The sun continued to shine with scorching intensity as fifteen nurseries set out their stalls for our new summer plant fair. Would the hot weather draw in the crowds or deter them? How would the plants fare, and would the punters buy them if they needed a pickaxe to make the planting hole, and regular, copious doses of water to ensure the plant’s survival? Understandably, therefore, there was some nervousness as the day approached.
There were issues too about nursery access into the garden and how they would fit harmoniously into the space. Some nurseries had chosen to have their pitches around the car park area just outside the resident nursery to make unloading and setting up easier, also hoping perhaps to attract the visitors on their way in from the car park. This was the most exposed area, and as the sun moved round the heat in the afternoon became very oppressive. In the garden itself the spaces were nicely filled with impressively colourful stalls with plenty of room for customers to wander between them, and there was an excited buzz as the number of visitors increased. One of the benefits of a plant sale at this time of the year is that there are plenty of plants of impressive size in full bloom; a great attraction for customers. Yet, paradoxically, the experience of some of the nurseries is that as a general rule July is not a good time to hold these events, and they are beginning to avoid them after the end of June. This was obviously another risk factor in contemplating this project right from the outset.
It was rewarding to note that the customers who came were avid buyers, and were to be seen staggering out with multiple bags of plants and coming back in for more. The number of visitors was 264, a modest but reasonable first-time result. It obviously takes time to build the reputation of an event such as this so that numbers grow year on year. There is a kind of ‘critical mass’ necessary to ensure that there is enough potential business for all the stall holders, and this may take a couple of years to become firmly established. Obviously not all nurseries will have done equally well but customer reactions seem to suggest that this was a successful event. Some nurseries did better than they had expected and were very positive about the location, the setting and customer response. Our own stall was well visited and plant sales were excellent, but we could do more to draw people in and talk to them about HPS; it’s amazing how few visitors actually know much about us.
We are very grateful to Mary Pring, ably supported by Catherine Bond (from CB Plants, the resident nursery at Lower Severalls), for collaborating with us in this new venture. There will be lessons to be learnt and the next stage is to seek systematic feedback from the nurseries to determine whether and in what form we can make it an annual event. One thing is certain; we must not assume this year’s weather is the norm. Watch this space!