Growbag Blog

Going potty at the Plant Fair


So I took C and E to the Spring Plant Fair at RHS Wisley on Sunday, on the promise they’d behave themselves. Wisley is very much my stamping ground and I didn’t want any embarrassing incidents which might compromise my regular Sunday morning visits to this fantastic garden, (which I am now illustrating in a separate column ‘Grow To Wisley’ do have a look). The first challenge was to get them up in time, given the clocks had changed and C had been out on the tiles the night before at what she euphemistically called a ‘school reunion’. The next challenge was to locate their RHS membership cards; Elaine’s showed that she was a lifetime member of the RHS having won a gardening award in the past, Caroline’s showed hers was out of date. 

Caroline throws off the hangover and gets engaged with W & S Lockyer stand

On arrival the girls sorted out their priorities for the visit and headed straight for…….the cafeteria. Having persuaded Caroline against administering the Hair of the Dog (reminding her this was Surrey, not Glasgow) we were finally ready to hit the plant marquee. Once there the problems started almost immediately, Caroline veering wildly from stall to stall, exclaiming loudly about any plant that happened to be in flower, Elaine dawdling to study each and every plant label in great detail – honestly, it was like herding cats. 

  Elaine measuring up against Banksia ericofolia x macrantha

As ever I as on the lookout for the unusual and particularly wanted to expand my collection of Australasian flora, so the Plantbase stand with its fascinating home grown banksia was heaven. Plantbase are pushing the boundaries of which subtropical plants can live outdoors in the UK unaided and I applaud their philosophy of breeding plants that are ‘hardy first and pretty second’ (E and C would probably use this phrase to describe me too). I made Elaine pose against a particularly impressive banksia specimen but you can detect that she’s actually thinking about clematis. That’s ok, she was only in the picture to provide scale.


Yes Laura’s apprehension was palpable as we entered Wisley’s hallowed wooden gates but luckily for her it wasn’t until we hit the plant sale marquee that my hangover finally lifted and the Growbags moved into full shriek. I don’t know why E and L are so sniffy about buying plants in flower – how else do you know what to expect? Even Louise recommends doing this and you can tell from her column today she has impeccable judgement .

How pretty are these? Hillview’s Primula ‘Zebra Blue’

I’ve been so impressed with the stamina of my primulas during the omni-Beast that I longed to buy some from Hillview Hardy Plants – theirs were FANTASTIC but I was heading back to Scotland straight after – the Easyjet luggage allowance had to rule my heart. As I left their stand I heard proprietor John Millington warn neighbouring Floyds Climbers ‘watch out for them, they’re trouble’ and yes it was E and L but they were both reaching for their purses so I assumed they’d at least had the decency to buy something to make up for the disruption they’d caused.

Just wow! The brand new Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ on the W & S Lockyer stand

No flowers this time but a label that said ‘brand new’ and the mahoosif grey, velvety leaves of Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ set my excito-meter tweaking off the scale.  I was devastated to discover that stand holders W & S Lockyer don’t do mail-order but that the same plant is offered by Eleplants who do. You heard it here first.

When canny shopper Laura negotiated a five-for-four deal on a range of rather sober looking Leptospermum varieties at Paradise Plants (Australasian endemics apparently) she asked my opinion on what her fifth ‘free’ choice should be. Well obvs the Chaenomeles ‘Nicoline’ (lovely watermelon-coloured flowering quince) which glittered above the stand like Lady GaGa at an accountancy seminar. I thrust out my arm and shouted ‘THAT ONE’. Stall holder Paul Johnson patiently explained what was obvious to any proper gardener – this was the source plant and would never be for sale. Undeterred I managed to squeeze one of its babies into my hand luggage.  Elaine also fell for its charms……. and for those of some of the stallholders going by her girlish giggles….

Yes imagine an entrance like that of Charlie’s Angels, with me obviously as Farah Fawcett-Majors, the good-looking one, and the two other ones trailing behind.  The moment we started twittering about the beauty of softly-red Loropetalum leaves at the very first stand we reached, you knew the stand-holders were rubbing their collective hands in glee – more batty women of a certain age utterly incapable of walking past a collection of anything green without diving into their purses for their grey pounds.

The nurserymen and women were full of information and bonhomie.  
Rob Hardy of Hardy’s Plants, for instance, who beguiled us with plants while giving me a marvellous update on the cricket scores and his adventures ‘down-under’ with the Barmy Army.  

It’s true, I was unable to resist a new Clematis integrefolia on the Floyds Climbers stand; it’s called ‘Jan Fopma’ and has delightful-looking nodding mauve bells, July-October – the flowers even smell of chocolate! I also bought some perennial Erysimum (wallflowers) from Mandyplants – what fantastically good do-ers these are, flowering for weeks in early summer, even though they don’t have the scent of the biennial kinds.  

That gorgeous Chaenomeles ‘Nicoline’

Paradise Plants were indeed uber impressive and we weren’t surprised to learn that they had supplied the chaenomeles for the very pretty cover of this month’s RHS magazine ‘The Garden’.

After a final sweep of the marquee, a lovely stroll through gardens and glasshouses, and a warming bacon butty, we asked Laura’s Tim to take the photograph us all (at the top of this blog).  You can detect Laura’s relief that we’d finished the morning without a red card – but she’d yet to discover that Caroline was squatting on a ‘Keep Off the Grass’ sign. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”The3Growbags” subscribe_text=”Like to hear more about our gardening adventures?” subscribe_button=”click click”]

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

3 replies on “Going potty at the Plant Fair”

Hi girls I’m new to your blog but really enjoying all your thoughts and comments, it was lovely to read all about your day at the spring show we went a couple of years ago and loved it so was very envious of your trip. Kind Regards Carole

Hi Carole, Elaine here. lovely to hear from you! Yes, we really enjoyed ourselves at the Plant Fair, with Caroline and I trying, and obviously failing, not to embarrass Laura on her ‘home’ stamping ground. I hope you saw her Wisley Winter Walk piece as well. I don’t get to Wisley half as much as I’d like to, and it was great to be reminded of what a special place it is.

Why doesn’t Paul Johnson of Paradise plants have a contact email address etc.After buying one of his baby Aibiza Jullbrissin ‘rosea’ plants at Gardeners world live!he says email him with any queries but where Paul where ?

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