Europe's pre-eminent trade fair kicks off next week and with the Euro still hovering just above pound parity, British businesses are flocking back.
IPM Essen is a truly global event, with more than 1,450 companies showing off their latest plants, products and technologies in the inauspicious setting of Germany's Ruhr in late January.
It attracts around 60,000 visitors and offers the opportunity to do business with firms from all over the world.
With Europe, if not the UK, already crawling out of recession, there is a decidedly more optimistic note to this year's pre-show hype. And a change in scheduling has been met with enthusiasm, as organisers look to kill off the "dead weekend" by changing to a midweek show.
One company that knows all about what Essen has to offer is Fitzgerald Nurseries from Kilkenny, Ireland. It has enjoyed a great deal of success at the show — its Phormium 'Black Adder' picked up the patio plants award in 2008, a prize the firm retained last year with Yucca gloriosa 'Bright Star.'
Owner Pat Fitzgerald had visited Essen for 10 years before deciding it was time to take a stand. "It was obvious from IPM firstly that key decision-makers visit the show, secondly it has the widest international visitor attendance that I am aware of and thirdly that the main plant companies in the international market exhibit there, so visitors have very good reason to attend."
This year the company will be showing Carex 'Everillo' for the first time, while Carex 'Everest' makes its show debut as one of five evergreen foliage plants in the container range.
The show will also see the unveiling of the company's PlantInPod system, a new product designed to protect mature container and planted out specimens at temperatures as low as -20 degsC.
Fitzgerald says the cold was a major issue for the company as it looks to breed hardier plants and offer solutions to plant protection, with a view to selling into previously unexplored markets in Scandinavia.
British companies will have their strongest presence in years at this year's show, with around 15 joining the Commercial Horticultural Association's umbrella area, as well as a handful showing independently.
Seiont Nurseries is returning for the first time in eight years to show off its new licensed varieties from New Zealand, including Pseudowintera 'Red Leopard', Phormium 'Alison Blackman', Phormium 'Joker' and, from its own range of Cordyline, 'Pink Passion' and 'Back in Black'.
Manager Neil Alcock remarks: "Pink Passion' will be the spearhead. It has been entered into the new plants category and we are trying to get it into northern Europe because it has done so well in France and southern Europe."
John Woods is also returning after a successful debut in 2009. Managing director John Lord says Essen is vital for companies looking to export. "IPM Essen plays an important role in our export strategy. This is our second year of attendance and we are looking forward to strengthening our existing relationships and making new contacts. It is also a great opportunity to meet some of the UK's key buyers as well as getting a view on developing European trends."
The company will be showing its new range of first-edition plants and highlighting its signature lines. Marketing manager Jo Davey says: "There are a lot of European buyers over there so we are trying to take products unique to John Woods."
Johnsons of Whixley has been to the show numerous times, but 2009 was its first year back after a prolonged break. Joint managing director Andrew Richardson comments: "We were there last year for the first time in about seven years and it was quite a successful show — we took orders for the spring period.
"I have been going over [to Europe] quite regularly since, so this is our second Essen back. We see all the buyers from Europe, of course, but also all the buyers from the UK. If you go to a UK show where there are 60 other UK nurseries, the buyers don't have that much time. But at Essen there are only a handful of UK companies so you get much longer with the buyers."
Johnsons has sought to transfer plants it has grown for the UK landscape market to retail outlets in Europe. The policy has seen some success as the plants have proved well-adapted to provide what some foreign garden centres are looking for. The firm will be showing Viburnum davidii and Prunus 'Otto Luyken'.
According to Richardson, the show requires commitment.There is little point in attending once, he says, and any one looking to break new markets must prove to European buyers that they are serious about selling abroad.
Oakover Nurseries appears to share that view and is making its return after an extended break. General manager Brian Fraser says: "We are going to be doing it over three years and then evaluate it after that. The first time you are there people have a look, the second time they will remember you and hopefully the third time they place an order.
"Its part of a strategy we have had for expanding sales into Europe. We have done Groet Groen and this is a continuation of that strategy. We went to Essen probably 15 years ago but its time we went back. It seems a good time to go back there."
The prolonged freeze has disrupted the company's plans about what to take, but Fraser says they will be showing a range of root ball stock and liners.
Exhibition size 105,000sq m
Venue Messe Essen, Norbertstrasse, Essen, Germany
Dates 26-29 January
Times 9am to 6pm daily
Tickets Adults EUR20, trainees/students EUR12, groups of 20+ people EUR12 each, two-day ticket EUR30, four-day ticket EUR55. The catalogue costs EUR16
Future Workshop Horticulture: The Information Show
This show will be exhibiting innovative and trend-setting developments in horticulture. Under the motto "Future Workshop Horticulture", academies, laboratories, colleges, universities and other research institutions will be presenting developments in plants and technology in hall 1A at the Inforcenter Gartenbau — the "Green City".
The Trade Association of German Florists (FDF) Stage Programme
The FDF will be hosting four days of demonstrations and stage events in the Green City area. Events will feature floral design concepts and stage shows about German floristry education. A team of Brazilian florists will be showing off the best of South America with a special presentation and the German team for the floristry World Cup in Shanghai will be showing off its skills.
Meeting of the FloralDesign Edition
International teachers of floristry from Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, Poland, Guadeloupe and Japan will gather to discuss common approaches at the FloraDesign Edition stand in the Green City.
International Horticultural Forum Eastern Europe: Ukraine in the Spotlight
The International Horticultural Forum Eastern Europe will gather on 27 and 28 January to shine a spotlight on this increasingly accessible market. Three speakers will describe the state of Ukrainian horticulture and highlight possible business opportunities. The events will run from 10am to 12.30pm in room C in the Congress Centre Ost.
HOW TO GET THERE
By air to Dusseldorf International Airport. IPM has an information counter in the centre of the arrivals hall in Terminal B. For airport information, call 0049 211 4210. An airport express bus reaches Messe Essen within 20 minutes.