Spring Plant Fair at Great Dixter8th April 2016 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
I have been in horticultural heaven this week with plenty of gardening at home, the visit to Sissinghurst and a day at the Spring Fair at Great Dixter. It really is the most wonderful event – masterminded by Fergus Garrett – and I found myself thinking that had Christo been there, he would have been predictably grumpy at first, but ultimately thrilled that his protégé had devised an event so entirely in keeping with the spirit of Great Dixter. The fact that it was also a lovely spring day just added to the general bonhomie. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it in previous blog posts, but many a large event could learn from the seamless, cheerful way that Fergus and his team manage the parking, somehow arranging things so that even this is a pleasure with Fergus himself ultimately guiding you into your parking place. Once inside, you find a wonderful array of the best independent nurseries, including some you have never heard of, as well as several from France, with the Great Dixter stand at its heart. There are delicious things to eat, short talks by various stallholders, plants galore – and the opportunity to walk round the gardens. The equally wonderful Autumn Fair will take place on the 1st & 2nd of October.
So what did I buy? For once I was relatively disciplined and selected plants for which I had a specific home. Euphorbias topped the bill – three ‘Kalipso’, a compact variety that will add some structure to one of the borders, one Euphorbia stygiana, a very architectural variety, and one Euphorbia myrsinites which is the one that snakes along the ground with scale-like leaves. Three Begonia ‘Benitochiba’ a wonderful red-leaved foliage plant which may just prove hardy in my garden were irresistible. I’m not taking chances though, they are in the conservatory and will only go out when the nights are a little less cold. I added an Osmanthus delaveyi to my haul as evergreen insurance in case the dreaded box moth caterpillar arrives here and a single Campanula pyramidalis (also known as the chimney bellflower) to see if I can persuade it to grow a magnificent, delphinium-like flower stem. The piece de resistance was Rosa banksiae var. banksiae, the white double flowered variety that smells of violets. I’ve wanted one for ages, but they are not easy to come by, so I was delighted to carry it home.
I’m as guilty as the next person of buying plants that then languish in their pots before finally (or sometimes never) making it into the ground. Not this time – with the exception of the begonias, they were all happily settled in their new homes the following day – and that night it rained heavily enough to ensure they got off to the best possible start. Result!