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