Trade shows this year are moving back to the growers, with the South West Growers Show being run by local nurseries, the British Plant Fair morphing into the National Plant Fair, and the Southern Growers Exhibition — which will take place on 11 November — moving from Sandown Park Racecourse in Surrey to Roundstone Nurseries in West Sussex.
Paul Roman, representative of Monro South, the organiser of the Southern Growers Exhibition, says that with 118 exhibitors the show has 40 more stands than last year.
He adds: "Putting my hand on my heart, numbers are up because we have moved to Roundstone; at the end of the day, that is why we moved. We hope for a better show — we have put a lot more in this year."
Monro managing director Graeme Jennings says: "Sandown Park was a good facility and a welcoming host, but for many visitors the location was a drawback. This year we have teamed up with one of the largest and most modern growers in the UK to bring you a bigger, and hopefully better than ever, exhibition.
"In the past, we have sometimes played down the significance of the Southern Growers Exhibition, and some might even see it as a bit of an 'end of season' day out. But we all know that this show, based in the heartland of over 80 per cent of the commercial horticultural growers in the UK, should really be the daddy of them all. So we welcome a substantially increased number of exhibitors to the show and hope it yields a real benefit to each and every one."
Hill Brothers and Humber VHB are providing car parking for the exhibition, while Syngenta is sponsoring show transport.
Neil Alcock, manager of Caernarfon-based Seiont Nurseries, says: "The show seemed to be getting smaller in previous years, but the fact that a much larger number of nurseries are exhibiting should encourage a lot more interest this time. Lots of growers have rejoined and I'm hoping that this year will be the busiest yet. Relocating to Roundstone Nurseries was a good move as it's a more fitting venue than Sandown and more convenient for many."
Seiont will be showing a variety of new products, including Ophiopogon 'Black Beard', a more vigorous and quicker-growing variety bred in Cornwall at Rainbows End Nursery, and Cordyline 'Pink Passion', which won the Best New Plant accolade at this year's Four Oaks Trade Show.
Hollyacre Plants owner Simon Davenport says: "It will be interesting to see the reaction [to the move to Roundstone]. I hope that curiosity about the new venue will create interest in the show. The facilities at Sandown were good, but this year's venue is better situated — although what the growing public will think of it remains to be seen."
He is keen to stress the event's potential and significance. "As London and the South East represent a large share of the market, this is an important regional event," he says.
Melcourt sales and marketing director Andy Chalmers is similarly optimistic. He says: "We've been exhibiting at the Southern Growers Exhibition since it started and it has always been a good local show for us."
Phil Sanders, owner of Blue Ribbon Plants of Chichester, West Sussex, says: "This one will be very much an experiment. Last year's show at Sandown was disappointing and I wonder whether the move to Roundstone will have a revitalising effect."
Sanders says Blue Ribbon has derived the most benefit from two other trade shows: the South West Growers Show and Four Oaks. He adds: "The South East is a strong market for us with a potential for a great deal of local custom, which is always wonderful. It will be good if we can capitalise on the fact that this year's Southern Growers Exhibition is right on our doorstep." Delamore commercial director James Molden agrees with the consensus that the Roundstone site is a good choice and, he adds, "a popular one". He says: "This year's Southern Growers Exhibition should be good, as long as we get the footfall.
"Smaller shows are often a balancing act of outlay versus benefit because attendance is variable, as is the amount of business they generate. We have a lot of good customers in the region and maintaining a presence at the show and supporting it is necessary, but it has to be done as cost-effectively as possible."
Delamore has exhibited at Four Oaks, EastGro, the GAN Trade Show and the South West Growers Show this year, as well as holding four open days over the summer. It is introducing more than 100 varieties this year, such as Begonia 'Firewings', a range of new colours of the Geranium 'Gerainbow', and a compact vegetable range.
Owner of West Sussex-based Jackdaws' Field Nursery, Nick Reese, says he had stopped exhibiting at the Southern Growers show when it was based at Sandown because of the difficulty for visitors to reach the site, but decided to try again after Monro relocated it to Roundstone.
He adds: "It looks to be a good local show that will hopefully produce good attendance from local buyers. For us, a presence at such shows is much easier to arrange than something further away which uses up a lot of resources and is far more expensive and time-consuming. With this year's Southern Growers Exhibition, we can set up in a matter of hours and travelling time is minimal."
Jackdaws' Field Nursery is showing a new range of South African Restio. Reese adds: "There seems to be a reasonable air of optimism in the trade this year, largely due to the good weather, and people are not keeping their hands as deeply in their pockets as they were at this time in 2008."
Worcestershire-based Botany Bay Nurseries plant centre manager Jamie Ratcliffe says: "Sandown had definitely had its day. The new venue is going to be good, and the fact that it is outside London should attract lots of growers."
He adds: "The Southern Growers Exhibition is certainly happening at the right time. Business is buoyant at the moment and we hope that we'll get lots of orders, attract many new customers and kick off for a good 2010."
This year, Botany Bay Nurseries will introduce Geranium 'First Yellow', the first true yellow Geranium, which Ratcliffe describes as "quite a sensation in Geranium breeding". It will also show the Corona Rose Rim and Salmon Rim petunias, which Ratcliffe describes as having been "very well received".
Cornwall-based Kernock Park Plants business development manager Mark Taylor says: "The Southern Growers Exhibition is an example of how regional shows are becoming increasingly important, perhaps as much as the larger events, especially in the current economic climate.
"It provides an opportunity for growers to engage with customers face to face. Horticulture has bucked the trend when it comes to the economic downturn and it's been a good year for trade shows. They've all accomplished what distributors wanted them to, which is to get them in front of the buyers."
Kernock Park Plants will be showing 101 new varieties that have been added to its catalogue this year, 13 of which are Heuchera varieties.
Date and time 11 November, 9.30am to 4pm.
Address Roundstone Nurseries, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 1LL
By road From the A27, leave at the Hunston/Selsey roundabout and join the B2145. At the next roundabout take the first exit, towards North Mundham. At the mini roundabout, take the second exit towards Lagness and Pagham, follow this road until you see signs for the customer car park on the left. A map is available on the website — see www.southerngrowers.net and click on "How to find us".
Car park information On the day of the exhibition all visitors can park in a designated car park clearly marked by AA signs. There will be complimentary shuttle buses running to Roundstone Nurseries.
By train Chichester station is about four miles (6.4km) from the show.
Taxis Central Taxis 01243 789432, Starline 01243 531666, Dunnaways 01243 782403
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