And so, six months after it began in the icy March winds of Wiltshire, the roadshow season has wound its way to a balmy end in the sunbathed depths of Dorset. Seems only yesterday we were setting up in the courtyard at Marlborough College ….. well, no it doesn’t actually, being realistic about it, but nonetheless each season on the road does seem rather to speed by at an alarming rate, leaving us once again to contemplate the descent into winter and all the tidying up, ordering, booking and staring at a computer screen that that brings. The last leg of the 2015 tour saw us in three rather different settings.
The first of these brought us back to the lovely surroundings of Longstock on the Leckford Estate near Stockbridge on the occasion of the Autumn Plant Fair organised in support on the North Hampshire Medical Fund. Just as at the spring event held there, those attending are generally knowledgeable gardeners who know their species and subspecies and who – thankfully, given the time of year – don’t need a plant to be in full bloom to prove its worth. The fact that it was rather on the grey and cool side didn’t seem to discourage them too much, and our sales were brisk, especially before lunchtime.
Brisk is not the adjective we would choose to describe things the following weekend, when we went up to Andover for a third time this year for the Farmers & Craft Market by the Guildhall. Perhaps the public couldn’t find us in the grey mist that enveloped things until late morning, and when they did, they didn’t seem to be much in the mood for plant buying. Ah well, it was mid-September, and it is a fact that, despite early autumn being a great time for planting perennials and shrubs, most people prefer to wait until spring to do so.
And so to the curtain call for 2015, once again the Plant Heritage Dorset group plant fair held in the shadow of Athelhampton House, and in our particular case in the shadow of the grandiose stone dovecote, which provided an interesting background soundtrack to our day. The weather was perfect, a golden late September day of gentle sunshine, but for some reason the denizens of Dorset failed to arrive in the same numbers as last year, and, although we seemed to do rather better than some others, we sold little more than a third of what we did in 2014. Perhaps it was the date, two weeks later than last year, perhaps it was the effect of there having been a plant fair at Mapperton House, not a million miles away, just a week previously: whatever the reason, it was a disappointment for the organisers after all their hard work and for the stall holders who had managed some pretty impressive displays despite it much harder to find things in bloom rather than in, say, June. But you have to take the rough with the smooth, as they say (rather smugly and annoyingly ….. ) and it would be pretty curmudgeonly to complain about spending a sunny Sunday in the picturesque grounds of a 15th century manor house.
So all that remained was to unload the van for a final time, and that was how Rob spent his Monday morning, returning plants to the growing area or using them to restock the sales and display area when he could. In all we have spent forty four days at some event or other in the course of the past six months. That’s six more days than in 2014, so it’s been a busy season. Whether it’s been a more profitable one remains to be seen: once Rob has completed his spreadsheet, all will be revealed. There were times that it all got a bit frantic, with one show merging seamlessly into the next, and potting on and other necessary ongoing jobs getting neglected, which has led us to wonder if it might be better to advertise a bit more and encourage more direct sales from the nursery rather than hare off at every opportunity to some far flung point in Dorset, Surrey, West Sussex or wherever. Perhaps we can ponder that in the coming dark winter months.
Rob & Joanna – September 2015
The last time we posted here May was just underway & we stood on the threshold of summer. It is now the best part of two weeks into September and that summer is pretty much on the way out, if the weather forecast for the coming days is to be believed. And those good intentions about posting on a weekly basis through those golden sunny days? Paving the road to you know where, as you might expect. So ….. a rushed recap of the past four months it is then.
May sees some of our biggest sales days: the St John Garden Fair and the Plant Heritage Fair in two consecutive flat-out days at the start of the month, and the Solent Gardeners’ Fayre right at the end (usually the first Sunday in June, but moved this year so as not to clash with the Garden Show at Stansted). A couple of other events turned out to be bigger than anticipated too. The WoW fair, held on a Thursday at Dummer Cricket Centre, was for once blessed with fine weather, and Rob had to cope on his own with queues of ladies lining up with armfuls of plants. Which was nice. Rather bitter sweet, as it turns out, as the charity has decided to discontinue the event. Which seems an odd decision, given that good weather saw a much improved turnout. Ho hum. Ours not to reason why, we suppose. The other surprise package was the Milford on Sea Gardeners’ Club event held on the village green on a Saturday morning in mid-May. Again Rob was operating in a solo capacity, as Deb decided that getting up at the unearthly hour required to get there and set up before parking regulations came into force was not on, given her work commitments during the week. It was queues and armfuls again, as it turned out, and Rob was happy, if exhausted, at the close of play. We had a new event in the two-day Plant Fair at Upton Country Park in Poole, held in the sub-tropical setting of the walled garden there. There was a feeling among the stallholders that it might have been better advertised: perhaps so, but we weren’t complaining about the brisk business we seemed to do.
Into June, traditionally another big month, but with some new events this year alongside old favourites such as the Unusual Plants Fair at Selborne, Fareham gardeners’ market and a Rare Plant Fair at Birtley House. The opening weekend was in fact a brand new event, Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival at Bowood House in Wiltshire, a successor to his initial foray into event organisation in 2014 at Powderham Castle. We thought it was a splendid location and the show had the makings of a truly great event, as there was lots for visitors to see, do and buy. Some other exhibitors muttered in their beards that they hadn’t done that well, but we were pretty pleased, if a bit windswept in our particular location. Also in its first year was the Craft and Garden Fair at Breamore House in Dorset, held on the final weekend of the month. Again, a fabulous location, and we had a good weekend sales-wise.
The first weekend of July saw a weekend off the treadmill: hurrah! As ever, plans to catch up on lots of fronts, e.g. potting on, came to naught, and all too soon we were back in the fray. Parham was a lovely affair as ever: who couldn’t be happy selling plants in such a location (visit the acres of walled gardens, and you will see what we mean). The other pillar of July is of course the Garden Show at Loseley Park, which sees us venture up into Surrey for three days. This year the weather was as mixed as it possibly could be. Friday and Sunday were basically horizontal rain, with the visitor numbers and sales statistics that you might expect given such conditions. The Saturday in between, however, was as gorgeous a summer day as you could wish for, and the throng of customers didn’t just linger over the plants, they bought them too. We did feel sorry for the seven coachloads of gardeners who came on the sodden Monday: they just picked the wrong day to book by 24 hours. We also returned to Andover for another of the series of Craft & Farmers’ markets (or, rather, Rob did). Which was fine, apart from a keen breeze blowing racks over during set up: not a great start to the day.
The start of August saw another new event for us in the two-day Poole Town and Country Fair, held at Upton Park, though not in the walled garden this time, but in the rather wider expanses of the park itself. It turned out to be a lovely family-oriented event, with lots going on. We had a monopoly of plant sales and consequently did quite well for the time of year: we were just glad that there was no other competition. The following Saturday saw the Ellingham Show: back in our now usual spot on the entrance and exit avenue, we were kept busy throughout the long day, and Rob was especially pleased to find a fresh fish stall that provided him with lobster and crab to take home. Heaven! Yet another new show followed: the South Downs Show in a fold of the (yes) downs in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield. Once again we were masters of all we surveyed and, if visitors wanted plants, we were the only source. So we did fine in the circumstances. Rob’s highpoint – literally – was the epic climb with Penny, Deb’s little Jack Russell, right to the top of the escarpment above the show venue to enjoy the far-reaching views to the coast.
After another free weekend (well, we deserve it) the very last day of August (Bank Holiday Monday) brought us, or, rather, Rob once again bereft of support, to the Emsworth Show. Another new one on us, as it happens. It had been, shall we say, a damp weekend, and Noah, were he still with us, would have been preparing the ark and getting in the animal provisions. So Deb’s phone call at 6.30 am to announce her withdrawal from proceedings wasn’t entirely unexpected, and Rob was entertaining some serious doubts about the whole thing as he set off in sheets of rain en route to West Sussex. However, the further down the M27 he went, the less torrential the rain became, and setting up the pitch in light rain was about the worst of it in the end. Emsworth mustered enough hardy souls to make it all worthwhile, and the only real victim of the rain turned out to be the burger van which got stuck in the mud attempting the leave the field at the end of the day.
And so it is September, and we have just had a show-free weekend before embarking on a mad dash for the off season which starts in October. Perhaps with all the free time that beckons, more regular updates might be on the cards? The jury is still out on that one.
Rob & Joanna – September 2015
April is the cruellest month, according to T S Eliot. Well, we don’t know about that, but it was certainly a busy one and, in some respects, a month of two halves. How so? Well, Easter was early this year, so it was merely the 4th of April when we rolled up at Somerley House near Ringwood for the first of three days of the customary Craft & Garden Show. And, unsurprisingly, cold grey and breezy was the order of the day. And of day two as well. The Easter Monday was sunny and a bit warmer, which encouraged more people to think about their gardens and to buy some plants to go in them, but all in all it was a modest three days for us.
After a disappointing three days at the All About Gardening show at Newbury showground last year, Rob had said never again, but what do you know, there was Rob turning up on Friday April 10th at Newbury showground for another bite at the cherry. A special rate for nurseries growing 100% of what they sold was what had tempted him back to give it another go. Day one was cloudy, warmish but very, very quiet. Day two raised spirits somewhat with decent sales despite a cool breeze. Day three brought things crashing down to earth, in some stallholders’ cases quite literally, as a strong cold wind wreaked havoc with gazebos and anything else in its path and dented the sales statistics more than somewhat. By this point T S Eliot was looking to be pretty accurate in his assessment …..
A relatively easy weekend followed, with just one day away from home, at the Farmers’ & Craft market in Andover on Sunday the 19th. This was a new one for us, but a welcome return to the charming centre of Andover in the square overlooked by the old Guildhall, where once upon a time we used to do the late lamented Test Valley in Bloom garden fair. And what a friendly little event it turned out to be. In three hours from 10 am to 1 pm we did rather better than on some of the preceding and more expensive days in the month and Rob was able to get back home in time to unload and then take off to make two deliveries in West Sussex. Now that seemed more like it.
The closing week of April saw Rob trek off solo down to Gloucestershire on Friday the 24th to attend one of the several fairs hosted by Mel Tanner in her beautiful gardens at the Coach House in Ampney Crucis. The weather was much kinder than last year: it was admittedly overcast, but the air was warm and spring-like, which encouraged the visitors to stock up on plants to an encouraging extent and make this the first really successful day sales-wise of the season. T S Eliot words were now looking less appropriate than they had done a week or so ago.
And the Sunday saw us returning to Barbury Racecourse, perched high up on the Marlborough downs and with magnificent views over the Wiltshire countryside, for the RDA Plant Fair. This time the horizontal rain was conspicuous by its absence and, though it was cool and grey, plenty of folk turned out and, more importantly, went home with lots of plants in the boots of their 4x4s. And so April closed on a high note and, with the really busy months of May and June yet to come, left us feeling pretty chipper about the prospects for the season. And T S Eliot back on the shelf.
Rob & Joanna – May 2015
Well, here we go again. Our first event of the 2015 season, the Marlborough Spring Fair, took place on the 28th of March in the rather splendid surroundings of Marlborough College. This was a new event for us but sadly the weather wasn’t exactly benevolent. Let’s just say that this year March seems to have got itself the wrong way round and has come in like a lamb and is going out like a lion. Frequent spells of rain and a strong breeze meant that potential plant-buyers were happier browsing the crafts and gifts on the indoor stands rather than linger over the plants on our windswept display.
And, though we say it ourselves, it wasn’t a bad display despite it being only the end of March and the cool start to spring holding back plant growth quite markedly. A couple of days rummaging around the nursery had allowed us to assemble a decent collection of the usual and the unusual in various stages of development, so it was a pity the weather deterred people from giving them their full attention. Talking of displays, we were quite excited to be using our four new three-tier racks for the first time. Made to order by Castlefield, they are more efficient in terms of space than the tables we had been using previously – 30 2 litre plants per rack as opposed to 24 per table and on a smaller footprint, to boot. They will prove their worth, we are sure, especially at those events where space is limited. Which wasn’t the case this time, as we were the sole outdoor exhibitor and had the whole enormous courtyard to ourselves. Not that we used it all, contenting ourselves with a pitch some 5 metres square with our gazebo in the centre so we could huddle there when the rain swept in.
But enough hardy gardeners braved the conditions to make it all worthwhile, though we couldn’t help thinking that, had the weather been better, we would have despatched twice as many plants to new homes. Luckily, the forecast is more encouraging for the Easter weekend, when we shall once again be going down the road to Somerley for the Easter Craft & Garden Fair. Fingers crossed they’re right!
To see where we are going to be through the 2015 season check this page. We hope to see you at one or more of those venues.
Rob &Joanna – March 2015
As a follow-up to our last post, an alarming seven weeks ago, in which we looked at the most searched for plants of 2014, we thought it might be interesting to check out our season’s best sellers. Not just in terms of online sales, but the those plants that best imitated hot cakes across all our sales opportunities – online, at fairs & shows, and direct nursery sales. And – drum roll, please – the top ten is:
1 Potentilla x Tonguei
2 Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet
3 Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Peridot
4 Colocasia Diamond Head
5 Geum Tequila Sunrise
6 Geum Mai Tai
7 Primula Francisca
8 Angelica Ebony
9 Polemonium Stairway to Heaven
10 Agastache Raspberry Summer
The Potentilla x Tonguei that tops the charts is a best seller of long standing, its compact spreading habit and gorgeous apricot flowers always proving popular at shows. It managed to register sales from March right through to November, which is no mean feat. The two hardy Delospermas that were hard on its heels, the red Garnet and yellow Peridot, conversely enjoyed a heady three-month sales boom from June through August, which is hardly surprising, as they were in non-stop flowering mode for that period.
We were, frankly, rather surprised to find the glossy-leaved Colocasia Diamond Head riding so high in the charts, but there it is, recording strong sales from May to early September, when the last ones of the 2014 batch found new homes at the Dorset County Show. Less surprising are the high positions of the Geums Tequila Sunrise and Mai Tai, which very definitely did the hot cakes thing in the early summer months when they were a frothy mass of blooms. Primula Francisca, with its like-me or loathe-me green flowers, was another dominant force in the early part of the season, as it usually is.
Ditto Angelica Ebony, which is regularly one of our first plants to sell out for the season, and last year was no exception. That black divided foliage is just too irresistible for most people. Polemonium Stairway to Heaven is a plant that looks good from early spring to late autumn, with its wonderful cream and green variegated foliage and clouds of blue flowers for weeks on end, so it has a long sales season and wins its top ten placing on that basis. July and August were the big sales months for the bee-friendly Agastache Raspberry Summer which completes our top ten: it not only boasts glorious deep pink flowering spikes, but has strongly scented foliage as an added attraction.
If you had already read our January post, you may have spotted the fact that there is only one plant that makes the top ten both of plants searched for and plants sold. That is the clearly very desirable Geum Tequila Sunrise. Will it hang on to its double accolade in 2015? The coming months will tell us.
Rob & Joanna – February 2015
Once again we have peered into the inner workings of our website to fish out the data which tells us how people arrived on www.paddockplants.co.uk and from that established the year’s top 10 plants which led them there from Google or their alternative search engine of choice (it is admittedly nearly always Google!). In so doing we were interested to note that website visitors had gone up from 25 000 in 2013 to 45 000 in 2014: there has been a significant surge since the website update took place in the late autumn, so we suspect a lot of that is due to search bots taking an interest in the ongoing changes. Anyway, to the list: here it is, and it’s as random as last year’s, with – remarkably – only one plant common to both lists.
1. Echium Russicum
2. Anemone Andrea Atkinson
3. Epilobium Angustifolium Album
4. Inula Orientalis
5. Anisodontea El Royo
6. Sphaeralcea Childerley
7. Deutzia Strawberry Fields
8. Geum Tequila Sunrise
9. Drimys Lanceolata
10. Anchusa Loddon Royalist
The plant with staying power, albeit dropping 5 places, is the Drimys Lanceolata (or Tasmannia, as we believe we should now be calling it) which does it great credit, as it is a fabulous evergreen shrub. The meteoric rise of Echium Russicum to number one demonstrates the influence of the Chelsea Flower Show, as Alan Titchmarsh included some in his show garden. We are not sure if the same applies to the next two plants on the list, but certainly whites and natural drift planting have been among the trends of the year. Andrea Atkinson is certainly the finest white Japanese anemone that we have experience of, and Epilobium Album, although a bit of a spreader, is a beauty if you’ve got the space. Why the surge in interest in good old-fashioned Inula Orientalis, we have no idea, though we are pleased to see it, but we do know that the legendary plantsman Bob Brown named Anisodontea El Royo as his favourite shrub in an article in Gardening Which, and we were named as suppliers. We didn’t know this in advance, so the subsequent spike in orders rather took us by surprise!
Sphaeralcea Childerley is a real little charmer with its masses of saucer-shaped flowers the colour of ripe peaches, and Deutzia Strawberry Fields (aka Magicien) is another splendid flowering shrub, so perhaps it’s not a huge surprise to see them in this list. Geums are a plant in vogue right now, so much that we keep wondering if they are the next big thing, and Tequila Sunrise is a delight despite sharing a varietal name with seemingly every other plant with a similar colouration. Our specimen in a big pot was in bloom for much of 2014. Although it brings up last place in the year’s top ten, Anchusa Loddon Royalist was a big seller in 2014, and once again this was down to the Chelsea factor, as it featured in at least one show garden. It was probably the most sought-after plant at the plant fairs we attended last year.
And there it is, 2014’s top ten most searched-for plants. Which of them will still feature in 12 months’ time, who can tell. But it will be fun finding out. As a strange footnote, we can reveal that on a par with the Anchusa in terms of searches leading people to our website was Ixia, a South African bulbous plant that we haven’t grown in years. Try as we might, we can’t replicate reaching our website through a search for it. The mysterious world of the search engine! Happy new year, everyone.
Rob & Joanna – January 2015
It’s that time again, that moment when we take a deep breath and say that these are the plants that we think will be gracing the Paddock Plants stand at gardening shows and plant fairs during the coming year, as well as making themselves available online and in our sales and display area in Toothill. There are no certainties, as we all know, in the world of gardening, but these are as near to it as we can get. The list displayed below has got 65 new entries on it (including one or two old friends making a comeback), with 41 plants having taken their leave, at least temporarily.
We anticipate every year by thinking it’s going to be the best ever, with the most interesting plants and the most exciting events, all blessed by the most wonderful weather, and why should 2015 be any different? Of course it’s going to be the best!
Have a look through the list for yourself and see why we think so.
Rob & Joanna – December 2014
Term – in the form of the season-long shows and fairs roadshow – ended pretty much a month ago, so it is about time we got round to reviewing the second half of things, having left off last time at the end of June. A key feature of the second half of the show season is the occurrence of occasional weekends with no event being held, and consequently no looking out suitable plants, primping them up to look their best, then driving them to some country house estate or other in the hope that they find new owners and don’t need a return ticket for the Paddock Plants big yellow van. Which is all rather nice after the hectic madness of May and June in particular. But shows are where we sell a significant proportion of our plants, so we couldn’t afford to sit around twiddling our thumbs too much. So …..
July was dominated by two major shows: the Parham Garden Weekend – two days in deepest West Sussex – and the Garden Show at Loseley Park, a long weekend from Friday to Sunday inclusive up (for us, anyway) in Surrey. Last year these two events were marked by blistering heat and drooping showgoers too toasted to think about buying too many plants. This time, although the weather was in full-on English summer mode, sales were much better, though the Saturday at Parham was much the better day of the two and, for some contrary reason, the Saturday at Loseley Park was the dip between two good days. Both venues boast fabulous gardens and Rob was happy to sneak off for a prowl around them when things were quieter.
Early August saw us staying fairly local with the Ellingham Show held in the vast expanses of the Somerley estate near Ringwood. Asking to be located in the same avenue as last time proved productive, and Rob and Deb were kept busy throughout what is in fact a pretty long day allocating plants to their new owners. There is a good atmosphere to this show, which is hugely well attended (the fine weather helped that, we are sure) and our pitch afforded us a good view of various events involving horses and donkeys, as well as of the rather grand Somerley House itself. Rob fell in love with the gorgeous little Lagotto Romagnolo on the next-door stand: if we ever get a second dog, it would certainly be on the list for consideration. Later in the month we spent our regular three days at Kingston Lacy (though sadly not next year due to a National Trust revamp of some kind), which was as lovely as usual, with the exception of the Monday which was a Bank Holiday washout. A highlight of the Sunday was the arrival on our stand of a humming bird hawk moth which took a fancy to our Buzz series buddleias and spent quite some time hovering around their flower spikes, poking out its long proboscis to access the nectar, much to the delight of ourselves and passing customers alike.
Right at the tail end of August we took ourselves down into Somerset for the second time this season for a Rare Plant Fair at Kilver Court. Rob got himself in a tizzy on arrival when the available pitch didn’t fit our usual configuration of racks and tables: he is a bear of very little brain and changes of plan or routine confuse him very easily. Once he had been soothed and got his head around a different layout, everything was fine, weather included, and we enjoyed a spectacularly good day sales-wise. Nothing nicer than driving home in a near-empty van, we think. The gardens there really are worth a visit and had been featured on BBC’s Gardeners’ World shortly before the day of the fair: good use is made of water in various ways, and there is some truly splendid topiary, all against the spectacular backdrop of the grand railway viaduct.
Into September and we were in Dorset once more, initially for the two days of the Dorset County Show and, a week later, for a Plant Heritage plant fair at Athelhampton House. What a contrast. The Dorset Show is a vast affair with tens of thousands of visitors passing through the hundreds of acres of showground, the fair at Athelhampton a gathering of a few nurseries on a lawn by the house with, perhaps, a couple of hundred people looking around. At which event did we do better? Let’s just say that we took more in one (much shorter) day on the lawn at Athelhampton than we did in both 8 to 6 days combined at Dorchester – and the profit after outgoings was much better, too. Much as we enjoy actually being at the wonderfully diverse and busy Dorset County Show, it’s not a very productive weekend for us, and we will probably be elsewhere next year in the first weekend in September. Athelhampton – it was our first visit there – is a lovely venue, and we will certainly return in 2015, perhaps in the spring as well as in the autumn. Any country house that has the gardener’s loo in a castellated turret has to be worth revisiting. See some photos here.
And that was that for 2014. We passed on the possibility of a final show on the third weekend of September, as we found ourselves struggling to find sufficient numbers of plants in flower or otherwise looking good enough to tempt the late-season customer. So now it’s batten down the hatches for the onset of another winter, get on with all the behind the scenes work that has to be done, and plan for 2015. Next year will, after all, be the best year ever. Don’t we always think that?
Rob & Joanna – October 2014
Well, it’s nearly midnight on the 11th of July and in a few hours’ time Rob will be waking up to set off for West Sussex and the Parham Garden Weekend, and so will begin the second half of the 2014 show season. Because, finally, a few days ago we had our first weekend without an event since the beginning of April – not that we had any opportunity to have a lie in or anything as luxurious as that. But it does seem an appropriate moment to review the roadshow so far.
A Rare Plant Fair at Birtley House was our first appearance of 2014 and it kicked off a very busy month of April in typically cool and breezy fashion. It was more of the same for much of the three days of the Aztec All About Gardening show at Newbury the following weekend, though the final day brought better weather if not better sales: it did seem odd that so many people came to a gardening show with no real intention to buy any plants. We had another three days over Easter at Somerley Park: sadly day two was a complete washout and marked the first time we had erected the sides on our gazebo to keep out the elements. Rob ventured solo down to deepest Gloucestershire for a plant fair at the Coach House Garden near Cirencester – more rain there but at least there were enough hardy gardeners to avoid it being a long journey for nothing. Rain again for the RDA fair held in a spectacular setting on the beautiful if windswept Marlborough Downs, but again hardy gardeners saved the day.
Into May with the traditional opener for that month, the St John Fair at Wintershill: a two vanloads show for us and another successful day (blessed with better weather than April had been able to rustle up). We went up to Stockbridge the next day for the Plant Heritage event and boy, did we do well. Knowledgeable gardeners turned out in their droves and pretty much stripped our stand of plants: now that’s the kind of day we like, with a virtually empty van on the road home. The rain, sadly, returned for the WOW fair held at a new site at Dummer, making it more soggy than successful. And then the wind was the featured element when we attended the Gardeners’ Market in Fareham town centre: when the two tiered racks were upended, scattering pots and plants all over West Street, Rob’s language was not suitable for the under 16s. Another Rare Plant Fair took us to Sharcott Manor in Wiltshire: there were apparently fewer visitors, but we did better than last time, perhaps helped by the kinder weather this year. And May closed with the three days of the Bank Holiday weekend spent in the familiar surroundings of Kingston Lacy which, as ever, provided brisk trade despite it being rather soggy underfoot following heavy rain.
Another traditional landmark, the Solent Gardeners’ Fayre, kick-started the month of June: we had a rather better position than last year, and that probably helped, as we had a really good day despite the increased competition from the larger number of other nurseries. The Stansted Garden Show produced its usual thunderstorm, this time on the second day, which was notable for the fact that attendance was much reduced despite the fact that the weather was really pretty decent once the storm got out of the way. Then it was the Unusual Pants Fair at Gilbert White’s House in Selborne: we love this event and this year didn’t disappoint, with good weather and good sales in that lovely meadow with the slightly unreal looking bank of trees. The less said about our trip to Tilshead for the Midsummer Fair the better. Let’s just note that the bill for replacing bits of the van after negotiating the very very narrow access lane far outweighed the profit made from the 20 plants sold. No, that’s not a misprint. 20 plants. June was seen out by the biennial Dorset Gardens Trust event, held this year at Herringston House near Dorchester. The organisers reported attendance down more than 50%, but our sales were not much below the admittedly high number set two years ago at Waterston Manor. We must be doing something right.
And there you have it. The half term report on part one of the show season 2014: bed beckons of there is going to be a part two!
Rob & Joanna – July 2014
Black, pink and green are the colours in question in this eighth instalment of our series on new plants finding a place on our listing for 2014.
If you like black or nearly black plants, you will like Dianthus Barbatus Monksilver Black, an unusual and very attractive form of the plant commonly known as Sweet William. It forms a compact bushy plant with distinctive, virtually black evergreen foliage and, above that in late spring into summer, clusters of dark maroon flowers that are so dark that they, too, are virtually black. And they’re fragrant, for your added pleasure. Lovely, though it wouldn’t stand out on a dark night, we suppose. Often grown as biennials, these are in fact perennial plants, if relatively short-lived. Worth it, though, however many seasons they last.
You will certainly have heard of Digitalis Illumination Pink. Since taking Chelsea by storm in 2012, this new cross between Digitalis and Isoplexis (from the Canary Islands and which we also grow and sell in its own right) has been deservedly in demand. It has a compact and bushy habit with a semi-evergreen rosette of toothed lance-shaped leaves and spikes clothed with deep pink flowers with warm apricot throats. Very long flowering, which is good news. Thompson & Morgan, who bred this new introduction, stand to do very well out of it and are busy already introducing new colour variations.
Now for Echinacea Green Jewel. There have been so many – perhaps too many – new varieties of Echinacea flooding on to the market in recent years, and green flowers are not to everyone’s taste, we admit, but this Piet Oudoulf introduction might convince even the more reluctant amongst you. Quilled lime green petals surround a flattish and fragrant central cone of darker green, which, set against the backdrop of the equally green foliage, makes for a rather sumptuous appearance. If green’s your thing, this one should be on your planting list.
Rob & Joanna – February 2014