Gardening shows begin to scale back

Two shows cancelled from this year's schedule after rain blamed for falling attendance figures across last year's events.

Tatton Park - image: RHS
Tatton Park - image: RHS

Gardening shows are seeing cutbacks after a rainy 2012 resulted in lower attendances at many events.

Two gardening shows have been cancelled already this year while the RHS has cut Tatton Park by one day.

Hatfield House in Hertfordshire has ended its annual show after seven years because it is "financially unviable" and the Royal Bath & West of England Society will not stage its National Gardening Show in 2013.

Show manager Alan Lions said: "We are just not able to get enough sponsorship and we are very much reliant on good weather. For the past couple of years the show has struggled and there is a lot of competition in the area now. I can think of four other good events that are on at the same time. It's very difficult."

The RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in Cheshire will run from 25-28 July, running for one day fewer than in previous years. The RHS is looking to reinvigorate the annual bedding competition.

RHS shows director Stephen Bennett added: "2012 was a difficult year for outdoor events. Many suffered low visitor numbers or were cancelled due to a vastly increased market of events celebrating the jubilee and the Olympics, as well as the extreme weather conditions.

"Despite lower visitor numbers at Tatton Park and Hampton Court in 2012, increasing RHS membership and viewing figures for gardening programmes clearly demonstrate that the nation has a passion for gardening and the RHS shows, some of the best places for gardening inspiration, are highlights of the gardening calendar.

"The reduction in days (at Tatton Park) allows us to put more resources back into our charitable activities while also benefiting exhibitors by reducing the time spent away from their normal business."

Meanwhile, the RHS is finalising new ideas for this year's Tatton Park show that will involve helping visitors to "take away ideas". An RHS representative said discussions are still taking place regarding the new initiative and more details should be revealed next month.

Cheshire bedding grower and Tatton exhibitor Derek Smith said: "The RHS is bringing some new ideas. There's no quick fix and it needs to be an economically-viable event." He added that applications for the event were due in last week and he hopes to supply a couple of local authorities with bedding for their entries.

Poor weather and economic conditions led to a 13 per cent drop in visitor numbers at BBC Gardeners' World Live in June 2012, with around 95,000 visitors against 109,000 in 2011.

Other shows had a better year. Harrogate flower shows director Martin Fish said: "The wet April did affect the spring show. The good news is the weather didn't put exhibitors off because we are already fully booked for spring 2013. All we need now is good weather."

Garden market researcher Malcolm Tenneson said: "The Olympic factor, bad weather and economic situation are three big factors hitting attendance figures."

Attendance figures - Flower shows in 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show: 161,000 (sell out)
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: 124,000 (2009-11 average: 153,000)
Malvern Spring Gardening Show: 85,500 (2011: 85,200)
RHS Flower Show Tatton Park: 69,000 (2009-11 average: 86,000)
Malvern Autumn Show: 58,500 (2011: 58,000)
Harrogate Spring Flower Show: 55,000 (2011: 59,250)
Shrewsbury Flower Show: 50,000 (2011: 48,000)
Harrogate Autumn Flower Show: 36,530 (2011: 36,750)
RHS Flower Show Cardiff: 20,000 (2011: 27,000)

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