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Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants - nursery exhibitor case study

Why BBC Gardeners' World Live has remained a firm fixture in the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants calendar for over 25 years

Why BBC Gardeners' World Live has remained a firm fixture in the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants calendar for over 25 years

Rob and Rosy Hardy have been growing and selling plants since 1988. Starting from just their own back garden and car boot sales, they’re now one of the UK's leading independent nurseries selling herbaceous perennials. Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants exhibited at the first ever BBC Gardeners’ World Live in 1993 and it’s been an annual fixture for them ever since. 

We spoke to Rob Hardy about their 25 years exhibiting at the show, to help others understand how it could become an equally important part of their horticultural business plan.

For Rob, the connection with Gardeners’ World, both the TV programme and the Magazine, is of utmost importance. The association with the biggest brand in the business is essential for those in the gardening retail industry,  Rob states “you’ve got to be connected.” Rob also considers the dateline of the show as “the perfect season”, ideally timed at the height of the key gardening period. Coming hot on the heels of the Chelsea Flower Show means that the gardening public will be inspired by the BBC coverage, and know they’ll be able to purchase the plants at BBC Gardeners’ World Live. 

Offering up a unique opportunity is the colocation with the BBC Good Food Show Summer, and its new audience. “It’s well known that people get into gardening from around 35 or 40 years old when they have a bit more time. The presence of the BBC Good Food Show means we have the chance to introduce ourselves to this group a little bit earlier than we might otherwise have done”.

Key to Hardy’s success, and a take home message for any potential exhibitor, is their holistic approach. In Rob’s words “it’s not just about retailing, it’s about helping to educate”. Hardy’s deliver talks on The Demo Bench in the Floral Marquee and ensure their displays are educational, with areas dedicated to different conditions, so visitors can learn what plants work well together.

The number of events in Hardy’s calendar has dropped from 45 to a more moderate 15, however “these shows do really well for us”. Any shortfall has been replaced by a rise in mail-order and business at their nursery including talks and workshops. 

Looking to the future, Hardy’s Garden Plants continue to have BBC Gardeners’ World Live firmly embedded in their calendar. “In 2018 turnover was up year on year. People were trading well and we want to keep the momentum. The facilities work, it’s easy to get to. The mix of entertainment with education at the show means visitors want to come back. This is a show that has everything going for it. It’s the place people want to be.”

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Rob's top tips

Rob's top tips

When it comes to advice, Rob says it’s all about being ready. “You need to be ready to go from 9am and be just as jolly at 6pm when it closes – think about these hours as your shop window. You never know which customer is going to be the most important to you – so you have to treat everybody the same.” 

[Pictured: Peter Seabrook presents Rob Hardy with a hand-painted Moorcroft vase depicting Rose 'Gardeners' Gold' at BBC Gardeners' World Live 2018 - celebrating 25 years of exhibiting at BBC Gardeners' World Live.]

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