The Woking Nursery Exhibition has enjoyed a long and fruitful history as the end-of-season show with a strong focus on plants. Despite having a strong regional brand, it brings in buyers from across the country who come to see some of the best of British plant production and enjoy one of the friendliest atmospheres of any show.
But this year the event faces fresh competition from the National Plant Show (NPS), which takes place next week, and it seems reasonable to ask what effect this new show might have on the Woking event, which runs just two weeks later.
"Absolutely none," says regular exhibitor and Blue Ribbon Plants owner Philip Sanders. "Those of us who do Woking do it on a regular basis because we know how constructive it is. Nobody will pull out of Woking and only go to the new Stoneleigh show - it's still one of the most valuable shows we go to.
"It's where you meet with friends - it's so friendly and relaxed. We are all excited about the HTA event (the NPS) and we hope it's a big success, but nobody is going to drop Woking because of it."
Despite losing three exhibitors to the new show - Farplants, Bransford Webbs and Coblands - numbers are only marginally down as Chapel Cottage Plants, John Turner Phormiums, Premier Plants UK and the Otter Nursery all make their debuts, while Millais Nurseries returns after a year away.
Chapel Cottage owner David Green says: "We have attempted to get in to Woking before but been unsuccessful in our application, so we are looking forward to attending because we see it as a good, well-attended show from a buyer's point of view."
The company will be showing a range of hardy perennials and offering all its one-litre pots at 99p and two-litre pots at £1.80. John Turner Phormiums will promote stock for the landscape market and show its range for potting on.
Wyevale Nurseries is a regular attendee, but this year the group's Wyevale East cash and carry will take the stand. Nursery director Richard McKenna says: "I would like to introduce another raft of customers to our products and break through into Surrey and Hampshire. There may be more landscapers than normal as a lot of buyers are going to go to the NPS, so it could be a different group of people there.
"Buyers might have a different approach to it but it all depends on how good the NPS is. They are at two different ends of the country so I think there always will be a good future for the Woking show."
Wyevale East follows in the footsteps of Hillier's Sunningdale cash and carry, which returns after a successful show debut last year.
Hillier Nurseries sales accounts manager Charlotte Hasaka says the good numbers of designers and landscapers make it a good event for cash and carry. The company leads the new plant stakes, with three new varieties to promote - Heuchera 'Plum Royale', which is a robust new form of 'Coral Bells'; Heucherella 'Sweet Tea', a striking new form of 'Foamy Bells'; and Heucherella 'Tapestry', sporting multicoloured and veined foliage.
Cornwall-based Kernock Park Plants will promote two new introductions to its range - the dwarf patio Buddleja 'Buzz' and the IPM Essen award-winning Supertunia 'Pretty Much Picasso'. The company will also introduce its 2011 catalogue at the show.
Managing director Bruce Harnett says: "This is one of our best years for new plant introductions. The new catalogue will be available in July this year, which is earlier than previous years. Hopefully this will enable growers to plan further in advance and make sure they secure stock for 2011."
The event falls in perfect time for David Austin Roses to show off its new introductions in full bloom. According to head of marketing Susan Rushton, it is one of 50 shows the company is doing worldwide this year, but it "remains one we are committed to".
In all, more than 20 new varieties will contest the new plant award, which, like the best stand award, is sponsored by Floramedia. The show represents one of the first opportunities to gauge growers' view of the season. Exhibition chairman John Hall points out that many of them have experienced a difficult year.
"A long, hard winter, followed by a dry spring and a return of unseasonably cold weather in May, plus wet bank holidays, conspired against both growers and garden retailers. However, we have to remain optimistic and I am sure that the enthusiasm of all the growers at the exhibition will be as strong as ever."
- To pre-register for the show, visit www.wokingnurseryexhibition.org.uk
THE WOKING NURSERY EXHIBITION
- When: 14 July, 9am-4.30pm
- Where: Merrist Wood Campus, Guildford College, Worplesden, near Guildford, Surrey GU3 3PE
- Visitor registration: Entry is free to all trade visitors. Pre-register via the Woking Nursery Exhibition website at www.wokingnurseryexhibition.org.uk
- Getting there: Car parking is free. Visit www.guildford.ac.uk/ContactFindUs/DirectionsMaps.aspx for road maps. Follow local signs to Merrist Wood on the major approaches
- Contact details: For general enquiries about the show, call John Hall on 01428 715505.