Despite a gloomy forecast, the rain held off for the Somerset Group’s inaugural Plant Fair in the grounds of Forde Abbey. Considering this was the Group’s first autumn event of this kind there was a good turn-out, and by mid-morning plant-hunters were already carrying bags of foliage and flowers as they wandered amongst the stalls.
The Somerset HPS table was decked with donated plants, which gradually diminished in number as the day wore on. Small children were invited to come and plant a pot of miniature daffodils for free, learning which way up the bulbs should be planted, and that age-old gardener’s lesson of waiting for spring.
Expert advice was on hand from the stall-holders and nurserymen. There were a wide variety of bulbs for sale, from dainty dwarf narcissi to elegant azure-blue camassias, and customers were intrigued by exotic plants grown for their architectural and curiosity factor. Many of the stalls boasted a wealth of reliable herbaceous perennials, from the jewel colours of Michaelmas daisies and salvias to the metallic pink sprays of miscanthus grasses. There were stands displaying woven willow animals, carved spoons and all manner of pots, planters and paraphernalia.
Dogs were welcome and a variety turned up with their owners in tow. There was a generally sociable atmosphere to the event and many people stopped to chat as they enjoyed the fair.
Forde Abbey’s own borders were still full of colour, and the extensive kitchen garden seemed designed to instil vegetable envy in anyone who grows their own, with a fine pumpkin harvest, huge clouds of feathery asparagus and a display of picture-perfect Brussels sprouts. Tall wigwams at the corners supported the scrambling climber, Spanish Flag, (Ipomoea lobata) in full flame. Elsewhere, glowing rudbeckias, beetroot-tinted sedums and the velvety, rich orange Mexican daisy, Tithonia rotundifolia, brought life to the fading autumnal borders.
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