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Engaging three million new gardeners and being kind to our planet: key themes at the 2021 Virtual Garden Press Event

Published: 4 March 2021 - Neil Mead

One of the biggest trade events in the gardening calendar, The Garden Press Event, has taken place virtually for the first time in its 16-year history.

 

For some members of the sector, The Garden Press Event in 2020 may have been the last time they attended an event in person before the UK was locked down.

Yesterday’s digital event saw the use of online roundtables alongside a series of videos, to provide an interactive way to network and to kick off the 2021 gardening season from the comfort of people’s own homes. 

The event, run by HTA and GIMA, gave 57 exhibitors the platform to showcase their company and products while speaking directly to members of the garden media.

Around 300 journalists, bloggers, feature writers and other members of the media attended the popular event to find out about the latest trends and products for 2021.

The hashtag #GardenPressEvent proved popular on Twitter feeds and opened the floor for discussion about current themes and trends in the industry. 

Mark Pitman, General Manager at Wildlife World, commented: “From an exhibitor’s point of view, I am very happy – the event worked exactly as a virtual event should do. We had advanced notice of who was attending, so knew who we wanted to talk to, and the video chat rooms allowed us to connect with these people and other visitors throughout the day at our leisure. I would even go so far to say that we got more out of it than a physical event.”

Key themes and stories of the event:

  • Understanding more on why the nation turned to gardening during lockdown was a theme echoed across exhibitors, such as Westland. Pippa Greenwood announced that 3 million people have discovered or re-discovered gardening as a direct result of the pandemic, and the focus for the garden industry now is how to keep this new audience engaged.
  • Dalefoot promoted its latest compost ingredient, hailed ‘the organic gardener’s best friend’, which yields significant levels of natural nutrients, trace elements and minerals to nourish growing in plants. This has been nurtured over the past five years and is now blended into Dalefoot’s composts, providing some of the best peat-free growing media on the market.
  • Echoing last year’s sustainability focus, exhibitors such as Haxnicks and Dalefoot reinforced the important message of living more sustainably.
  • Participants got a sneak preview of what to expect from Floriade Expo 2022.
  • Westland used the event to showcase its new products for 2021, including The Capability Trowel and soil-based planting mediums that are set to deliver ‘green growth’ in the coming year.
  • Hayter, as part of The Toro Company, demonstrated its commitment to sustainability and developing safe and high-quality products that are designed to yield performance and productivity
  • Green4air Greenwall showcased its vertical garden system, which is suitable for domestic or commercial installations, both indoors and outdoors.
 

Entries to the New Product Awards raised around £1,700 for the children’s charity Greenfingers, who work to create gardens in children’s’ hospices across the UK. Melcourt won the prize for the second year running, this time for SylvaGrow Farmyard, their 100% peat-free soil improver. 

The transition to an online event may have been daunting for HTA and GIMA, but it proved to be a success. Lucy Hutchings, who runs the shegrowsveg Instagram account, commented: “How inspiring to see the Garden Press Event triumph in such difficult circumstances. The digital platform created for this year’s event was truly impressive, and actually resulted in a more personal and focused interaction with exhibitors. 

“The opportunity to sit down and have direct face-to-face meetings with people without any distraction was great. Well done Garden Press Event!”

George Bullivant, Director at Gardenforum, echoed this, adding: “The virtual Garden Press Event was a great success. We met as many companies as we would have done at a live show and exhibitors’ video summaries were really useful preparation for the day. I definitely think elements of the virtual show could be used to enhance the next in-person Garden Press Event in the post-Covid future.”

All content from the virtual event will be available online for the next 30 days, meaning participants can revisit any videos they may have missed on the day. 

Next year’s Garden Press Event will take place on Wednesday 9th March at the Business Design Centre in London.

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