Show prices and focus shift irk growers

High ticket prices at garden shows might spell an end to commercial nurseries selling at them because visitors have so little money left in their pockets after paying to get in, Suffolk's Rougham Hall Nurseries owner Kelvin Harbutt has warned.

Harbutt: entry fees are too high
Harbutt: entry fees are too high

"It costs too much to get in - £50 for a couple. People are more interested now in spending that money on local nurseries," he said.

Harbutt has been dropped from all RHS shows this year and is selling at plant fairs and local agricultural shows instead. "If the gate price is reasonable I give it a bash and if the price is reasonable people have still got money in their pocket to buy plants."

An RHS representative said: "Judging on ticket sales in comparison to other events I'd disagree we're too expensive. Last year numbers at our shows were up quite significantly. Chelsea tickets are selling really well and we'd expect to be sold out before the show again."

Meanwhile, exhibitors have expressed reservations about the RHS Malvern Spring Festival (9-12 May) name change - previously Malvern Spring Gardening Show - and the cut in its grower exhibitors.

Potash Nurseries owner Mike Clare said: "People will be able to tell. I don't see the need to change the name because it was well established. Sometimes, if it's not broke, why fix it?"

Avon Bulbs owner Chris Ireland-Jones added: "I suppose it's inevitable but I don't really approve about going away from what ought to be a horticulturally-based show. It's broadening the base or taking away the emphasis."

Three Counties Showground communications manager Sharon Gilbert said: "We've always had food at the spring gardening show but we wanted to increase the connection between what we grow and what we eat to widen the audience.

"We have 80 exhibitors in the floral marquee when there are usually 100 because of the new shape and because we want to make sure there's plenty of space to move around. We need to do something to make the visitor experience better and to ring the changes."

Elsewhere, the RHS has waived exhibitor fees after the first of its new monthly London Secret Sunday shows on 6 April, which aimed to combine food producers, grow your own, folk music and performance artists. Just six nurseries exhibited at the first event.

"It didn't quite happen," said Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants owner Rob Hardy. "I think they're looking for a different market and struggling to find it. My argument is there was a big plant-buying market in London and that should have been provided for first, then add grow your own and the rest. They've tried to change it too quickly."

An RHS representative said: "We had 630 visitors, which was the number we were expecting. We were pleased with the numbers but we have looked at the model and have refunded some exhibitors. We will continue with the show and for a first show that was healthy."

Entry prices - How the main shows compare

RHS Chelsea Flower Show up to £68
RHS Malvern Spring Festival (on the gate) £38
RHS Flower Show Tatton Park (on the gate) £29.50
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show up to £35
Shrewsbury Flower Show (on the gate) £26
BBC Gardeners' World Live (in advance) £22.50
Southport Flower Show (on the gate) £22
Harrogate Flower Show (on the gate) £17

- Provisional figures for Harrogate Spring Flower Show were 58,000 - six per cent up.
- RHS Flower Show Cardiff attracted 22,000 - the same as in 2013.
- The Edible Garden Show at Alexandra Palace attracted 12,064 - there were 13,000 visitors in 2012, when it was at Stoneleigh.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next



Myrtle is a tender shrub so it is a plant for milder gardens, but with our changing climate the limits are being pushed, says Miranda Kimberley.



These robust plants can repeat flower from April to October and nice foliage adds interest, says Miranda Kimberley.

Grower sundries - Options for nurseries

Grower sundries - Options for nurseries

Environmental factors are key for growers choosing the latest pots, growing media, fertilisers and labels, writes Sally Drury.

Opinion... Why no-deal Brexit should worry you

Opinion... Why no-deal Brexit should worry you

Whether you voted leave or remain all those years ago, a "no-deal" Brexit should worry you.

I will not be importing oaks this season. Will you?

I will not be importing oaks this season. Will you?

I find myself in a difficult situation. A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be present to hear details of imminent changes to regulations concerning Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) and oak trees. I heard details, asked questions and probed the implications of these changes. That may not sound like a difficult position to be in, yet I am uneasy.

Opinion... Better targets to tackle pollution

Opinion... Better targets to tackle pollution

Lobby groups jumping onto fashionable campaigns, often to promote their own interests, can do much more harm than good. Take, for example, the move against black polythene plant pots and containers.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +


The Horticulture Week Business Awards is now open for entries

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 60 Ornamentals nurseries

See our exclusive RANKING of ornamentals nurseries by annual turnover plus the FULL REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles