There was a positive atmosphere at the Exeter event, which was under new management. Exhibitor numbers were up on last year but registration problems meant visitor numbers could only be estimated at between 500 and 1,000 people.
The judges praised the high standard of entries in the three award categories, saying the quality was better than in previous years.
In the new plant introduction category, West End Nurseries came out on top for its Caryopteris range, including 'Hint of Gold', 'Sterling Silver' and 'White Surprise'.
The judges — Andrew Spilsbury of Whetman Pinks, Richard Harnett of Kernock Park Plants and Stuart Booker of the Commerical Horticultural Association — said: "It was a well-presented, uniform collection in vegetation and flowering; all three [varieties] went well together with contrasting foliage."
The award for best nursery exhibit went to Dulford Nurseries for what the judges said was a good seasonal exhibit in colour and range. "We like the rustic effect and the produce labelling and it was nicely arranged," they said.
In the best new non-plant category, sponsored by Whetman Pinks, West Kington was awarded for its eco-marketing concept incorporating biodegradable pots and plants in a single package.
The judges said it was the most difficult category to award, with a strong field of contenders.
West Kington production manager Tim Hancock said: "Recycling is going to be a huge issue for garden centres and we feel this concept will help tackle that. All the plants are grown on our nursery and supplied in biodegradable one-litre pots, with peat-reduced compost, as a collection of 28 trays."
The event's committee, chaired by Kernock Park Plants business development manager Mark Taylor, said it had not sought to exclude anybody but had placed an emphasis on attracting local growers.
This appeared to strike a chord with many of the exhibitors. Longcombe Nursery & Garden Centre, which was exhibiting for the first time, said it was pleased with the prominence of local growers.
Co-owner Alan Bandey said: "We are happy now it is all truly South West growers."
West End Nurseries owner Peter van Delft said: "This show is local to me and I wanted to support it. I haven't done it for a number of years, but I'm glad I'm doing it now; it has been a really good show."