On 22 January, a vast array of buyers and suppliers will descend on the German city of Essen for one of the most important shows on the horticultural calendar. More than 1,500 firms will be hosting displays at the IPM Essen show, held at the giant Essen Fair Site, and in excess of 60,000 visitors are expected over four days.
The event was initially conceived as a simple plant show. However, it is now an important forum for anyone interested in equipment, supplies and expertise.
The show is truly international, attracting not just displays from Europe but also from South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Baltic states, Canada and the USA.
There are more than 20 British companies exhibiting at the show and there are two pavilions to showcase their work - one in the main area and one in the technology section. British representation is organised by the Commercial Horticulture Association (CHA).
"The show has grown steadily over the past five years," said CHA manager Stuart Booker. "Transport links are excellent, it is well organised and the management is very responsive to the needs of the industry."
He pointed out that the show attracts a lot of serious buyers. "It used to run over the weekend, but that simply attracted a lot of people with a casual interest. It is now a highly effective event for the trade. It is very focused."
The market for horticulture in Germany is holding up well, even in the teeth of a recession. "Germany is a very big market and there is also a lot of interest from neighbouring countries," Booker explained. "I'm not suggesting that it is recession-proof, but there's little evidence of drastic cutbacks." Neither has the market been affected by currency fluctuations against the euro.
David Austin Roses is one of the British firms trying to get a larger slice of continental action. It has exhibited at the show for the past 10 years. Sales executive Melanie Pannell said: "It gets us a lot of orders and has helped us boost our presence in Germany, Switzerland and Austria - both in the retail and wholesale market."
Several British firms in the technology and production sectors will also be promoting their offerings at the event. These include Tyne Moulds & Machinery, Pennine Manufacturing, PPC Labels and Solufeed, which offers water-soluble fertilisers and nutrients.
The show has four separate areas. The largest space is devoted to plants, while the technology area offers substrates, vehicles, tools, pesticides and various greenhouse irrigation and climate-control systems.
A section of each hall has been given over to garden features such as tubs, decorations and point-of-sale material and shop fittings suitable for garden centres.
The bulk of the display space is taken up by European plant growers. Belgium, for example, has a special section featuring a total of 31 companies that are offering ornamental plants, young plants and tree nursery products. These include some exciting guzmania and primula varieties.
Holland has two areas on the show floor. One is the pavilion of Flora Holland, which has more than 40 exhibitors specialising in houseplants, garden plants and young plants as well as cut flowers and floristry requisites.
Dutch tree growers have their own display space in Hall 12. A total of 44 exhibitors will be offering trees as well as containers and pots for tree nurseries.
German growers will, naturally, have a strong presence at the show. Bruns Pflanzen will be offering ranges of rhododendrons, while BKN Strobel will be focusing on its ranges of roses tailored for sale at garden centres.
A large space is also given over to equipment and kit, from LED lamps, fans, dehumidifiers, irrigation systems and motors and switch boxes for the production area to a range of biomass boilers being shown by Nolting that have increased efficiency and better systems for discharging their ash and have the capacity to burn a wide variety of potential fuels.
The "Green City" area of the main hall will host a number of panel discussions. Horticultural and ornamental growers associations will have question-and-answer sessions while a variety of professional associations, consultancy organisations and research and training institutions will be presenting their latest findings.
There will also be an educational element, with a discussion on the impact of stress on plants. Despite ultra-modern technology regulating climate and nutrition, stress on plants causes reductions in yield and quality. The show will look at the ways in which this problem can be addressed.
Product developments - Annual showcase for hothouse builders
Hothouse builders Bosman and Van Zaal are exhibiting at the show for the first time.
Bosman will show an innovative irrigation system that takes CO2 from water and helps stabilise the pH. Van Zaal is showcasing a new low-cost climate-control system that can also use ultraviolet light for disinfection. It will also launch its next generation of Lifting Frame.
Meanwhile, Van Zaal is introducing an environmentally friendly shopping basket that is ideal for garden centres. The GT26 eco is made entirely from environmentally friendly recycled material. The ergonomic, semicircular design allows the basket to be carried close to the body, making it easier to carry. The handles have a specially shaped surface for comfortable shopping and come in blue, magenta, orange and green. The baskets can also carry company logos or advertising.
When: 22-25 January
Where: Messe Essen, Germany
Admission: Day ticket €21, two-day ticket EUR32, season ticket EUR57
New plants on show - Growers and nurseries display new varieties
FitzGerald Nurseries will be launching an addition to its range of Kennedy Irish primroses. Primula 'Claddagh' combines yellow and peach-coloured flowers on dark-chocolate foliage. It is a low-maintenance and hardy garden perennial.
Belgian grower Exotic Plant is offering popular plant Guzmania 'Flava' in a smaller size. It has a beautiful star-shaped inflorescence and grows to a height of 30cm.
Selecta, the German grower, is offering new varieties of pelargonium. 'Moonlight Katy 13' is an early, vigorous variety with dark foliage and dark pedicles. 'Moonlight Michelle' is a salmon pink with white border. It has big flower balls and medium vigour, and is ideal for combination with 'Sunrise' varieties.
Varinova is introducing its new Pythagoras range of Maxora fringed cyclamen. This is now available in red, purple and white. The plants are ideal for growing together
They have similarly shaped leaves, uniform plant growth and simultaneous flowering. Special posters and labels have been designed. The product is being marketed in a decorative-handled wicker basket.
Colour Your Life Award IPM 2013 - Top plants secure nominations
The Flower Council of Holland now has responsibility for running the Colour Your Life campaign across Europe, including the international Colour Your Life Award IPM 2013.
The winner will be announced at the event on Thursday 24 January at 3.30pm.
This year's nominees are Eurofleurs-Elbers for Calluna vulgaris 'Florifair', Diderk Heinje Baumschulen for Hydrangea paniculata 'Butterfly', Gartneriet PKM for Campanula poscharskyana 'Lovely Mee', Tesselaer Plants for Agapanthus praecox orientalis var. 'Snowstorm', Gova for Laurus nobilis, R Moerings Waterplanten for Wasserpflanzenset im 'Pond bag', Rijnbeek & Sohn Perennials Export for Gaura lind. 'Rosy Jane', Seuren Rozenkwekerijen for Fragrant Roses, Van Son & Koot for Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress', Special Plant Zundert for Coprosma 'Autumn Haze and Stekbedrijf Bergs for Lavandula Soechas subsp. Lusitanica 'Lusi Pink'.