17 Oct 2017

Reasons to be GLEE-ful

Last month I went to the fabulous GLEE exhibition in Birmingham's NEC centre and saw so many beautiful, useful and desirable products that made the (very) early start to the day worthwhile. The exhibition is an annual trade show held over three days so that new and existing garden related products can be showcased to buyers for the retail market. Journalists and, more recently, bloggers are also welcome but it's not open to the public. Looking at the map on the GLEE website, I guessed there would be a lot to see but the reality exceeded all expectations! I did my homework the day before and noted the exhibitors I wanted to talk to but even with a game plan, map, and very quick scurrying around, I suspect that I missed seeing a lot of what was on show as there was so much to be pleasantly diverted by.

The show was staged over four large interconnecting halls with products ranging from landscaping, pots, plants, compost, soil improvers, equipment, tools, clothing, firepits, sculptures, spa pools, and just about anything else you can think of! Not all of it was garden related, pets and some homewares were also on show.  I do love anything natural so was quickly distracted by the Oxford Brush Company's very practical pot, nail, and veg brushes - products that I'd love to see in my local garden centre.  Their ostrich feather duster could possibly convert me to actually liking housework, but would definitely come in handy for sweeping away cobwebs!


I wandered on past artificial grass, paving of every hue and stone, and so many wonderful garden pots that had my head rotating from side to side. Thank goodness for the coffee and chance to rest my feet in the press office! I was already familiar with many of the brands - Stihl, Burgon+Ball, Fiskars, Muck Boots, Elho, Briers - all displaying some highly desirable new products for 2018. The most stylish indoor pots, to my mind, came from Elho and Burgon+Ball. Both of their stands were awash with the most covetable products.

'Ello, Elho

I'm already a big fan of Burgon+Ball products but hadn't realised that the company is the UK's oldest manufacturer of garden tools and products, having started in Sheffield's steel industry in 1730 and using that experience to make the world's finest sheep shears. While I don't see myself needing a pair of those anytime soon, their latest range of products is completely droolworthy, being stylish, practical, beautiful and thoughtful - I can personally vouch for the deep comfort of the memory foam Kneelo mat (every gardener needs one of those!) and the FloraBrite range of gloves and tools. They're fluorescent so are easily seen both in daylight or torchlight. I lost my favourite pair of leather gloves last winter having put them down in the garden at dusk so I know whereof I speak! What really caught my attention at GLEE though, was the new range of hanging planters and pots - how beautiful are these? Having indoor plants has become very trendy and is a favourite with lifestyle magazines at the moment; I'm not convinced that my drooping jade plant is even vaguely trendy but at least he's still alive and one of these planters might perk him up a bit! I love the muted colours and handmade finish.  These, I want. (Dare I mention Christmas?) 

©Burgon & Ball - lifestyle hanging planters

During the day there was an ever present temptation to stop and chat to people to get the story behind a product; access to information is one of the key aspects of the show and means that a visitor can pick up on trends and new products quickly. I spotted lots of focus towards the environment and biodiversity with biochar, peat free composts, butterfly feeders and meadow seeds. Tool companies have embraced the fact that gardeners get sore backs and cramped hands and have developed tools to help - thank you, thank you! Fiskars' lightweight pruners and long handled loppers are 3 times sharper thus reducing hand strain and there are new digging spades for hard soil from both Fiskars and Burgon+Ball. Anything that helps with lower back pain has to be welcome!  Burgon+Ball are selling a long handled hoe aka Weed Slice that also helps with posture and looks to be very effective against weeds, the tiny head giving access to tight spaces between rows. Not only less bending and crawling around but better for the soil as beds don't have to be walked on.

It was also lovely to catch up with the team behind Dalefoot Composts, an utterly brilliant peat free compost that I can heartily endorse as it's been improving my clay soil and boosting my veg for the past few years. The texture of their composts makes it a pleasure to use, being a mix of Lake District bracken and sheep's wool, but I also admire the company for their dedication to reconstructing peat bogs. Read more about their story and compost here.

The show was a real eye-opener to the vast array of outdoor products available - everything the public could possibly wish for seemed to be there. Despite our unpredictable summers, outdoor retail is big business. (Currently worth £5 billion, so I read on Veg Plotting's follow up post - link below.)

I was there to investigate gardening paraphernalia but stumbled (thankfully, not literally) across other, shall we say, more eclectic products. I spotted giraffes, zebras, gnomes, grass crocodiles, dragons, ceramic fairies, and even a unicorn. It seems the buying public loves a bit of whimsy - even me.  Having owned a plastic inflatable whale to take to the pool during my childhood in Florida, I would have loved this in my toy box! Ah, happy days.



I saw so many wonderful products that I'm inspired to write a series of posts,  Wishlist Wednesday, starting next week.  I'll be writing about pots, pegboards, gloves, kneeling mats, the new Pantone range from Briers, Thomson+Morgan 'Easy Sow' seeds, tools, plants, planters, trugs, wellies and warm waterproof boots for the chilly months ahead.

~ A tiny selection of what there was to explore at the show ~


There was a lot to take in during the one day I'd allocated to the show.  Would I go again? Yes, definitely. It's a massive opportunity to explore, discover,  network, meet and build contacts. This year quite a few garden bloggers had been invited as 'ambassadors' which made the whole thing rather jolly, catching up over coffee, pastries or meeting up at one of GLEE's Retail Lab workshops. I rather miscalculated the time needed to fully explore everything so next year I plan to attend the show for two days and really make the most of it.

Tickets to the show are free on application and, new for 2018, the core categories of GLEE will be at Spring Fair at the NEC in February. Registration is open now.  Read more here.


My thanks to Hornby Lightfoot PR for my ticket, coffee, goody bag and warm welcome.



Have a look at reports from other bloggers:

Karen Gimson - What's new for gardeners that I've spotted at GLEE
Michelle Chapman, Veg Plotting - Gleeful
Lou Nicholls, Adventures in Horticulture - Six of the Best from Glee17
Alexandra Campbell, Middle Sized Garden - 2018 garden trends
Alison Levey, The Blackberry Garden - More amazing things under one roof
Thomas Stone - Full of Glee 2017

19 comments:

  1. Good to know that some of the companies out there are thinking about the environment, particularly well done to Dalefoot Composts. Glad you had a good day out. I like those indoor hanging planters too, as I type I am looking around wondering where I could squeeze one. CJ xx

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    1. Oh yes, me too, CJ! I think they're just fab. Shows like Glee put so much temptation my way - it's an eye opener as to how much we could spend on our gardening vice if not very restrained and careful! Caro xx

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  2. Sounds interesting. It’s a pity there isn‘t Something similar for the general public or even a series of regional events.

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    1. I agree, Sue, but the purpose is to get the retail trade aware of what's out there and have time to chat about a product. Michelle thought an online supermarket outlet for these products might have potential. Interesting thought.

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  3. Sounds like such an incredible event! I think we are behind the curve when it comes to peat-free mixes in Canada - they are extremely hard to find.

    Looking forward to your Wishlist Wednesday posts!

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    1. Garden Centres here usually offer one peat free alternative to usual compost but are fairly slow to catch on leaving pundits to do their own research. Also not all of the bagged peat free composts work very well which is why it's such a pleasure to have found Dalefoot Composts. Hopefully other countries will catch on before our irreplaceable peat bogs are exhausted. xx PS. yes the event was amazing for finding out about all this stuff!

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  4. I love those hanging planters too, that looks a wonderful day out! I can see an number of items that would make good Christmas presents. I went to a Gift and Home Trade Fair earlier in the year. It was amazing to see some many things for sale under one roof. I keep going into local shops now and know immediately where they have bought their items from! Sarah x

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    1. Trade fairs always make for an interesting day out (not least of which is if you get to see the mark up on the original prices!!) I thought a lot of what I saw would make great gifts, both for homeowners and gardeners - and I certainly wouldn't mind finding one of those planters under the tree on Christmas Day!! Caro x

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  5. Love those hanging planters! - Helen

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    1. They're just gorgeous, aren't they! I may well treat myself as they're on the Burgon and Ball website now, even though they're new for this year! :o)

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  6. I saw the feather dusters in a shop in Hastings two weekends ago and coveted them and in fact all the products of the Oxford Brush Company. Housework and gardening leave me feeling a bit the same in that the tasks for both require a huge effort but are immensely satisfying once tackled.

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    1. This was the first time I've come across the Oxford Brush Company so was thrilled to find them. I visited Petersham Nurseries new shop in Covent Garden a couple of weeks ago and saw feather dusters in there (they sell pots and indoor planters as well so it made sense). Obviously fate is telling me I need to buy one!!

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  7. Oh that sounds like an informative and inspirational day or two out Caro. Do bloggers have to receive a specific invitation? Birmingham NEC isn't that far from me :) Look forward to your Wednesday wish list posts.

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    1. It would be lovely to meet you if you come along to one of the GLEE shows, Anna! This year the PR company, Hornby Whitefoot, sent a shout out on social media asking for blogger ambassadors to apply to attend. Now I believe you can just register on the GLEE website. Registration is open for the spring home and garden show where GLEE will have a smaller presence, the main event being in September. The link is at the bottom of my post (or just google 'GLEE Birmingham')

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    2. Thanks so much Caro for kindly popping over to my blog with the information. I will have a look at the GLEE website today. Will keep you posted :) xxx

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  8. Wow, what a treasure trove. I'm attracted to the improved tools, anything that makes gardening easier for me next year is going on my wishlist! xxx

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    1. Me too, Dina! I think a few hints dropped might help ... ! xx

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  9. Some of the stalls look fabulous, I'd be hard pressed to go and stick to a budget. I have to say, I have Burgeon and Ball garden shears, and they are brilliant - lightweight, well balanced, and have stayed nice and sharp for the couple of years I've had them.
    Looks like a great event, sadly it's a bit far for me... but never say never!

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    1. Luckily the show was for looking and not buying, otherwise I would have had to leave all money at home! There was a lot to tempt there! Excellent that you find the Burgon and Ball shears so good, it's always good to have recommendations.

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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