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showed that she was a lifetime member of the RHS having won a gardening award in the past, Caroline’s showed hers was out of date.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.