Plants, seeds and bulbs are the bread and butter of any garden retail offering. Appealing to consumers across all demographics, they are the lifeblood of any domestic garden, whether it be vegetables, herbs, shrubs or flowers. We are changing not only what we garden, but how we garden. Here leading industry exhibition, Glee (10th - 12th September, NEC Birmingham), explores the latest plant trends.
The garden industry is currently worth an estimated £5 billion with £1,424 billion of that being made up of garden plant sales. Broken down by category, £606 million comes from bedding plants, £354 million from the sales of seeds and bulbs and £464 million made up of other garden plants and trees*. This sector continues to grow year-on-year with bedding plants sales up by 3%, seeds and bulbs seeing an increase of 4%, whilst hardy plants sales rose by 9% in 2017.
Plants are a key staple in the UK garden with 79% all garden owners having flowers and plants in their outdoor space. With the average garden size in the UK being 15m² for those over 45 years of age and 12m² aged under 45, it is clear that plant sales are here to stay as consumers look to keep their gardens blooming and colourful.
So, what can retailers expect from the plant trends set to dominate 2018?
The use of on trend colours are a useful tool when looking to inspire customers and new gardeners. With many taking inspiration from interiors and transferring the look to their outdoor space, plants that are on trend can be as relevant as ever to a growing audience. This year, Pantone have announced their Colour of the Year - Ultra Violet. With a striking palette of enigmatic purples, it's bound to a big trend in planting in 2018.
With its colours being easily found in plants, embracing Pantone's Ultra Violet has never been as simple for garden retailers. As well as ensuring there's plenty of shrubs and green foliage to be sold to the customer, everything from purple-flowering herbs and flowers such as Lavender and Rosemary, to Clematis, Petunias (Night Sky a particular favourite), Heucheras and Acers.
With younger gardeners lacking the basic horticultural knowledge of older generations, gardening to them is perceived to be complicated and worrying with too much maintenance and responsibility for their busy lives. According to recent research by Wyevale Garden Centres, 31% of British gardeners admit to feeling guilty when their plants die. This has seen a rise in pre-planted containers amongst the younger generation and families, who both want a low maintenance instant look without any hassle. And as container gardening is temporary, the mood or look of a garden can be changed with the colours of your containers and plants or moved onto the next property that is lived in.
The same Wyevale study showed that sales of grown-to-maturity plants went up 25% over the last three years, with pre-planted containers and baskets seeing sales increase by 14% year-on-year as customers opt for instant gratification solutions for their gardens.
Health and Wellbeing
Thanks to a number of studies, the health benefits of plants are well documented. There is now an increasing awareness of the ways that plants can improve mental wellbeing and physical health. According to NASA's Clean Air Study, plants improve air quality by removing toxins such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde from the air. They've also been found to boost concentration levels, improve moods and reduce feelings of anger and anxiety. In fact, Google searches for 'air purifying plants' and 'aloe vera' were up by 550% year-on-year in 2017.
Plants such as dracaenas, sansevieria, palms, spider plants, ivy, orchids, weeping figs, anthurium, peace lilies are all renowned and well publicised for their air purifying properties and have seen an increase in sales since such research has been published. The consumer awareness of this physical and wellbeing trend has brought with it an interest in houseplants into homes and the creation of interiors that mimic a green, calming oasis - see below.
Bringing the outside in, has become fashionable again, as shown by the resurgence of houseplants sales - up 14.27% year-on-year according to latest Garden Centre Association data**. This sudden growth has been spurred on by social media users - in particular on Instagram - plus popular health and wellbeing trends, and by millennials who have very little or no outdoor space. Boxed in and denied the usual markets of adulthood such as the property ladder, children and pets, houseplants have become popular thanks to their ease of care, being able to be moved from flat to flat and their ability to add colour to interiors cheaply and easily. 60% of people say they use Instagram to discover new products such as plants and there are approximately 16 million garden photos on Instagram. Monstera, pothos, fiddle-leaf, swiss cheese plants and succulents all enjoy popularity among millennial indoor gardeners; they are pretty, 'Instagrammable' and, in many cases, hard to kill.
The squeeze on space for the millennial generation has also seen an uplift in vertical planting and climbers. Those that have little outside space like a balcony or small yard are turning to planting upwards. Those that find that they are lacking in square footage on the ground are instead decorating their walls in climbers and hanging plants. Pre-planted pots of vertical climbers such Honeysuckle, Trachelopsermum, Clematis, Passiflora, Jasmine have been popular and can be trained on existing fences or wall mounted trellises. Pre-planted hanging baskets and bowls planted with seasonal spiller plants such as ivy, fuchsias or lobelia can immediately brighten up a utilitarian outside wall with little effort.
With consumers becoming more environmentally conscious and aware of the chemicals and pesticides used in producing our food, Grow-Your-Own has become a popular organic alternative. Younger gardeners are the most ethically aware and are turning to allotments and community gardens to grow their own food from "field to fork." 43% of gardeners under 40 now grow their own vegetables compared to 32% of over 60s as they find it rewarding and self-gratifying. The rise of young celebrity gardeners on social media such as James Wong and Mr Plant Geek has also seen more exotic varieties of fruit and vegetables come to market, such as different varieties of chillies, samphire, avocados, kiwis, cucamelons, guavas and Inca berries. Coupled with the ever-increasing number of cooking programmes, gastro pubs and restaurants, as well as the ability to travel around the globe, Grow-Your-Own gardeners are becoming more adventurous.
Highlighted at last year's Retail Lab @ Glee, Re-Wilding was highlighted as a key trend with 85% of people living in an urban environment wanting to relax and connect with nature our everyday lives. With everyone living such busy lives, gardeners now want an urban oasis where they can welcome birds, bees, and other wildlife into their garden. Bee-friendly plants and herbs, such as lavender, heather, lilac, sage, rhododendron, foxgloves, penstemon, buddleia and thyme are proving popular and provide support for pollinating insects. This presents garden centres with the ideal opportunity to show off their plant knowledge and work with nature to create unique shopping environments.
Plant trends can also be influenced by events and none are more prominent in 2018 than the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It has been heavily publicised that her floral arrangements will involve plants and blooms typical of May - beech, birch and hornbeam, as well as white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves. It is this international effect that will present both growers and retailers with a huge marketing opportunity both this year and into next as celebrity style and culture influences our everyday society with copycat looks.
With the increasing interest of plants in everyday lifestyle, the Green Heart at Glee, as well as the wider Plant section, is set to welcome its largest ever number of exhibitors including Key Essentials, Leybaert BVB, Artopya, Henningsen UK, Peter Strawson Limited, H.S Hommers & Sons (Dutch Bulbs) Ltd, The Christmas Cabin, SP Trading, Javado, Laurica Plants, Air So Pure - VLAM (Dataflor, Decock Plants, Deforche Export, Het Wilgenbroek, Van Poecke, Oprins Plant). From herbs to bedding plants, trees and shrubs to house plants, the Green Heart will showcase the very best plant suppliers all under one roof with retailers able to plan their ranges for the following season.
Matthew Mein, Glee Event Director, said: "This year over 50 plant suppliers, growers and breeders will be showcasing their latest ranges and recent introductions within the Green Heart at Glee, as well as within our dedicated Plant sector. With the quality and variety of plants constantly improving and plant trends evolving, the Green Heart is a key part of Glee, and is designed to put plants right at the centre of the show. We encourage every retailer to spend some time in this part of the show, networking with suppliers to ensure that they have the best ranges they possibly can for the following season."
Find out more
Glee is the UK's leading garden retail show, focussing on building year-round profits for buyers and suppliers within the core gardening and outdoor leisure product categories. To keep up-to-date on the latest Glee news visit www.gleebirmingham.com. To enquire about exhibiting at Glee 2018 call 020 3033 2160