More on the Four Oaks Horticultural trade show in Great Britain
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

September 18, 2016

One shot of a new plant being introduced at Four Oaks which I did not show last week is Sedum ‘Oriental Dancer’. Photo by Rijnbeek and Son.





Last week I wrote about some of the many exhibitors at the Four Oaks Trade Show. This week, a continuation of that topic, but specifically on the topic of Christmas trees, and a little bit on turf.

Pat Coutts, the director of the show, said there are more hardy nursery stock exhibitors booked this year, including several new Christmas tree growers. Many growers and wholesalers have put off setting wholesale prices because of Brexit-related uncertainty.

There will be a record 31 Christmas tree growers at the show this year, beating last year's record of 28. Six are first-timers.

Danish Christmas tree supplier Kortegaard is keeping wholesale prices at 2015 levels despite Brexit-induced changes to the exchange rate. Kortegaard supplies Danish, Scottish and other EU-sourced trees to UK garden centres.

Many Christmas tree suppliers did not set prices ahead of the Brexit vote in June and are wait-ing for currency levels to stabilise before setting them for this season. But Kortegaard director Kasper Graven says: "We have already set our prices for 2016 and we are maintaining those prices regardless of the current situation. The price level is the same as in 2015. We believe things will stabilise once the new Government will get a chance to get to work. The situation is of course concerning, but we have decided not to panic and carry on as usual."

In 2015, a glut of continental trees hit the UK as plantations matured. "We see the markets in Denmark and Scotland being very similar to last year," adds Kasper Graven. "There are quite a lot of trees grown. However, it has become increasingly difficult to produce good-quality trees, which has resulted in too many lower-quality trees with lower prices and not enough higher-quality trees that have maintained a steady price level.

"This goes for Denmark as well as Scotland and other countries in which Christmas tree production is significant. Danish trees are still among the best and without supply from Denmark we would probably not be able to source enough high-quality trees to satisfy our UK customers. We believe quality sells in garden centres and higher focus on quality rather than price is a better investment in the long run."

Fillingham Christmas Trees will be among the UK contingent at Four Oaks. The Lincolnshire grower has been supplying garden centres, parish councils, farm shops, retail outlets, holiday parks and leading hotel and pub chains for 30 years. It grows Nordman fir, Norway spruce, Blue Spruce, Omorika, pot Fraser fir, wooden blocked trees and reamed trees for wall brackets.

Meanwhile, Pictorial Meadows will exhibit the new PM Turf, which gives customers the benefits of the Pictorial Meadows perennial seed mixtures in a product that is quicker to establish. PM Turf consists of 100 per cent meadow plantlets (no grass) growing in a "special substrate". The product is designed to attract pollinators and other wildlife at sites that "need a high-impact but sustainable meadow". It is aimed at architects, local authorities, visitor attractions and landscape contractors.

The last decade has brought a steady growth to the nursery sector, specifically specimen plants and mature stock from across Europe. Massive displays of plant material form the heart of the show, with associated supplies and services from production to point-of-sale. Over 40% of participating companies will be from overseas.

The site currently offers 42,000 acres (17,000 m²) of covered exhibition space all on concrete floors. Operating on our own site, we are able to offer exhibitors a level of flexibility and service that cannot be matched else-where. Unrestricted access during the week prior to the show, with free handling and free secure storage before and after the show, relieves the pressure of the September show circuit. On show days, beverages and packed lunches are served to the exhibitors and are free of charge. The first day will close with an exhibitors’ Supper, also free of charge. It is all part of a service that makes this show unique.

The visitor profile includes commercial growers / grower retailers, garden centres, multiple retailers, farm shops, landscapers & architects, garden designers, local authorities and florists.

Bigger plants are in demand as housebuilding leads to swelling order books at nurseries that can deliver quality large plants.

But the show is not just for growers of large trees. Awards are made in over two dozen categories. For example, this year in the Specialist Ornamental Growers category the winner was M&R Morton for cut sweet peas.

Matthew and Rosebie Morton of M&R Morton have been growing for the cut-flower industry for 20 years. While the initial focus was on scented garden roses, the business expanded its range to include another classic flower, the sweet pea.

Now producing one-million stems each year under 1¾ acres (0.7ha) of glass on the edge of Chichester (just west of the seaside town of Brighton), the business has become the largest grower of sweet peas in the UK. The crop is notoriously challenging to grow, requiring constant attention. The slightest change in the weather can cause over-production of poor-quality flowers or failure to produce flowers at all.

However, despite all these challenges, the business produces exhibition-standard flowers (five-to-seven flowers per stem) with exceptionally long stems and a wide range of colours.

The nursery maintains its own stocks of home-grown seed, bred from parent lines over many years. These are reselected every year to improve their quality, scent, colour and appearance.

Two crops are grown per year, a good proportion of which are sold to a large multiple retailer, accredited under the Leaf marque scheme. The business also has a very strong trade through Covent Garden and florists across the UK.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row