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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 15 April 2015 by Tim Ingram

Plant Fairs Roadshow

For anyone in the south-east this weekend - the 'Plant Fairs Roadshow' are at Hall Place in south-east London on Sunday 19th April from 10am to 3pm. Hall Place is is at Bourne Road, Bexley DA5 1PQ - just off the A2 and a few miles inside the M25.

A good range of plants from small specialist nurseries in an extensive and varied garden which also has an historically interesting and important rock garden on relatively poor stony soil in a dry climate. Admission FREE.

(We will have information and details about the Alpine Garden Society and the Kent Groups)

These are a few pictures from the Plant Fairs Roadshow last Sunday. Rachael Castle (Swallowfields Nursery) also has a strong interest in Primula auricula and the Show cultivars that have been developed from this species, which traditionally are so effectively displayed in an 'Auricula Theatre'.

Most of these auriculas are grown for display and not suitable for the garden but there are those - Border Auriculas - that retain more of a natural character and are suited to rock gardens, in the same way for example as the varied forms of P. marginata. Here is one example from Jenny Maillard (Usual and Unusual Plants): Primula auricula 'Bowen's Blue'. Amongst the plants on Jenny's stand was also the wonderful Ranunculus hybrid R. x arendsii, in a fine cross made at Washfield Nursery by Elizabeth Strangman between R. amplexicaulis and R. gramineus 'Pardal'. This plant is very rarely seen or available and is an example of the diversity available from the specialist nurseries who came together at this event.

Primula x pubescens 'Bowen's Blue'

The colour may not really be sky-blue but this is still a most attractive plant.

Succulent plants and cacti share similarities to the cultivation of alpines and woodland plants in the sense that they are often grown for display, and there are a good number (notably cacti) that come from alpine habitats and given protection from winter rains can be grown in the garden too. Many of the plants that Fiona Wemyss (Blueleaf Plants) grows are not hardy but her ways of displaying them are close to the ways many alpines are displayed at the Shows, if rather more artistic.

This was a small event and relatively few of those buying plants had any great knowledge of them which leaves the grower having to work hard to sell them, but there were exceptions and also those with a keen interest - in our case for example in Umbels! such as Athamanta and Meum - and a good number of younger gardeners. The potential is there for this venue to develop a more significant specialist plant fair.

The garden itself is interesting and well run, though sadly the rock garden doesn't get the attention it deserves despite having a very good structure and still a good number of unusual plants and many well adapted to low rainfall and summer heat. There will be another Fair here in high summer (Sunday 28th June) when perennials will be to the fore.

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