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