'Foodie' additions and high prices worry show exhibitors

The traditional gardening show is being swallowed by "foodie" additions that are putting off keen garden visitors, according to Horticultural Exhibitors Association chairman Cath Sanderson.

Following the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Cath's Garden Plants owner Sanderson said: "Exhibitors growing their plants and sundries exhibitors are concerned about shows becoming more general and about ticket prices getting too high. It might keep visitor numbers up but people who have been exhibiting for years have seen sales fall. They pay for their ticket and food and then say £5 is too much for a two-year-old plant, but they might pay £3.50 for a Costa coffee and cake. Shows might be better to reduce size."

Toby Buckland won plaudits for his back-to-basics gardening show in Devon last month. Sanderson added: "People have told me Toby Buckland's show was the best they've done because it was £5 to get in and there were keen horticulturist speakers.

"In a way, some of us want shows to go that way. Organisers say shows need to get bigger to pay the overheads but if they reduced and were more gardening-focused it might be better. Some exhibitors are not selling unusual plants and visitors don't want to pay to go to shows and see what they can buy in the garden centre. Some shows need to rethink."

In response, the RHS said ticket sales for Malvern were up and disagreed that it is too expensive to get in to shows.

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