-blue leaves that remain blue all season". Other launches include Nandina ‘Obsessed’, Helianthus ‘Suncatcher Gold’ and Senecio ‘Angel Wings’.

Petunia BabyDoll: suitable for baskets - image: Ball Colegrave

Purple petunia

Channel Island Plants will be promoting Kerley & Co’s Petunia Designer Buzz Purple as well as Tumbelina and Breier/Cohen’s Nemesia ‘Honey Dark Yellow’, Lobularia ‘Awesome Bicolour’ and Petunia ‘Happy Giant Pink Mix’. It will also promote Suntory/MNP Flowers Grandaisy Argyranthemum.

Botanics International will show Penstemon Pentastic from Hishtil, developed by local Fred Yates. Allium ‘Millennium’ and Helichrysum ‘Ember Glow’ are from Walter Blom. The Chrysanthemum Blanchett Series is from Armada. Scabious ‘Kudo White’ is also new.

Floranova will have F1 Nemesia Seventh Heaven, F1 Trailing Pansy Freefall XL, F1 Phlox Popstars, F1 African Marigold Cheerleader and Cosmos Apollo as new breeding.

Kernock Park Plants is adding another 60 varieties in its new catalogue. Among the top picks are PowerDaisy Tango bred by Kerley & Co, Silene ‘Sparkling Rose’ and the Proven Winners Bidens ‘Hot & Spicy’. Kernock business development chief Mark Taylor says the PowerDaisy will be a highly useful robust marigold that will take frost and can be planted alongside pansies and violas to add a splash of orange in the early season.

Another new variety from Kernock is Heuchera ‘Primo Black Pearl’ from Proven Winners/Walters Gardens. Kernock promoted the Proven Winners brand with Bransford Webbs at the HTA National Plant Show and Taylor says retailers are reporting back to Bransfords that they want the brand in their garden centres as a symbol of a well-bred plant that gives customers confidence.

Spalding-based young and plug plant producer Alpha Plants will launch new hardy perennial violas
to growers. The Victorian Violas range has been bred over a 10-year period by Rob Chapman, who has showcased it at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, where it won a gold medal. Now through exclusive collaboration with Alpha Plants, it will be available to commercial growers for the first time.

Chapman’s breeding programme has focused on selecting the best attributes of the classic perennial violas grown in the Victorian era to give the very best colour, habit and scent. The 40-plus varieties are produced from cuttings, giving them a strong perennial habit and setting them aside from the more common seed-raised varieties. They are designed for growing in one-litre pots and for selling in flower.
Hawkesmill Nurseries has added the Victorian Violas range to its array of finished plants in one-litre pots.

Bidens ‘Hot & Spicy’: big vibrant flowers - image: Kernock Park Plants


For 2018, Volmary will introduce new varieties in the Powerliner range, including Heuchera ‘Apple Crisp’, Malva ‘Blue Vein’, Anemone Fantasy Series and Salvia ‘Sky High Blue’. The company will offer its most extensive range of bare-root perennials this year, starting with peony for delivery in weeks 44 and 48 followed by 600 perennials in early 2018.

More herbs are also on offer, including lemon and Mediterranean mints and peach sage. The herb Dip Fix mix of rosemary, thyme and sage is also new, as is lilac snack-sized peppers (left). For 2019, there will be an introduction of a new Lupin Tower series with nine colours available.

Breeders Seeds will be showcasing brand new series and varieties from Benary, Floranova, Hem Genetics, Takii and others at Four Oaks. Highlights will include Petunia F1 Success Pink Star and Yellow Chiffon as well as Tomato F1 Sweet Valentines — a patio type with a cascading habit and heart-shaped fruit.

Thompson & Morgan introductions will include Calendula officinalis ‘Crown Orange’, a reselected calendula with a dark centre and edible flowers. Tropaeolum majus ‘Orchid Flame’ is a development in nasturtiums, fresh from Thompson & Morgan’s plant-breeding programme. It is a new colour being added to the Orchid Series. With chameleon-like blooms, the flowers open a rich burgundy red and then they mature to a bicolour red-and-yellow flame.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Cupcakes Blush’ offers semi-double blooms on tall bushy plants that open white and turn a blush pink as they mature. Cosmos atrosanguineus ‘Chocolate Brownie’ is a seed-raised version of the popular vegetative Cosmos ‘Chocamocha’ with maroon flowers and a chocolate fragrance.

New for 2017 from Seiont Nurseries are Hebe ‘Tip Top’, Hydrangea ‘Polestar’ and Buddleja ‘Dreaming Lavender’.

Co-operative in Tuscany region produces plants including Photinia Red Robin Spalliera (below) and Cedrus Atlantica ‘Glauca’ - image: Consorzio Ortovivaisti Pistoiesi

Christmas trees

Many suppliers will be showing newly available Christmas trees.

A Jakins & Sons supplies 200,000 trees to garden centres and wholesale markets nationwide. Altitude 500, Bolton, FCTP, Fillingham Christmas Trees, Forest Fresh, GO & ML Jones, John A Junor, Kingsley Smythe, Maldwyn Lloyd, Needlefresh, Strawson Woodland and The Real Tree Co are among the other specialists that will also be exhibiting at Four Oaks.

Nurserymen have seen trees grow well this year and exchange rates mean UK trees are more attractive, although oversupply is still an issue. Fillingham Christmas Trees’ William Rose says "quality rather than price remains the key prerequisite".

He adds: "People are putting up their Christmas trees earlier every year. They will happily pay a bit more for a tree if they know it will last the Christmas period and into the New Year. Christmas represents a peak period for retailers and selling good-quality trees can give them a competitive edge.

"The falling pound has tightened margins of wholesalers importing trees. They face the dilemma of swallowing these fluctuations or increasing prices. Growing conditions in the UK have been excellent for tree growth — the hot weather tempered with recent rain has created near-perfect conditions."

FCTP’s Soren Petersen says pot-grown trees have now become 10 or even 20 per cent of the market, which could be 500,000 trees and potentially up to one million. Trees are available to customers for
around six weeks longer and they tend to want to start decorating earlier and earlier.

Needlfresh’s George Hood says there are a few more small Nordmann firs coming onto the market but there is likely to be little difference in price. He cannot comment on customers but says it has been a good growing year and retailers will try and stick with UK-grown if they can.

Herbaceous and shrubs

Glendale Horticulture’s new ranges for 2018 include the five-litre herbaceous range and 7.5-litre specimen shrub range along with some new more unusual lines, all of which are grown in the UK.

Visitors to the HTA National Plant Show voted Adenophera ‘White Blaze’ from Darby Nursery Stock and Fairweather’s Nursery as "best in show". Fairweather’s will be exhibiting at Four Oaks. Large retail suppliers Lovania, Allensmore and Chessum will also be exhibiting.

Overseas growers are always a large part of the show and their offer is becoming more attractive as exchange rates level out after last year’s Brexit vote. Co-operative groups are a mainstay at Four Oaks, including Consorzio Ortovivaisti Pistoiesi (Italy), a co-operative of 28 independent nurseries in Pistoia, Tuscany, with a total cultivation area of 110ha growing plants from one-litre in size to large specimen trees, large instant hedging, screening plants, trellis-grown plants and shaped specimens.

The co-operative is owned by its members and by joining forces can offer a wide range of products to the customer with well-organised distribution via its central depot where all plants are cleaned and checked prior to dispatch.

Nippon Tree (Italy) will show Japanese macro bonsai trees, while Romiti Vivai (Italy) will showcase container and field-grown plants.

Cor Huibers (the Netherlands) will exhibit fruit trees, ornamental trees and multi-stems. Expertrees from Zundert (the Netherlands) supplies seedlings and transplants to ornamental nurseries, with Acer campestre, Carpinus betulus, Fagus sylvatica, Crataegus monogyna and Quercus robur all offered.

Covili Franco Vivai Piante (Italy) will exhibit conifers, deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, topiary art, pleached espaliers, Japanese maples, Mediterranean plants, bonsai, climbers, bamboos, palms, specimens, citrus, fruit trees, exotics, ferns, conservatory plants and many other ornamental plants from Pistoia.

Jollies La Grande Jurancon - image: Brandkamp

Drought-tolerant salvia

Young tissue culture plant supplier Denis Plants will launch its Salvia Pink Lips ‘Jeremy’, a drought- and winter-tolerant microphylla-type salvia that grows to 60cm wide and 60cm high and has a flower height of almost 1m. It flowers from May until October. Also new from Denis are Saxifraga ‘Gelbes Monster’, Saxifraga ‘Shiranami’, Panicum ‘Oxblood Autumn’, Helleborus ‘Winter Passion’, Bergenia ‘Kerstin’ and Bergenia ‘Carina’.

Hawkesmill Nurseries, which grows 3.5 million plants annually, has Pink Lips as an exclusive finished plant this year, supplied in three-litre pots.

Brandkamp is a breeder and young-plant producer of chrysanthemums and bedding/balcony plants. Chrysanthemum varieties include the eight-colour Pemba series, which is also suitable for pots and balconies. Specialities include Jollies, Brandkamp’s own fuchsia line. New for 2018 is Fuchsia Jollies La Grande Jurancon. 

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