A new fair

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Plant Lovers Fair at Kariong 2013

This weekend saw the inaugural Plant Lovers Fair held at the Kariong Mountains High School near Gosford on the Central Coast of NSW. With my newfound enthusiasm for gardening, I was keen to visit the fair to see what I could find to fill in some of the gaps in my garden. Plant fairs have been held in Europe for a number of years but are a relatively new phenomenon for us here in Sydney. It behoves us keen gardeners to support them in order that the smaller, specialist nurseries can keep going. The large commercial nurseries (with rare exceptions) just don't carry the sorts of plants that many of us crave for our gardens.

Plant Lovers Fair at Kariong 2013

At this fair, there were 34 exhibitors, selling plants ranging from maples, Vireya rhododendrons and camellias, to pelargoniums, roses and succulents. There were bulbs, topiary, Australian native plants, fruit trees and even herb and vegetable seedlings. At the Yellow House Heritage Perennials stall, I was pleased to find a number of the old-fashioned perennials that do well in Sydney - such as Erysimum mutabile 'Winter Joy' and Artemisia 'Powis Castle' - which I had lost in my own garden due to neglect over the past couple of years. They also had an excellent collection of Salvia plants.

Amorphophallus konjac at the Plant Lovers Fair at Kariong 2013

At Andy's Rare Plants stall, I enjoyed looking at some unusual bulbs and perennial plants. I found a bright pink Lobelia x gerardii to try, as I have had some previous success with perennial Lobelia in an unusually moist part of my garden. I also bought a Trimezia bulb that has a yellow iris-like flower and which seems to be very similar to Neomarica longifolia, which does well in my garden. Andy had flowering pots of the giant aroid plant Amorphophallus konjac, which has a very strong smell (like rotting flesh?) that attracts pollinators, and these was a talking point amongst the crowd.

Bulbine frutescens

An important function of fairs like these is the educational aspect of the stalls. I overheard many of the stallholders generously giving lots of advice to customers about the best way to grow various plants being purchased. I also like to look at all the signs relating to plants, as I often find out the names of mystery plants in my garden that way! During my visit, I found the name of an amazing yellow-flowered plant in bloom in my garden at the moment: Bulbine frutescens. It forms a wide clump of fleshy leaves and has dainty spires of yellow starry flowers mainly in spring but also at other times during the year. From a sign attached to one for sale at the fair, I learned that the leaves have a jelly-like juice that can apparently be used for burns, rashes, cracked skin and other dermatological ailments. It is a most obliging plant in the garden, growing in sun or part-shade.

Orchids for sale at the Plant Lovers Fair at Kariong 2013

A sign on the Orchid Productions stall informed me of the botanical name of some lovely orchids given to me by a friend last year: Dendrobium nobile. I grow them in the forks of trees and they are flowering now with big clusters of black-eyed blooms.

At the Sydney Rainforest Nursery, I learned that the enormous figs removed from the historic avenue in Hyde Park are to be replaced with specimens of the buttressed native rainforest tree called black booyong (Argyrodendron actinophyllum), supplied by this nursery.

I enjoyed my visit to the fair and hope it will become an annual event. As well as plants, I came home with some new gardening books from Florilegium and some lovely floral cards by Gabby Malpas. All in all, a satisfying day!