Join Us For Greenfingers Char-I-Tea

This summer Greenfingers Charity is celebrating a great English tradition by launching the Greenfingers Garden Tea Party.

We are inviting businesses, enthusiastic gardeners, garden centres, plant nurseries and all other green-fingered supporters to get together with friends, family and colleagues and host a Tea Party in aid of Greenfingers Charity.

Your Garden Tea Party can be anything from a simple cake sale, a cuppa with a slice of homemade cake to an elaborate high tea worthy of Downton Abbey.

All funds raised through the Garden Tea Parties will help Greenfingers Charity plan, design and create more magical gardens for life-limited children and families who spend time in hospices across the UK.

With special fundraising kits available to help hosts with everything from tickets to cake recipes it couldn’t be easier to get together in a beautiful garden or at work in support of Greenfingers Charity.

New app to report Asian hornet sightings

The nation’s smartphones are the latest weapon in the fight to prevent the spread of the Asian hornet, thanks to a new app which as launched yesterday.

People will be able to use the free app – called Asian Hornet Watch – to quickly and easily report possible sightings of the invasive species and send pictures of suspect insects to experts at the National Bee Unit.

While Asian hornets pose no greater risk to human health than a bee, they are a threat to our native honey bees, which is why it is important to quickly contain them.

By using the eyes and ears of smartphone users, we can more quickly identify any Asian hornet nests in the UK and eradicate them before they have the opportunity to spread.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner said:

This innovative new app is designed to be easy to use and allows people to report quickly any possible sightings of Asian hornets, which will help us to halt their spread.

This invasive species poses a threat to our native honey bees and we must do all we can to encourage vigilance – this new technology will advance this.

The interactive app, developed by the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will also make it easier for people to judge whether an insect may actually be an Asian hornet; with pictures available of other insects that it could be confused with and helpful information about their size, appearance and the times of year they are most likely to be spotted.

If there is a sighting of the Asian hornet, the government’s well established protocol for eradicating the species will kick quickly into action: This was the case in Gloucestershire last Autumn, when bee inspectors rapidly tracked down and destroyed an Asian hornet nest, containing any further outbreak.

There are fears the pest could reappear this spring, so members of the public are being urged to report any sightings quickly to again allow inspectors to intervene. Asian hornets can be distinguished from their native counterparts by their abdomens, which are entirely dark except for a single band of yellow – native hornets’ abdomens are predominantly yellow.

Martin Smith, Public Affairs Manager at the British Beekeepers’ Association, said:

This new app launched today by Defra is a welcome addition to current reporting methods that have enabled beekeepers and members of the public to report possible sightings. The key to containment is catching outbreaks as early as possible and allowing fast tracking of the insects back to their nest. We will certainly be encouraging all our 25,000 beekeepers to install the app and use it if they see what might be an Asian hornet near their hives.

Asian hornets arrived in France in 2004 and have since spread across large areas of Western Europe. It was discovered for the first time in the British Isles in Jersey and Alderney last summer.

The native European hornet is a valued and important part of our wildlife, and queens and nests of this species should not be destroyed

The ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app is available to download from the Apple and Android app stores.

GIMA Announces New Council

The Garden Industry Manufacturers’ Association’s AGM took place on 23rd March at Horticulture House, Oxfordshire with over 80 members in attendance.

During the proceedings Chris Ramsden of Hozelock was re-elected as GIMA President for another year, as was Richard Pyrah of Kelkay as Vice President. Kate Ebbens of Cadix remains in the role of Honorary Secretary and Nigel Thompson of Nigel Thompson Associates (representing Stewarts) retains the role of Honorary Treasurer.

It was agreed at the 2016 AGM that the GIMA Council would be reduced from 16 to 12 at the 2017 AGM, enabling a smaller but more accountable council of representatives to move the Association forward. The rest of the GIMA Council for 2017/18 is made up of the following:

• Matt Jackson, Briers Ltd
• David Carey, Mr. Fothergill’s Seeds Ltd
• Chris Holloway, Thompson & Morgan
• John Gomersall, Forest Garden
• Mark Butler, Town & Country
• Simon McArdle, Westland Horticulture
• Heather Culpan, Burgon & Ball
• Craig Hall, Deco Pak

During his address, GIMA President Chris Ramsden of Hozelock said: “GIMA continues to work tirelessly for its members. They are the reason we exist and we will continue to develop our membership benefits around them.’” He thanked the GIMA members for their support and encouragement and also the GIMA Council & Hozelock for their support during 2016. Chris continued: “I look forward to working with Vicky & the team towards GIMA’s goals in 2017.”

The Association also reported a strong financial position with a healthy operating profit being recorded.

GIMA membership continues to grow steadily, with a net growth of 3% being recorded in 2016 and plans to grow again in 2017.

New full members to GIMA include Aigle International, Ailsa Wood Products, Corona Tools, Coleman, Durston Garden Products, Future Thinking Retail, Onduline Building Products, Pantharella, Pots of Distinction, PondExpert, Rollins Bulldog Tools, Teleview Marketing, TopBuxus Growing Solutions, Unipet International, Urban10 Essentials, VivaGreen, Wagner Systems GmbH, Wilma’s Lawn & Garden Ltd, Fargro, Garden Pride Marketing, Ecoegg, Wilstone and Select IP. Cedar Associates has also joined GIMA as a new Associate Member.

Membership of GIMA is open to all manufacturers and suppliers of products to the garden retail sector, with a UK or European base.

For further information about GIMA and the benefits membership brings visit or contact the GIMA office on 01959 564947 or email

The botany behind the star plants at the Hillier Chelsea 2017 garden

A remarkable new tree discovered by a retired chemist, an outstanding new form of blue Corydalis and an undervalued Lilium are three of the plant highlights that will be on display at the Hillier show garden for the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Malus x purpurea ‘Crimson Cascade’

The first of these, Malus x purpurea ‘Crimson Cascade’, is new and exclusive to Hillier,  courtesy of Dr. Alan Warwick, a retired Yorkshire- based chemist.

Dr. Warwick, an enthusiastic gardener, contacted Hillier in 2014. He had been growing Malus ‘aldenhamensis’ in his garden and had, 10 years prior, grown some seedlings from its fruits. He had noticed one of these exhibited a weeping habit in clear contrast to the upright form of the parent tree. He contacted Hillier to help establish if this was a unique trait. Hillier identified this was indeed a brand-new variety of Malus, which was given the name Malus x purpurea ‘Crimson Cascade’. Hillier began to propagate using the grafting technique. This has resulted in the commercial production of the new ‘Crimson Cascade’ in time for its launch at Chelsea 2017.

‘Crimson Cascade’ is a handsome small tree that can reach a height of 4.5 metres. It has a gracefully arching weeping habit that gives rise to a purplish foliage in spring that is accompanied by vibrant crimson single or semi-double flowers. In later summer to autumn, the foliage turns bronze-green and is accompanied by attractive reddish-purple fruits.

Discussing the new Malus, Dr. Warwick commented: “My nature as a scientist is very inquisitive, but this discovery was a complete accident. To think, hundreds of Malus are produced every year and this one turned out to be different. I am absolutely delighted to see it unveiled at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’m 87 and love to think I’m leaving something for posterity.”

Corydalis ‘Porcelain Blue’

As well as M. ‘Crimson Cascade’, Hillier will also launch an eye-catching new perennial at Chelsea; Corydalis ‘Porcelain Blue’. Hillier have been collecting and testing a large range of Corydalis species since 2005 to determine their garden worthiness, growing them in close proximity. Corydalis are loved by pollinators, so it was only a matter of time before natural hybridisation occurred.

One particular new variety, Corydalis ‘Porcelain Blue’ stood out the most to Hillier, with its beautiful blue flowers and sweet honey-like scent. Following 10 years of observation by the Hillier Research and Development team, it has been found that ‘Porcelain Blue’ produces flowers for the majority of the year, typically only falling dormant in late winter, exceeding all expectations for the new variety.

Corydalis ‘Porcelain Blue’ is a surprisingly robust garden plant, despite its fragile appearance. It thrives in a number of situations, from sun to partial shade, and sits perfectly in beds and borders. It has attractive, soft bluey-green foliage and bears flowering stems of a delicate light-to-mid blue.

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

Another plant highlight that Hillier will be featuring in its Chelsea garden, designed by the most-decorated garden designer in the history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Sarah Eberle, is Lilium formosanum var. pricei. This Lilium species is rarely available for sale, probably due to being tricky to commercially produce. It is, however, a great performer in gardens and one Hillier believes should enjoy greater popularity.

L. formosanum var. pricei is a more compact and hardier form than straight L. formosanum. It has large trumpet-shaped flowers of around 8 to 15cm in length and can grow to a height of 45cm. This small Lilium looks stunning in ornamental containers or in raised beds, and its striking appearance and delightful fragrance is set to be a showstopper at the Chelsea Flower Show in May.

For more information please visit or @HillierGarden. To join the conversation search on Twitter using #HillierChelsea17

Sarah Raven seed sales reflect 2017’s big fashion trend

‘Easy Elegance’ is the buzz term being used by fashionistas and interior designers for the 2017 spring season in a push for simplicity, function and individuality on the high street. But it seems UK gardeners are ahead of the trend when it comes to cut flower and wildlife gardening, with a host of elegant and easy annuals remaining at the top of the sales chart in both the Sarah Raven Cut Flower Collection and Wildlife Attracting Collection.

Both ranges were launched in 2012 in partnership with Johnsons Seeds, following resurging interest in cut flower growing and gardening for wildlife. The collections each carry 47 choice varieties, but eight easy hardy annuals have dominated cut flower sales and another six remain the best sellers for wildlife gardening. All are strong garden performers that can be direct sown where they are to flower, each bringing high rewards with minimal maintenance.

Since the ranges were launched, Ammi majus has been the best-selling variety (net sales) in the Cut Flower Collection, while Eschscholzia ‘Orange King’ has occupied either 1st or 2nd position (net sales) in the Wildlife Attracting Collection.

Helen Clayton, Johnsons Brand Manager said: “The popular cut flower varieties in the collection are not often seen in florist shops – while they each make elegant vase specimens they don’t transport well from field to store to home. Gardeners can quickly and easily transfer them from the garden to a vase for simple chic bouquets that you won’t find on the high street.
“The top sellers in our Wildlife Attracting Collection go to show that your garden doesn’t need to look wild to support wildlife. California poppies are some of the prettiest and elegant annuals you can grow, yet they also support a wide range of garden pollinators.”

Varieties in both ranges can be direct sown through March and April for stunning garden displays this summer. View them here:
Sarah Raven’s Cut Flower Collection
Sarah Raven’s Wildlife Attracting Collection


Kingfisher plc has launched its first international, multi-platform marketing campaign, ‘Start Something New’, to support the home improvement company’s new range of Unique outdoor products.  Based on extensive customer research which included visits to hundreds of customers’ homes, the exclusive products have been designed and created by Kingfisher’s in-house teams to reflect the realities of their customers’ lives.

With heavyweight media support, the campaign is rooted in Kingfisher’s belief that the home is at the heart of people’s lives, with huge emotional significance.

View the video here

On air today, the TV advert is a personal story linking new life stages and the promise of new memories to come, with the new product range. Directed by British actor and director Dexter Fletcher (director of the 2016 hit film, ‘Eddie the Eagle’) the advert shows how the new range of products can create a positive change in customer’s lives thanks to unique designs and accessible pricing.

This new range marks an important step in Kingfisher’s strategy to make home improvement accessible for everyone and is the first time the business has launched a multi-country advertising campaign. The marketing activity is focused on supporting four new outdoor product ranges:

  • INDUS ‘Little House’, the first metal shed of its kind
  • Mix-and-match NEVA modular fencing system
  • DENIA garden furniture set, with folding and extending solutions
  • New VERVE watering system

Kingfisher’s Chief Customer Officer, Pierre Woreczek, commented: “We are a business that puts the customer at the heart of what we do. Our new outdoor ranges were developed from deep customer insights, based on supporting our customers in the reality of their lives. The team at Leo Burnett London has done a fantastic job at capturing the genuine emotional connection between our products and our customers’ lives through the Start Something New campaign.”

Commenting on the creative, Chaka Sobhani, Chief Creative Officer for Leo Burnett London, said: “We’re really proud to be part of the start of this journey with Kingfisher, a brand who believe great design should be affordable and available to all. Our stories hopefully mirror how great design really can have an impact, small or big, on our everyday lives.”

The ad will air in the UK from 23rd March to 5th April, and all products are currently available at B&Q. As well as the UK, the ad will also be shown in France and Romania.

Student wins SWGS Sponsored Scholarship in DCF Scholarship Season

Student, George Laws, has won a David Colegrave Foundation (DCF) Sponsored Scholarship.

George, who is studying Horticulture BSc at Writtle College in Chelmsford, Essex, received the £1,500 South West Growers Show Sponsored Scholarship.

George is interested in production horticulture, particularly regarding sustainability and plans to pursue further education in this area, with hopes to eventually head a department of resource efficiency.

George says, “I am astounded by the generosity of the South West Growers Show and the David Colegrave Foundation. A very sincere thank you, not just for helping me but for enhancing all horticulture students. From giving employers the confidence to hire us to supplying us with the backing needed.”

The SWGS Sponsored Scholarship supports students with a passion for commercial and production horticulture. The SWGS is the South West’s leading trade show for commercial horticulture.

SWGS says, “Congratulations to George, we look forward to his updates. We would also like to wish all of the candidates who applied every success in their future endeavours.”

As part of the DCF Scholarship Season several scholarships were available; the winners of the Student Scholarships are to be announced soon.

The next Scholarship Season runs from Sep 2017 to Jan 2018.

More information on scholarships visit

Stewart Garden’s Varese Low Bowl Planter offers nature’s personal touch

When it comes to enjoying elegant and stylised plant life at home, Stewart Garden’s latest Low Bowl Planter enjoys taking its place as a natural centre piece. It’s a feature packed with possibility.

And that’s because you’ll find lots of people looking for new ways this year to show off those stunning little succulent, agave and alpine plants.

At £31.99 (RRP), the 60cm Low Bowl Planter forms the newest addition to Stewart Gardens’ Varese range. It’s ideal for those who love to create character through textures, colour and simplicity.

The Varese pots and bowls are made of high-grade plastic. They’re lightweight, frost-proof and durable. But the Low Bowl Planter’s most valuable design feature, is its adaptability.

Low bowls are one of this year’s biggest horticultural trends. In its Alpine Grey and Dark Brown colours, the Varese Low Bowl Planter is a true patio-pleaser; its textured pattern creates an authentic, natural appearance usually reserved for real stone or pottery.

Then it’s all about what you plant. Alan Slack, Marketing Manager at Stewart Gardening, sees the latest Varese product as a home for intricate, yet impactful plants.

“If you’re thinking about using the Low Bowl Planter indoors,” says Alan, “with temperatures between 15 and 25c, then African violets (Saintpaulia), in several colours, could look outstanding.

“And you may consider planting something like the White Willd Orchid (Phalaennopsis).  It looks like it has just been taken from nature. I think you could show off its wild shoots and unevenly-shaped small flowers for a truly back-to-nature feel in this sophisticated feature.”

What the Low Bowl Planter wants you to do is symbolise — in a miniature way — all the drama and vitality of immersive environments, like a tropical forest or alpine mountainside. You can create the ideal conditions to do that, both indoors and out. It’s easy to move, and the drainage holes make watering simple.

Adding a big character to your conservatory, decking or garden this year has become popular with the growth of humble, yet attractive, low-level planting. The Varese range is perfect for bridging nature’s ever-changing tones with the consistent quality of design and architecture.

Stewart Garden loves gardens. It’s a leading grow-your-own and contemporary garden lifestyle brand, the market leader in premium plastic flower planters, including self-watering plant containers, and the voice of authority in premium consumer propagation.

Stewart Garden is a proud UK manufacturer. Its products are available in over 1,600 outlets across the country, including DIY retailers such as B&Q, Homebase and Wilkinsons. They’re also widely stocked at garden centres such as Dobbies, Notcutts and Wyevale and in over 1,000 independent garden centres.

For more information, visit

Hillier Raises More Than £10,000 for Rainbow Trust

Hillier Garden Centres and Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity rounded off two years of partnership together with the presentation of a cheque for more than £10,000 at Hillier Garden Centre Horsham.

Rainbow Trust was the charity partner of Hillier Garden Centres throughout 2015-16. Funds were raised through collection boxes at the till points of all 12 Hillier Garden Centres and other activities, such as a special charity Christmas sandwich in restaurants with a donation going to the charity.

Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity provides invaluable emotional and practical support for families nationwide who have a seriously ill child. Support is offered 24/7 regardless of diagnosis and for as long as it is needed.

Presenting the cheque, Hillier Chairman Robert Hillier, OBE VMH, said: “We are very pleased to have been able to raise funds to support the Rainbow Trust over the last two year. Hillier and our customers recognise the importance of the work they do to support seriously ill children and their families when then need it most.”

Robert Hillier, Chairman of Hillier Nurseries and Chris Francis, Director of Hillier Garden Centres and Wholesale, together with Sophie Collins, Partnerships Manager at Rainbow Trust

Augmented reality brings T&M catalogues to life

Always striving to provide gardeners with the very best customer experience, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer its customers a new interactive element to its catalogues.  Working in conjunction with Layar, a global leader in augmented reality and interactive print, T&M’s products are coming alive in the pages of its plant catalogues this spring.

Easy to use and extremely user-friendly, Layar is the world’s most popular platform for augmented reality.  The company aims to ‘bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds’ – meaning that their technology can make printed images ‘come alive’ on the screens of our smart phones and tablets.

Since launching the Layar facility in January of this year, Thompson & Morgan has noticed that an increasing number of its customers are using Layar to view pages in its spring catalogues and are enjoying the new interactive digital experience.

Once customers have downloaded the Layar app onto their smart phone or tablet, they can scan the pages in the T&M catalogue which display the Layar logo.  The scanned page then comes to life! Users can tap their device’s screen to view ‘how to’ videos and photo galleries; to buy products; to contact Thompson & Morgan and to share content on social media.

If it all sounds a bit sci-fi and techy and like something from a film starring Tom Cruise, then go to for more information and tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic technology.

Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager, Clare Dixey said ‘We’re really excited to be offering an augmented reality experience to our customers.  T&M is keen to stay abreast of developments in technology which can provide our customers with an enhanced experience.  We’re aware that not all of our customers will use the facility, but we’re noticing a good number of customers are enjoying the added content and ease of browsing and ordering’.