When I said I’d be back in the New Year, I didn’t envisage returning as late as February but, after an extended break the season (and I with it) has bounced back into action with the Garden Press Event last week.
Essentially it’s a fair to which journalists and broadcasters are invited, where companies set out their wares (literally) in order to introduce themselves and their products to the media, with the hope of some decent media coverage in the coming year.
Personally I love it, but wonder if anyone actually manages to get round to every stall. I certainly didn’t, though, like last year, I arrived in time for the opening at 10.30, and finally staggered out just before it closed at 4.30, while weary stallholders were closing down and visitors had noticeably thinned out.
Vertical gardening is still in its ascendancy, with all sorts of solutions for raising plants from the ground, either by attaching them to your wall, as with Treebox, planting pockets new to Crocus, and Blooming Cones from Best4Garden, or in freestanding equipment such as Vertigro.
The environment is obviously still a major selling point, and just about every item made of plastic has at least some element of recycled plastic within it, while transportation has been reduced in a number of cases. Nether Wallop Trading have brought back their production from Lithuania, while others, such as Flower Tower, have considered manufacturing in China but decided against it on the grounds of shipping costs, as well as concerns over ever-rising prices, reliability and quality.
Strikingly, everyone whom I asked was manufacturing in Britain, and considered it a point of pride. Combine this with numerous recent articles about Chinese inflation - including this one from the Financial Times in which Merryn Somerset Webb observes, “These days, if you don’t take the price you are given on the spot, it goes up in 24 hours,” - and you have to wonder if Chinese dominance over manufacturing will continue.
Those of us in the know now arrive at the Event with something on wheels. I certainly felt foolish, wheeling an obviously empty suitcase over Vauxhall Bridge that morning, but, come evening, heavily loaded with brochures, pamphlets and the occasional sample (not as plentiful as last year) I was extremely relieved to have something to take the strain.
The highlight of the day for me, however, was spotting a free chair at lunch (you have to move fast) and finding myself next to writer and presenter Nigel Colborn, who now writes for the Daily Mail every Saturday, is every bit as charming as his blog, SilverTreeDaze, and who has been smitten by Twitter.