The IPM Essen trade show is held every January and is the largest horticultural trade fair in the world, bringing together every aspect of horticulture.
Anyone who thinks of horticulture as just a “hobby” industry should take a look at the greenhouses, compost, potting machines, seed sowing and seedling grading machinery, watering equipment, atmospheric monitors, computer controls, lighting and floor coverings. It's big business and much of it is very scientific.
Entire halls are devoted to equipment for growing, lifting and transporting trees, young plants and mature shrubs. One piece of high-quality kit can cost more than a small house. This show involves vast contracts and is an essential event in the calendar for any country that sees horticulture as an essential part of life.
The figures involved in the show are staggering. This year, around 54,000 visitors attended the show from all over the world to see 1564 exhibitors from 45 countries.
Growers and breeders of plants are constantly trying to find a new or improved plant that will take the gardening world by storm. Each year, they release their best prospects at trade shows around Europe and beyond in the hope of winning an award and to gauge the reaction from visitors.
At Essen, the new plant area was packed with new introductions that should gradually appear in our nurseries and garden centres. These included:
Bergenia ‘Schneekristall' (Snow Crystal) - a pure white-flowered form of Bergenia
Eustoma Corelli ‘Delft Blue' - (formerly called Lisianthus) and a great cut flower favourite, with purple-blue splashed petals.
Container-sized Hydrangea Tabletensia, ideal for the patio or balcony.
Kalanchoe ‘Chandler', a large-sized version of the ever-popular indoor plant with striking markings on the flowers.
Salix ‘Mount Aso', a striking new shrubby willow with pink, pussy-willow buds that open to show bright yellow pollen.
The lower floor of the exhibition is given over to floristry, including a live demonstration theatre where experts show how to create amazing displays to florists, students and interested visitors.
Hygge may have been and gone, but the soft, warm influence is still evident in the use of pastel colours, wicker, grasses and wool in the displays. Recycling is also popular, with wine bottles, old containers and even foam packaging being reused.
The array of cut flowers was superb this year, with expanded ranges of both Ranunculus and Anemone. The improved flower colour, size of bloom and stem length make these very attractive to use - and don't forget, you can grow both at home, especially if you can give them some protection from the weather.
Indoor and patio plants
Compact plants are on the increase as gardens get smaller and more people rent. The small Hydrangeas in the New Plant section are a good example of this and another is Hibiscus, where many are being bred with full-sized flowers on short plants.
Roses are always hugely popular and this year was no exception. The1rose brings a single bloom on a single short stem, ideal as a gift for a loved one and it will last longer than a cut flower. Tiny edible roses, grown in clean conditions along with salad crops, will make an interesting addition to the edible flowers range and look lovely in a glass of fizz.
Bedding plants are less evident as people move towards more permanent plantings, but the ranges of primroses and pansies were as stunning as ever. So close to the Dutch border, bulbs were represented well with a wide range of both early and summer flowering varieties on display.
This is show that leaves you buzzing with excitement at what will be making its way onto the market over the next year. Keen gardeners will love the new plants and newcomers have never had so much help to get going.