Seabrook on: lessons from Glee 2009

Glee proved very useful for me personally, but I now find it difficult to answer the regular question: "How was Glee?"

After one day walking the aisles from 9am to 6pm my brain spun, and experience has taught there is little more to be gained by punishing it for a second day.

Even with a reduction in the number of exhibitors, I found plenty of companies with whom to trade: likely trends could be gleaned from the wide cross-section of visitors, more than enough new products could be selected to interest gardeners through 2010, but I didn't get to the third hall.

The big difficulty is cost: the NEC has become expensive for our modest industry. Having visited Four Oaks two weeks earlier, I can well understand why nursery and sundries firms are packing those less-expensive stands.

At Glee, there is the chance to meet multiples buyers and independent retailers to clinch a first sale, with the potential to cover all costs. Miss that chance, however, and the whole exercise - four days away, a hotel bill, travel costs and stand charges - is a frightening burden.

I was taken aback by the huge increases in products to meet the grow-your-own interests. Are consumers really going to spend such sums on raised beds, plastic greenhouses, frames for nets, protective fleeces and countless containers made of every conceivable material?

There is plenty of mileage in grow-your-own, as Morrisons' Let's Grow campaign for schools clearly shows (more than 10,000 schools signed up in 14 days last month). Next year, top and soft fruit are likely to take centre stage. Plant an apple tree and you can pick fruit each year for 30-50 years with no more weeding and planting.

How many Glee visitors found the new Raspberry 'Autumn Treasure' in Darby's Temptation range? That will make a fine container-grown grow-your-own line, but I doubt orders covered the cost of its stand space.

Peter Seabrook is a garden writer and broadcaster.

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