Why would you go to a flower show – for the the gardens, or for the plants? It’s true that some people go for the experience
– event and retail marketing seems to be all about ‘experiences’ and ‘destinations’ now – but while these are animals I can identify in a crowd, quaffing their fizz* and seemingly more interested in being seen than in seeing
, I have little to no real understanding of them. So...gardens, or plants? The show gardens can be inspiring, stimulating, frustrating and disappointing – I’m sure on occasion I’ve felt all of these emotions while pondering a single garden. But as for the plants on displayed in the floral marquee? I’d have no option but to laugh in the face of anyone who would dare to suggest that they are ever anything less than wondrous.
|Wonderful textures and plants on the Todd’s Botanics stand|
While working in the Floral Marquee on Sunday, I’d spent a lot of time trying not to tread on the trailing parts of Geranium
'Dusky Crug', one of my all-time favourite cransebills, which was on the beautifully planted stand of Todd’s Botanics
. All purple, chocolate foliage and soft pink flowers, it’s like a deliciously sepia version of a vibrant garden favourite.
|Geranium 'Dusky Crug', Todd’s Botanics|
Imagine my delight on finding the very similar Geranium
'Dusky Rose' at Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants
– so similar in fact that I’m having trouble telling the difference, and will have to wait till someone more knowledgeable can enlighten me!
|Geranium 'Dusky Rose', Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants|
|Cosmos sulphureum 'Diablo', Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants|
The Hardy’s display also featured the fabulously flame orange of Cosmos sulphureus
'Diablo' – I’ll definitely be growing this next year –
|Verbascum 'Firedance', Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants|
and, while we’re on the subject of the infernal, the metre high flower spikes of Verbascum
A few plants appeared to be following me around. This is a common experience at flower shows – you engage with a particular variety, and then can’t help noticing it as you move around the marquee, and even out into the showground.
The first of these was an interesting Rose
'Hot Chocolate', first sighted by me on the stand of Madrona Nursery
, and then seen again in the marquee for the Festival of Roses. It’s a floribunda rose with a long flowering season, about 90cm high, with very good disease resistance, striking blooms of a deep coppery red shade on deep green leaves. Yet another for my wish list.
|Rosa 'Hot Chocolate', Madrona Nurseries|
|Rosa 'Hot Chocolate'|
Another apparently ubiquitous rose was 'Blue for You'. Not being a huge
fan of roses in the lilac areas of the colour spectrum, it’s a source of
interest to me that I've managed to end up planting both 'Twice in a
Blue Moon' and 'Harry Edland' in our own garden. Perhaps I should go for
this one and make it a clear hat-trick.
My next planty stalker was Hydrangea arborescens
'Invincibelle', which looks to me very much like a pink tinged Annabelle. I wonder if it does the green and cream colour change thing like the better known variety?
|Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle', The Big Plant Nursery|
There was another pink tinged hydrangea on the stand of the Big Plant Nursery
, with the vomit-inducing cultivar name 'Love You Kiss'. If you can keep hold of your dinner, however, it’s an attractive lacecap, with a reddish tinge around the rim of the petals.
|Hydrangea 'Love You Kiss', The Big Plant Nursery|
It’s always good to see local nurseries, and another Kent representative is Plantbase
. Graeme had brought his party piece, the terrifying Solamnum pyracanthum
, with its violet flowers, glaucous foliage and bright orange spikes. The Sid Vicious of potatoes.
|Solanum pyracanthum, Plantbase|
There was also my favourite tea tree plant, Leptospermum scoparium
|Leptospermum scoparium 'Damask Red', Plantbase|
By now, it was probably time to cool off after all these hot colours. Nowhere better for this than the display of heucheras, heucherellas and tiarellas from Plantagogo
. I was charmed by the dark purples and silver tones of Heucherella
'Cracked Ice', with its creamy white flowers.
|Heucherella 'Cracked Ice', Plantagogo|
A similar cooling effect can be had with Heuchera
|Heuchera 'Silver Celebration', Plantagogo|
I was also interested to see the new introduction, Tiarella
'Emerald Ellie' – not a million miles away from 'Sugar and Spice'.
|Tiarella 'Emerald Ellie', Plantagogo|
While on Sunday I was busy assisting Heather and Fran of Fibrex Nurseries
with their pelargonium display, Richard was putting the finishing touches to the adjacent stand featuring their ferns and specimens from the national collection of Hedera
(ivies) which they hold. A lush and shady work of art, I’ll be carrying a photograph of this around with me to flourish on the very next occasion (there will be several) when someone looks bored or rolls their eyes upon my suggesting ivies for their dark, north facing wall or fence.
|Ivies and ferns, Fibrex Nurseries|
I’m keen to go an explore both of these collections on the nursery – if I can just avoid being waylaid by pelargoniums – but the selection on show here demonstrated the range and variety available, and what can be achieved in a small space.
|Ferns Asplenium scolopendrium and Adiantum venustrum surround a terracotta pot filled with Hedera helix 'Goldfinch', Fibrex nurseries|
| Hedera helix 'Ivalace', Fibrex Nurseries|
|The splendidly named Hedera 'Pink and Curly', Fibrex Nurseries|
| Hedera helix 'Spetchley', Fibrex Nurseries|
And what of the pelargoniums? Here I have to exercise some restraint, else I’d be posting photos of everything in the display!
The first spot goes to regal Pelargonium
'Beryl Reid', with its outrageously frou-frou ruffles – salmon pink with maroon centres. Gloriously flouncy.
|Regal Pelargonium 'Beryl Reid', Fibrex Nurseries|
Still with the regals, I met two similar varieties, 'Fringed Aztec' and 'Arnside Fringed Aztec', both with large white blooms with respectively red and deep pink markings in the centres.
|Regal Pelargonium 'Fringed Aztec', Fibrex Nurseries|
|Regal Pelargonium 'Arnside Fringed Aztec', Fibrex Nurseries|
Possibly as showy, but more delicate, is 'Fairy Orchid', with carmine blotches to the top of the two upper petals, and the characteristic ‘false eyelash’ markings to the centre of the flower.
|Angel Pelargonium 'Fairy Orchid', Fibrex Nurseries|
Used on the display for its fabulous cut foliage, Pelargonium
'Charity' has vivid green variagated leaves, with an orange citrus scent. The mauve flowers are probably the least spectacular thing about this plant.
|Scented Pelargonium 'Charity', Fibrex Nurseries|
|Scented Pelargonium 'Ardwick Cinnamon', Fibrex Nurseries|
My final offering from the Floral Marquee is an unassuming plant, that takes hold of you by stealth. I’m rather fond of its compact habit and small, glaucous leaves, a perfect backdrop to its small white flowers. But its the unexpectedly spicy scent of cinnamon from the crushed foliage that really sets this particular pellie apart. One that needs to be smelled to be believed.
All this has left me with the not unpleasant task of prioritising my plant wish list. I have a feeling that they're not all going to fit back in the greenhouse come winter, but that’s a worry for another day.
Please click here to read the first part of my blog on RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2015.
* This isn’t to suggest that gardeners eschew the quaffing of fizz. In fact, we’re far from an abstemious lot, and are as good at this as we are at tracking down and consuming cake. It’s just that we do this as an adjunct to viewing gardens and drooling over plants, not an alternative.