What's New for Your Garden This Year?

What's new for your garden in 2011? There's plenty that's what, as seen at my first ever garden press event at the RHS Halls in London last Thursday. This is one of the key events the Garden Media Guild organises and is the first opportunity of the year for all kinds of companies offering gardening and sundry products to show off what's new.

It's also the place for a good chinwag* and to spot a few gardening celebrities like Charlie Dimmock, Helen Yemm**, Peter Seabrook and Pippa Greenwood. Alan Titchmarsh was also present, but only in the form of a cardboard cutout on the Plant Heritage stand. However, he was very much the subject of the day's gossip as his move to ITV to present a new gardening programme had just been announced.

I was able to catch up with a couple of VP's VIPs [yet to be published - Ed] in the shape of HabitatAid's Nick Mann - who was launching his rather splendid Meadow Anywhere product on the Hillier's stand - and The Fat Gardener who was his usual shy and retiring self ;) I met up with fellow 2011 Malvern Meeters Philippa Pearson, Catherine Horwood and Nigel Colborn, plus it's always good to bump into Martyn Cox and The Constant Gardener :)

A lot of the gardening press have predicted the demise of GYO*** this year. However, I've seen no evidence of that locally (our allotment waiting list still grows apace) or from what I've seen elsewhere. Many of the exhibitors are in agreement with me (particularly Gardman): the continued economic downturn is still converting into a strong public interest in all things GYO.

Within the GYO arena I saw two clear trends for this year: 'nostalgia' and vertical gardening. As you know I've been reading a number of books on the WWII Dig for Victory campaign which is echoed by Kings Seeds joint venture with The Mirror to reintroduce Mr Digwell to us. A welcome modern development with this campaign is the introduction of a detachable recipe plus nutritional information on the seed packet.

Thompson and Morgan are introducing a heritage vegetable seed collection: these are some of the varieties dropped from their catalogue when the new EU registration rules came in which have been reinstated now these have been relaxed. I need to investigate further what is meant by the term heritage seed - does a variety from the 1970s count for instance?

There were at least 4 different vertical growing systems on display from a couple of very functional plastic versions through to a more stylish looking wall hanging from Burgon and Ball, a most robust stand alone offering from Vertigro and a whizzy wall or stand alone version from Treebox. I've yet to be convinced that a solution on how best to keep these watered has been developed yet, but the latter offering was the best thought out I've seen so far. You'd need quite a few of any of them to get a decent crop, so I expect their main use will be for growing herbs, salads, tomatoes or strawberries, even though the top of one of the systems was sporting some broad beans.

Back down to earth there were all kind of gizmos available for watering (including hydroponics); pop up cloches and even a pop up greenhouse; screening for unsightly growbags or for edging borders; and creating all kinds of shapes and sizes of raised bed using nothing more than much taller plastic lawn edging. Collapsible bucket anyone? This is where I fail as a reporter because I haven't made a note of the companies involved. Just rest assured a large selection of what's on offer will probably be hitting a magazine or supplier near you very soon ;)

Not to mention a bewildering array of tools to help you get the job done: I was amazed to find Fiskars were demonstrating their 'new' Weed Puller as I've already got one at home (you'll see mine on the right's labelled Wilkinson Sword which was consumed by the Fiskars group a few years back). It turns out there was a 'limited product launch' around 10 years ago which is when I got mine (limited might mean it was a Wilkinson Sword product originally which Fiskars are now seeking to revive?). Expect to see this gadget being heavily promoted on a TV screen near you soon.

I was really pleased with my goody bag from Vitax as it contained a nifty 'spout' to convert a plastic drinks bottle into a wasp trap. This will come in handy if I have the same kind of wasp woes as I did last year. I'm also making use of their sticky fly traps right now as we've been invaded by compost flies in the kitchen.

Back at Thompson and Morgan's, I had an interesting chat about their new Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. Some of you know about my scepticism about the need to introduce 'unnatural' colours not normally seen in a particular plant, but apparently there's been a lot of interest from both the garden press and plant sellers on this one. It's mainly due to the plant being truly blue (a very rare colour in the plant world apparently) and similar in hue to a Meconopsis. It's the product of Thompson and Morgan's own breeding programme and I was told it's the result of the breeder's attempts to create a red flowered plant!

Talk of Chelsea was very much in the air. Hillier's theme for this year is Feel Good About Gardening (and they confirmed they will be blogging in the run up to Chelsea), Crocus are busy growing the plants for three of the major show gardens (though I spent more time casting envious eyes at their lovely rhubarb forcers and old fashioned cloches) and Bulldog Tools will have a nostalgia exhibit based around the local blacksmith forging his own gardening tools for a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Further reports of the day can be found on The Garden Network, Garden Forum, The Fat Gardener and The Constant Gardener.

* = so much chinwagging ensued that I didn't get round all of the 70 odd stands!
** = who is coming to talk at Bath University Gardening Club in April :)
*** = Grow Your Own


  1. VP, Thanks for this review of your visit. I'm surprised to learn that the garden press are predicting the end of GYO -- on this side of the ocean it's still a growing (forgive me) trend.

    Ah, Wilkinson Sword. I have a swoe so branded. I don't know if you're familiar with a swoe, but it looks sort of like a 5-foot-long shepherd's crook, if the shepherd had a switchblade rather than a hook at the end. It's great for weeding. If you can imagine, I brought this implement -- purchased at my one Chelsea visit -- home to Canada in the cabin of the plane. I'd never be able to do that today.

  2. Here in the States GYO is still going strong. I am personally enlarging my veggie patch by growing more in containers and throughout the rest of the garden...like peas and beans up along the picket fence instead of in raised beds...of course more areas to patrol for rabbits...

  3. Oh, never mind collapsible buckets, I'd like an expandable garden, please.

    Without the allotment I'd sort of like to grow things tall-wards but one thing casts shade on another and one is soon back to where one started.

    I'm not sure I need to catch wasps - I'd rather they went away but . . . I saw on a blog . . . whose? can't think . . . a spork (a spork, is that right?) - a cross between a spade and a fork. It looked like the kind of thing the devil would use if he (he?) were to take up gardening. Did they have any of them?


  4. Great write up! I can't see GYO dying out just yet either. As far as I can tell it's still going strong even in the inner city where I garden.

    I immediately want several of those lovely cloches. Using big plastic bottles just isn't the same.

  5. Helen - swoes are still very much available on this side of the pond!

    Donna - welcome. Peas and beans up the fence - that gives me an idea...

    Esther - they had an 'expandable' garden - on a roll. The Constant Gardener has more on this topic. Ithink I know what you mean re the spade/fork thingy, but a spork I believe is that spoon/fork dining combo.

    Tom - hello! Sadly I'll have to stick to plastic bottles on my allotment too :( I saw the real thing in action at West Dean Gardens at the weekend. Well worth a visit if you haven't been already. I'm in love with the place.

  6. I cannot see the demise of GYO at all. Apart from the length of allotments waiting lists (also very long in Oxford), with the ongoing cuts and job losses, I think it's going to become even more popular, maybe even necesary...

    I find it funny that vertical growing is now trendy - permaculturists have been doing this for years!

    As usual, great report VP.

  7. The spork thing was me - not the camping accessory, but as described, a cross between a spade and a fork, and I love it, best tool I ever bought. (<a href="http://www.sporkgardentools.com/>Sprok website</a>). Not sure what is happening with GYO, our allotments have a waiting list but 8 people gave up plots at the end of last year - there are only 27 in total - and many of the remaining plots are very neglected.

  8. Whoops, sorry, that should have been Spork website). That's what happens when hurriedly trying to catch up with about a week's worth of blog posts...

  9. Gwenfar - hello! Permaculturalists have a very different approach and would probably not think that much of some of the offerings on display. But then I'm sure the companies were trying to appeal to a completely different market sector!

    Janet - thanks for clearing that up and providing the link :) Lots of people gave up on our site too (ours are roughly the same), but with over a 100 people on the waiting list, the vacant sites ahve been snapped up. Our allotment committee are very vigilant on neglected plots these days as a result of the ever lengthening waiting list.

  10. The 'cardboard cutout' of Alan Titchmarsh was quite disconcertingly realistic! Jo and I, manning the Plant Heritage charity stand, felt our President was with us in more than spirit!

    For those of you feeling nostalgic about flowers as well as veggies, don't forget to have a look at our website www.plantheritage.com for details of where you can visit magical collections of almost forgotten cultivars and the spoils of centuries of plant hunters. And if you feel tempted, there are lots of our plant sales round the country which raise valuable funds for our charity, where you can buy these rare treasures for your own garden and talk to the experts. Nicola

  11. Good to meet you Nicola! AT's cutout in our local B&Q is a bit disconcerting too as it feels like his eyes are following you around the store!

    Have linked to Plant Heritage directly from the blog already, so I hope that brings some people your way...

  12. A very belated thanks for the mention - those Meadow Anywhere seed packets have been a huge success and have so far raised £8,000 for Butterfly Conservation and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Hurray!

  13. Nick - you're welcome and what a fantastic achievement! Good to see you at Chelsea last week :)


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