New plants set to shine at HTA National Plant Show

New plants are set to be a big focus at this year's HTA National Plant Show, which takes place at Stoneleigh Park on 24-25 June.

HTA National Plant Show: focus purely on plants at the best time of the year for retailers to plan ranges
HTA National Plant Show: focus purely on plants at the best time of the year for retailers to plan ranges

The HTA is promoting the show under the banner "back to basics" this year, saying it is all about plants and nothing else. On show will be 1,000 varieties from 100 UK suppliers, with at least 100 new plants for visitors to see.

Some 71 per cent of those visitors say they are looking for new plant suppliers and two-thirds are looking for new plant introductions. Around 62 per cent want to catch up with existing suppliers and 40 per cent say they order new plants from current suppliers at the show.

New-plant prizes

Winning one of the five new-plant prizes at the show can have a big impact on sales, says New Leaf Plants sales and marketing manager David Higginson, who took the best new plant crown for Clematis 'Beautiful Bride' in 2013. For 2014, the nursery will promote Clematis 'Prince George', a white sport of 'Blue Angel' found on the nursery.

Higginson says winning the show prize caused 'Beautiful Bride' to sell out and the nursery is now trying to bulk up after having only 1,000 plants last year.

"All stock sold through within a few weeks of the show," he adds. "We're going like crazy to bulk it up. If we had not won it would have trickled out in steady sales to our customers."

He explains that naming plants such as Lonicera 'Princess Kate' and Clematis 'Prince George' is a conscious effort to gain wider appeal for the nursery's plants. The event is "a major show for us", superseding Glee as "our main focus for PR and shouting about new products".

Even if the plant has already won plaudits, such as Javado's Hydrangea 'Miss Saori' - this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year winner - being launched to the trade is important too, says the man marketing the Japanese-bred, Dutch-grown introduction, Javado UK sales manager Chris Campbell.

He says the National Plant Show is the most important trade launch and it comes just weeks after the most important consumer launch, at Chelsea.

The prize categories at this year's event include annuals, herbaceous perennials and houseplants as well as new categories for trees and conifers and shrubs and climbers. Javado won best houseplant with Phalaenopsis 'Wildcat' at the show in 2013 and Javado UK hydrangea breeder Ryoji Irie won gold with his Hydrangea 'Love' the same year.

This year, there will be a new series of anthurium in five colours with partner Anthura. Phalaenopsis 'Rome' is a new colour.

Cooperative venture

The National Plant Show is a cooperative venture that should lead to more cooperation in UK horticulture, according to HTA president Stan Green. It is a "model for cooperation", he says.

"Opinions like 'don't be so naive, cooperative ventures rarely work in UK horticulture' can prevail," he adds. "I don't agree with that. Co-operation isn't easy but I think we need to co-operate more in our businesses."

Hortipak is the HTA's headline partner for this year's event and Gardman is the associate partner.

Among this year's exhibitors, Allensmore will launch 30 new plants, Blackmore will reveal its link with Lubera, Forest Edge will introduce Calluna vulgaris 'Galaxy', John Richards will launch Lonicera 'Rhubarb and Custard' and Seiont will bring out a host of new heuchera including 'Tangerine Wave' and 'Thomas' from Plantagogo as well as homegrown 'Morello'.

Fairweather's Nursery will follow up success gained with Dahlia 'Mystic Haze', Leucanthemum 'Freak' and Penstemon 'Riding Hood Blue' with Agapanthus 'Twister', which is the first deciduous bicolour agapanthus.

It will also launch Brunnera 'Little Jack' and will show Chelsea shortlisted plants Seiont-bred Eryngium 'Neptune's Gold' and the Downderry-bred Heavenly Lavender collection.

Key Essentials will introduce Airplant brand Love Tillys. West End Nurseries will exhibit Hydrangea petiolaris 'Silver Lining', the Petite range of buddleias and more West Country lupin colours. New climbers from Raymond Evison include Clematis 'Alita' and 'Kingfisher'.

New combinations

Young Plants will be holding Florafest alongside the National Plant Show this year, showcasing Confetti Garden's new combinations, Calibrachoa 'Aloha' and Petunia 'Sweetunia' new colours. New geraniums include 'Savannah Oranges'.

Pinetops Nurseries is back for a second year with pot and patio lilies, poinsettia and hellebores. Channel Island Plants (UK) will exhibit Surfinia 'Heavenly Blue' and new products from Kerley and Cohen. Earley Ornamentals will exhibit SunPatiens 'Electric Orange' and 'Hot Coral'.

Frank P Matthews will launch 'Little Pax', a new variety of apple tree developed from a single tree of unknown origin gifted to St Cecilia's Abbey in Ryde on the Isle of Wight in the 1990s. The resident Benedictine nuns planted this "little orphan" in their gardens before taking it to Frank P Matthews to make into a commercial product.

Howard Nurseries, Kirton Farm Nurseries and Glendale - incorporating Coblands and Merediths - will be among the first-time exhibitors at the show.

Wyevale Nurseries, which recently re-organised from three limited companies - Wyevale Containers, Wyevale Trees and Wyevale Transplants - into one, will be showing its new face at the show. Managing director Andy Johnson says: "We continue to strive to be the customer's first choice and we're very keen to share all our plans for the future with the industry, so we're really looking forward to the show."

Central feature

HTA operations head Martin Simmons points out that the plant awards are the central feature of the show as well as a "vital ingredient" of the event and of what is done by growers and retailers.

The RHS sponsors the awards. Entrants will include some who have unveiled new plants at last month's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The awards are designed for UK companies, although Javado UK's Japanese-bred, Dutch-grown hydrangea is eligible because Dutch company Javado has a UK arm, Simmons explains.

He says Glee is not a threat to the National Plant Show, despite trying to attract more growers this year with a free deal, and the HTA and Glee retain a good relationship.

Geoff Caesar of Bransford Webbs will be launching new spring and summer hebe ranges at the show. "We're strong in spring and want to consolidate our position in that," he says.

"There are expectations that we will come up with new varieties and it's nice to have the whole range to go in with. We think there's a gap for UK-produced, summer-flowering hebes." He adds that those currently available in summer tend not to be UK-grown, whereas his are from Bransford's breeding.

Meanwhile, Neil Robertson of Farplants says the grower will launch a mystery new plant at the event, which is "vital to us" as a launchpad following the demise of the Woking Nursery Exhibition in 2011. He adds that the National Plant Show is "truly national" and better timed in June than was the case with Woking in mid July.

Seminars Topics from the wonder of plants to negotiation skills

24 June 10-10.30am: Horticulturalist, landscaper and broadcaster Chris Collins will look at how to engage young people with the wonder of plants.

24 June 3-3.30pm: Garden Industry Marketing Board project manager David Arnold on studies into what 30- to 45-year-olds want from their gardens.

25 June 10-10.30am: ReSharpen sales and negotiation expert Steve Jones on the crucial deals that need to be struck before the customer makes a choice.

Show Details
When: 24-25 June
Where: Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ
Satnav: Use postcode CV8 2LG
Email: enquiries@nationalplant
Twitter: @HTAPlantShow

Cameo garden Highlighting research respondents' ideal uses

The Garden Industry Marketing Board stand at this year's HTA National Plant show will feature a cameo garden designed to illustrate the uses that its research respondents said would be ideal for their outdoor areas, focusing on relaxation and entertaining/socialising.

British cut flower network Flowers from the Farm (FFTF) is to hold a workshop/seminar day at Stoneleigh on 24 June. Invitees will include commercial growers who supply supermarkets, medium-sized growers who supply wholesalers, small and medium-sized enterprises and artisan growers such as FFTF members - FFTF currently has 171 growers listed on its website.

Wholesalers such as New Covent Garden Market, supermarket buyers, the media, the NFU, packers, florists, the British Florists Association, the Horticultural Development Company, the Cut Flower Centre and Lantra are among the 60 who have been invited.

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