Monday, 12 September 2016


I visited Glee for the first time this week. It's a show that describes itself as "The UK's biggest and most valuable garden and outdoor living tradeshow" where new products are launched and all the big guys of the garen retail world meet to show off their wares. I visited on Monday, the opening day, and was actually quite surprised at how few people were there, although I guess Monday probably isn't an ideal day for many.
Grow your own flowers range from Unwins

As all these shows are, Glee has it's fair share of what I would call garden centre nik naks and some quite bizarre offerings too. Whereas I understand candles and garden furniture, a 20 foot dinosaur was unexpected, but each to their own! Needless to say it didn't come home with me. There were rows and rows of trade stands with the big horticultural giants at the centre of the show, with huge stands and coffee bars attached. I took some time out to visit the Westland stand as I had been invited and was pleased to hear that their Unwins seed ranges will begin to really talk to urban food growers with limited space with a new range where they have subtly designed a colour sceme in, which although a little bit of a novelty perhaps, certainly helps small spaces to be both beautiful and productive.

What I liked the most was the two new flower seed ranges. The first is aimed at first time flower growers and whereas it's never going to be a wide enough range for a flower farmer, for those wanting to grow some cut flowers in their gardens and who prefer to buy seed in a garden centre rather than online, I would think this range is a good start. The range fits in with Unwins own, new florists bouquets, much of which they tell me are sourced in the UK but I am yet to be convinced and actually might buy some to see. They certainly are not guaranteeing 100% UK grown. However, with each bouquet a packet of these seeds will be sent giving the receiver the opportunity to grow some flowers of their own next year. Again this is a novelty and I fear many of those seeds will end up in the back of a kitchen cupboard but I hope it's a positive step forwards.
Productive and Beautiful.

However, what stood out for me were three sets of tools that I saw and fell in love with. None of them are cheap ranges but equally one gets what one pays for usually, although I have to say that the Poundland tools are still all going strong, with the hanging basket onto it's winter show and the cloche pots about to be used for some tropicals I am growing over winter! So what are these ranges i hear you cry.......

Firstly I was thrilled to see the wonderful Niwake with their incredible range of ladder and Japanese crafted secateurs, knives and shears. They have 2 new tools in their range, both of which are hand crafted in Japan and are extraordinary both to look and and to handle. Teh first is a pair of topiary shears and the second is secateurs made in the same way. I handled both and to use they would be wonderful, as they sit in the hand almost as an extension of the hand, and I expect in coming years they will be, as Niwake secateurs have become, the tools of choice for anyone who does enormous amounts of pruning or topiary. There are also new leather holders for these tools as well as a holder that both secateurs and a knife will fit into and all of which will sit snuggly on a belt, and there is even a Niwake belt if you felt you needed that too.

Niwake Secateurs

I would like to add a bit about Niwake ladders at this point as often I am asked why anyone would spend such a sum on a ladder. Niwake is all about the Japanese gardening traditions and these ladders play to that tradition. Having spent weeks at a time at the top of them, pruning topiary, trees and large shrubs, it is their immense stability that makes them such highly regarded tools. Being 15ft up a ladder is a somewhat vulnerable place to be, but these tools ensure safety because they just do not wobble at all. They are also ridiculously lightweight so can be easily carried by one person which is not something that can be said for a standard 15ft ladder.

There were two other sets of tools that stood out, one from Bulldog and called Pedigree and one from Rob Smith, working with Dobies of Devon. Both are sturdy, well made and look as if they will last. The tools from Bulldog are based on designs from the early 20th century when Bulldog was the tool of choice in the UK and made in Wigan. The handles are ash with caps for strength, there are double rivets holding the handle to the metal spade but the stainless steel is lightweight and easy to handle whilst being durable. And there is a lifetime guarantee. The whole range has been rebranded with Hugo the bulldog as it's mascot and is very sensibly priced with the highest price being £39.99. I was impressed by this range and am keen to give it a go as I want to know if the tools are as durable as they look and are designed to be. They have a round point spade which is one I am definitely keen to try as I love that design of spade but it is usually hard to get one that is suitable for people of my height.

Rob Smiths range for Dobies of Devon.

 The second range that really impressed are made for Dobies of Devon and are endorsed by Rob Smith who won The Great Allotment Challenge and has been working with Dobies for a while. These tools are made of carbon steel and are again designed with vintage, long lasting tools in mind. Rob syas he wants these tools to last like his grandfathers have for him, and having had tools passed down to me that have lasted far longer than any I have bought from new, I understand this need. I hear from Rob frustration at new tools that break and I hope his range proves to be as long lasting as the tools we all see in our grandparents sheds and gardens. Whilst the range isn't quite as extensive as the Bulldog range, it has everything in it you might need and having handled them today I can confirm they are sturdy and useable. I may have been seen standing on them to try to see how they might be in the garden! The price range is just slightly cheaper than the Bulldog range, with £34 being the higest price for the long handled tools, and the bonus with this range is that there are multi buy prices which make the sets as they are offered considerably cheaper than buying the tools separately. However, for me the icing on the cake is that these tools are made in Devon, by Greenman Tools, meaning British horticulture is once again supporting British manufacturing which I personally think shows in the quality of the products.

But the best point of the day? Getting home to find in the press bag that there was a tiny bottle of Elderflower Gin!!

I just must add that nobody has paid me or given me any reason to endorse these products!! That said, I'd be more thn happy to give them a real trial and any tools that can put up with my Bristol clay sre to really be recommended!!

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