Held on Hampstead Heath, GROW London combines the worlds of horticulture and contemporary design like no other show. We caught up with the founder Will Ramsay to find out more about the show.
What are the origins of GROW London?
I launched GROW London because I felt there was a gap in the market for an event that focused on modern design whilst showcasing the very best plants and products available for purchase right there and then. I love accessibility, which is key to the ethos that runs through GROW London as well as its sister company, the Affordable Art Fair, which we also organise. Also, my own family’s garden opens every summer as part of Scotland Gardens Scheme.
Tell me a little about the goals and ethos of the show and how you are setting about achieving them?
GROW London aims to be different! We want to inspire all ages and abilities to get into gardening, no matter how large or small your outdoor space is. Before we launched and during our research process we found that many UK flower shows were quite traditional, and sometimes a little stuffy so we modelled GROW around some of the European horticultural shows which focus more on style, design and quality in a relaxed setting. It’s also very important to us that the fair isn’t intimidating to those who aren’t so knowledgeable about gardening and want to learn more which is why we’ve include an action-packed talks and workshop programme for both kids and adults.
Have you found that more and more people are engaging with their outside spaces?
There seems to be a definite trend in London to make the most of space as it’s such a premium in the city. Urban, balcony and community grow your own schemes seem to be popping up throughout the city daily and we hope to engage those people with little space as much as those with acres of land. Speakers at this year’s fair include Mark Diacono of Otter Farm talking about growing fruit sustainably however large or small your space. We’ve also got Matthew Wilson of Clifton Nurseries discussing garden design for small spaces and Matt Franks of Connected Roots about how to create an eco-friendly plot.
How does GROW look to inspire the people that attend?
GROW London is set on the beautiful Hampstead Heath so as soon as you arrive in the neighbourhood, you can’t help but be inspired by the natural landscape in the heart of the city. At the entrance to the fair, visitors will find themselves confronted by award winning garden designer Sophie Walker’s highly unusual and conceptual installation, which aims to play with the idea of bringing the jungle to the Heath. Once inside, as well as the talks and workshop programme, we have four pocket feature gardens ranging from British flower installations to interactive woodcrafts and a Clifton Nurseries spa garden.
Leading on from this have you found that urban gardens are increasingly popular and with the show being based in London how do you accommodate this trend?
Since we launched GROW in 2014, urban gardening has grown in popularity and we’ve certainly seen more and more interesting product launches and exhibitors catering for this trend. The likes of Boskke and their upside down planters, and Ortisgreen with their living walls, will be exhibiting at this year’s fair alongside Kabloom, which are very fun seed-bombs, and hands-on workshops conducted by London Terrariums; all of which make it very easy to get involved without needing lots of outdoor space.
With many gardening celebrities having high media profiles, do you think this is one way in which younger generations will be encouraged to get involved and is this something GROW London try to encompass?
I would hope so and GROW aims to establish itself as a fair that champions young designers such as the likes of Sophie Walker who is a young, very talented and engaging designer in the early stages of her career. I think one of the difficulties for young designers is often the high costs of undertaking a course in landscape design and then subsequent poorly paid positions once students have graduated. I hope, as GROW becomes more established, that the fair provides a platform for emerging designers to showcase their creativity but that it is also a unique environment for industry professionals to garner knowledge from others, whilst inspiring more people to get involved in horticulture each year.
Tell me about your exhibitors and how the numbers have expanded since the show began?
There will be about 120 exhibitors this year, ranging from specialist nurseries to hand-crafted tools and beautifully designed furniture. This year we’re launching two new sections, GROW Gourmet which focuses on artisan food and drink producers and GROW Living, which includes a handful of exhibitors that look at the interiors with a nod to botanical design and products inspired by nature. We’ve grown in size slightly over the years, but we’re conscious of not expanding too quickly and too soon. It is important that we expand in line with our visitor growth and as GROW is a curated fair that focuses on quality, we want to make sure we work with the very best exhibitors to ensure the overall experience for visitors and press is a really refreshing, enjoyable one. Equally important is that our exhibitors also have a positive experience financially and personally.
Have you seen any products or plant innovations that have particularly excited you? Will they be on show at GROW?
I personally love the Japanese tools from Niwaki, the ingenuity of the Boskke products and Crown Garden Products urban grow bag frame is perfect for a planting veg in a small space. Bloombox plant packages make for very stress-free planting delivered to your door and I know my wife would adore the bits from Raj Tent Club and hand-crafted wooden pots from Oxford Planters.
And all our nurseries are fabulous, each specialising in their own passions from grasses at Meadowgate to Shady Plants – the key is in their name! We’ve also got conifer specialist Lime Cross Nursery and the young couple at Wildgoose Nursery know all about violas alongside Hook’s Green Herbs for all your kitchen garden needs.
What can people professionally involved in the gardening industry get from the show?
GROW London is a perfect networking opportunity, especially at the opening night Charity Garden Party Preview in aid of Maggies on Thursday 23 June. It’s a great place to source new products as well as see the latest industry trends and talk directly with the growers. The Society of Garden Designers are offering free design consultations and the talks programme is bursting with household name speakers who will influence as well as inspire.
We would love GROW to grow! Clearly there’s lots of horticultural interest all over the UK and Europe and many people have said that GROW would work well in cities like New York. However, for now we’re just concentrating on establishing the fair in London, making sure it’s the must-see horticultural event in everyone’s calendar.