'I'll only be LOOKING when I go to the Plant Lovers Fair, not buying,' I announced confidently to my gardening friends last week. 'Yeah, right,' they replied, knowing me better than I know myself. And so it was that I came home with a carful of new treasures from the fair this past weekend!
With so many of the small independent nurseries in Sydney closing down in recent years, those of us with a plant addiction are relying more than ever on plant fairs to have the opportunity to see (and buy!) the unusual plants that are rarely seen in the big chain nurseries. So thank goodness for the Collectors Plant Fair (held in autumn at Clarendon, NSW) and the Plant Lovers Fair (held in spring at Kariong on the Central Coast of NSW), our local fairs.
There was something for every gardener - new or seasoned - at the fair this weekend, with edibles, natives, orchids, succulents, roses, bulbs, begonias, shrubs, perennials, climbers and bonsai - and lots more, as well as books and tools. With a current interest in shaded gardens, I found myself gravitating to some of the stalls selling suitable plants for such spots, and purchased trailing Fuchsia procumbens (ht 10 cm, spread to 1 m) from Ross Bolwell's Begonia and Shade Plants stall. This New Zealand plant looks nothing like any other Fuchsia I've seen, and has yellow and green flowers followed by large and persistent red berries. And it can grow in part or full shade, apparently! I admired many Begonia and Acanthaceae plants at this stall.
At Verdigris Fern Nursery's stall, I obtained advice on ferns to grow in dry shade, and purchased two specimens: Asplenium obtusatum (ht 30 cm) and Rumohra adiantiformis (ht 60 cm). I am very ignorant about ferns and am keen to learn more. They provide such an effective contrast to bold-leaved plants in shade, with their dainty filigree foliage. One delightful aspect of plant fairs is the chance to meet the people who have propagated these plants, who cheerfully and willingly give advice to the customers.
I enjoyed seeing the wide range of perennials at the Clover Hill Rare Plants stall, with the shade-lovers cleverly placed under an awning away from the sun-loving ones, to make decisions easier (and also to prevent them from wilting in the sun). Here I bought Aster divaricatus, which unlike most of its relatives, grows in dry shade; along with a compact form of the Shasta daisy (a sun-lover) called 'Little Angel' (ht 60 cm). Yellow House Heritage Perennials had their usual lovely selection of plants, all beautifully displayed, and I was given some useful advice about how to combat those wretched flea beetles that are attacking my Salvia collection! The Growing Friends of Sydney Royal Botanic Garden had a great range too, of many of the plants that grow in the Botanic Garden and which are so suitable for Sydney gardeners - and hard to find elsewhere.
Other plants that called my name included a lovely shrub with metallic sea-green leaves with a silvery underside, called Eleagnus x ebbingei (ht 2 m), which can grow in full sun OR full shade; and Stachyurus praecox (ht 1.6 m), a deciduous shrub from Japan, which has long graceful strings of pale yellow bells in late winter and early spring, and can grow in sun or light shade: I had admired it in bloom recently in a friend's garden and in the Spring Walk at the Botanic Garden (both purchased from Yamina Rare Plants); and a native climber from Fraser Island: Tecomanthe dendrophylla 'Roaring Meg' (from Weslor Flowers Plant Nursery) with long, dark pink, pendulous flowers in clusters, which I once saw growing to perfection in the Mackay Botanic Garden. It will be interesting to see how this goes in my Sydney garden.
All the dedicated nurserymen and women who grow these plants for our delectation need our ongoing support, so that we as gardeners can continue to try to make the gardens of our dreams ...
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