An introduction of GLEE

The largest collection of gardening enthusiasts and industry professionals alike can always be found at the renowned and bustling trade show that is GLEE (Garden, Leisure, Equipment and Exhibition). The atmosphere was buzzing, filled with new ideas, innovation and inspiration.

Glee Entrance Hall
Glee Entrance Hall at the NEC, Birmingham

What were my first impressions at GLEE 2023?

As I stepped into the Exhibition Hall, I was first greeted by a wonderful display of aggregates and colourful plants, probably supplied by the Meadow View team who had a very impressive stand complete with its own mezzanine. You can’t help but tilt your head back and do a full 180-degree turn as you stop to take in all the colours, scents and excitement in the air.

First of all, I only had one day at the show which I have to say isn’t long enough to make your way around every single stall. As much as I would have loved to visit every stall to soak in all of its varied and interesting offerings, I decided to make a beeline for some of our existing suppliers such as Zest, Hamac Trading (Aqua Creations), Biohort and Home & Garden to name but a few!

Does Zest have any new products for 2024?

First stop, Zest, who had a very impressive stall showcasing some of their popular sellers such as the Zest Garden Pizza Oven Table and the Zest Stepped Herb Planter. I was impressed by some of their new products that they have lined up for 2024 which we hope to have available for sale soon. One of which I loved was the Modular Garden Kitchen Bar seen below. The open garden bar was a favorite for me and I can tell it will be a popular product for 2024! The improvements in the quality were on full display, with less pointy right-angled edges and more curves, giving each piece a more sleek and modern look.

Zest's New Modular Garden Kitchen Bar, Pizza Oven Table and Stepped Herb Planter
Zest's new modular garden kitchen bar, pizza oven table and stepped herb planter

What's new with Aqua Creations (Hamac)?

In line with the sustainable practices angle that was, as I mentioned earlier, a dominant theme at this year's GLEE, our partners over at Hamac Trading (Aqua Creations) who supply us with a comprehensive range of water features had a range of solar water features on display. These features boast very simple cost effective setups that consist of a reservoir, a pump and a solar panel. There are great benefits of solar features to take advantage of. The blatantly obvious benefit is that there are environmentally friendly attributes as the solar panel harnesses solar energy which is emitted from the sun. This completely eliminates the need to have the feature hooked up to the mains, saving you energy and resulting in cheaper bills. What’s more, you’ll be doing your bit to help the environment. 

Furthermore, compared to their electrically-powered counterparts, solar water features are generally low maintenance. No turning on and off or setting timers (which adds to their versatility as you don’t have to worry about how long the power cable is) which can often restrict where you can place a mains-powered feature. Neither do you need to worry about extension cables and laying cables through your garden which can be a tedious and complex job for the average Joe or Joanna. Because they do not have a cable, it's simple to just place it in situ, set up the solar panel somewhere it will get the sun and that's pretty much it! Some popular solar-powered choices are the Solar Slate Falls Water Feature and the Solar Duck Family at Tap Water Feature. Always best to do your research to find which solar feature is right for you. 

Who are DouxBeBe?

Moving on, there were copious amounts of gardening delights with exhibitors from all corners of the industry. From established brands to emerging startups. One area where we would like to expand is our offerings in the shed sector. We visited a new supplier called DouxBeBe which is a Garden and Outdoor living brand that originated in France and has had investment from China and together, with the motto of ‘Make Garden More Fun’, have created outdoor storage products that incorporate fashion designs and fun within their concepts. Here is our very own David Coton below giving the once-over to one of their impressive plastic sheds. Watch this space!

Partner David Coton inside a DouxBeBe shed
Partner David Coton inside a DouxBeBe shed

What does Enigma have in store for 2024?

Another one of our valued suppliers was Enigma who always has a stall here at GLEE. I think there will always be a market for sculptures, statues and ornaments for the home and garden. Enigma has it all from classical pieces such as the Hebe Goddess statue and the Vergogna Phryne statue, to oriental pieces such as pagodas and buddhas. By far I think the most popular style of statue are the romantic-themed pieces such as the Infinite Love, Affection and Inseparable statues. New lines for next year are the Pewter range of animal ornaments which we cannot wait to add to our already vast range of ornamental animal sculptures on our website.

A Sample of Enigma's new 'Pewter' range and other best sellers at GardenSite
A Sample of Enigma's new 'Pewter' range (left) and other best sellers at GardenSite

Meeting Clearview Garden Buildings

I was wandering through the middle of the exhibition on my own tucking into a very tasty pot of complementary salted caramel ice cream which was kindly handed out by an exhibitor when I was stopped in my tracks at the sight of some delightful display wooden greenhouses from Clearview Garden Buildings. “Right up our street” I thought, I simply had to have a gander. Wooden greenhouses are a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to the traditional metal framed greenhouses - not only do they add charm and rusticity to any garden but they also seamlessly blend in with their natural surroundings. And to add to the convenience of it all, Clearview also provides installation with every order!

Greenhouses are a great vehicle to assist in growing plants, fruit and veg in a controlled environment, couldn’t get more natural than that right? So why not have the greenhouse made from natural materials as well? Wood is a renewable and sustainable material so a much more environmentally friendly choice. I liked how you had the option to have a dwarf wooden wall all around or instead have glass top to bottom. Our current main supplier of wooden greenhouses, Swallow Greenhouses, offer wooden greenhouses of all shapes and sizes as well as a broad range of colour finishes. Not to mention they provide installation with every order too. The popular model, of which we have a display at our show site in Sutton Coldfield is the Swallow Kingfisher 6 x 8 ThermoWood Greenhouse. I know what you might be thinking and it's a common concern for potential customers; won't the wood rot being outdoors? Well, wooden greenhouses are traditionally made from cedar or redwood which are highly durable and each and every wooden greenhouse that leaves the factory is treated to help resist the effects of rot and decay, not to mention insect infestations. Pick up the phone or browse our range today. Our relatively new Gabriel Ash range may also peak your interest. 

What were the most popular products at GLEE 2023?

As I made my way up and down the bustling aisles, it became clear that certain themes were dominating the landscape. Sustainable practices and eco-friendly innovations were all around you and clearly at the forefront. Many horticultural exhibitors were showcasing organic gardening products such as fertilisers, composts and waste reduction systems. Everyday items that are usually destined for the wheelie bin such as fruit and veg scraps, used tea, crushed eggshells, grass clippings and weeds can all be thrown onto the compost heap and over time can be used as a brilliant fertiliser for your garden! There was an emphasis on ideas such as this at GLEE and solutions such as this can help us all minimise our own environmental impact which can only be a good thing.

Meeting the people behind the brands

Beyond the myriad of products and services on display, the one thing that makes the industry function is the people. People are important and the trade show floor was crawling with interesting people with interesting ideas. It's a great opportunity to network and learn by interacting with individuals whether they be industry experts or enthusiastic sales team members pushing new ideas and concepts! The event is also a great opportunity to put names to faces, it was at least for me. Particularly when I visited the Biohort stand and spoke with Trent Kieser who is in charge of sales for the UK at Biohort. Having spoken extensively over email for a good few years now it was great to talk face to face. The same can be said for Enigma garden statues and the faces behind the Enigma brand Gail and John, who again I have personally had extensive conversations with over the phone and email. These face-to-face interactions can bring brands and retailers closer together and can foster better closer working relationships which in the end would be to the benefit of our customers.

Matthew meets with Trent Kieser from Biohort
Matthew meets with Trent Kieser from Biohort

What were my final thoughts on GLEE 2023?

This was my first outing at the GLEE trade show and what an enriching experience it was. Seeing the passion people have for their brands was inspiring and just nice to see. In many ways, it was a peek into the future to see some of the offerings for the 2024 season. I left the show with a renowned view of the industry. Seeing happy people with boundless creativity showcasing some amazing products all aimed at improving and enriching the lives of our customers put a smile on my face and I’m sure the effect it has had on me will rub off when I talk to our customers who are looking at making a new purchase on our website.