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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 24 May 2016 by Tim Ingram

Plant Fairs Roadshow at Telegraph Hill.

Plant Fairs Roadshow at Telegraph Hill

The weekend before Chelsea a co-operative of small specialist nurseries in the south-east held this Plant Sale at Telegraph Hill, just off the A2 and a few miles from the City of London. Having travelled into London many times in the past along this road, particularly when making displays at Chelsea with the Kent Group of the Hardy Plant Society, and going to events at the Chelsea Physic Garden, the 'Roadshow' might seem small and insignificant in gardening terms. There is a thriving community here though, and a strong cultural heart to it expressed by the Telegraph Hill Festival held each year in the spring. The Plant Fairs Roadshow has come to the local Church Hall here for the past four years and this year was held in combination with the Festival and with local private and community gardens open throughout the morning and early afternoon. It was a good day which attracted many local people and showed the importance of plants and gardening for a very built up and relatively deprived part of the city - a contrast and a balance to my memories of the Chelsea Show. Our thanks are due to Fiona Wemyss,, who previously lived locally, whose idea this was, and who liased with the Telegraph Hill Centre and the Festival. 

We took along alpine plants of course and were pleasantly surprised to find considerable interest in them from the 250 or so visitors who came along - including most heartening of all, the younger generation. In the picture above, just next to the androsace that the little boy is pointing to is Globularia incanescens. Through the magic of the social media (Facebook) I discover that the seed we grew this from, was collected by Mojmir Pavelka, along with Vladimir Stanek and Zdenek Zvolanek. What more marvellous connection between gardeners across Europe can you picture? The way these mountain flowers lead you to explore, discover, make contacts. Their simple attraction, even if someone has not seen them before or knows their names. For me this is how a society such as the AGS can grow - at one level it is to do with community (this is very obvious within the Local Groups), at another it is to do with the world outside, which was so well presented at the Czech Conference in May 2013 that I have written about elsewhere, and will be repeated in 2017 - see: Here at Telegraph Hill it is just part of a wider love of plants and their value in our personal gardens.

Telegraph Hill sits rather dramatically, and well named, overlooking the City of London. Though heavily built up (and the A2 itself is at times very congested and in places very run down) the green parks above and below the Church and Telegraph Hill Centre give more space - the poster in the Upper Park gives a good sense of its history.

Though small a good range of plants were available at the Plant Sale because those of us attending do specialise in what we grow - our personal interests come across from particular experience of growing plants within our own gardens, which is such a significant feature of plant societies such as the AGS, HPS, SRGC, BPS (and if you are more Internationally inclined, the North American, Flemish and Czech Rock Garden societies). This poster, which Fiona designed, pretty accurately describes the day and though the AGS may pride itself on its erudition, I think it could learn from this in its 'presentation'. The Alpine Shows themselves have the most remarkable variety of plants available from specialist nurseries, even if inevitably are most concerned with those species from which the society gains its name.

Fiona herself specialises in growing succulent plants and in many ways these have an appeal rather similar to those of alpines because of their individual nature and also how they can be displayed. They made a lovely picture in the centre of the Hall and attracted a lot of attention.

Another small display, from Rachael Castle - - was of Auriculas, again a particular group of plants of especial appeal to many members of the AGS, always such a feature of the Chelsea Show itself, and I think becoming more and more popular again amongst a newer generation of gardeners.

Of widest and most universal interest though are probably hardy perennials, a clear reason why so many of us do belong to both the Alpine Garden Society and Hardy Plant Society, and in my case are and have been involved in running Local Groups of both - and writing for both - and actually not regarding them as so very separate. 

Looking at the marvellous display made by the AGS (and by Kevock and Ashwood Nurseries!) at the Chelsea Show this year there is a great vicarious pleasure - and the Chelsea Show has been an exciting event to go to and be involved with over many years - but I hope this entry also shows the pleasure that comes from the smaller scale and contact with gardeners who may not have the same academic and professional experiences of the Plant World, but for whom plants are just as important and relevant.


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