Saturday, 13 May 2017

the plant sale

Today was the garden club plant sale.  They had negotiated to hold it in the pub garden in the middle of the village, and I knew they were going to have a gazebo, and that was all I did know.  I duly turned up at half past eight, having sorted out the plants I was going to take yesterday, writing labels for them and checking all the pots for vine weevil or root aphid, and found the tables in the gazebo already fairly full of plants, but the committee were still happy to get more.

I hadn't much idea what to expect, though given how much money they managed to raise two years ago it was obviously going to be more than a trestle table in somebody's driveway.  Today as well as the borrowed gazebo full of plants they had a smaller gazebo for the cakes and jam, belonging to the garden club and unfortunately sporting a few holes since the mice got at it last winter.  A third even smaller gazebo turned out to be where the treasurer and her assistant were taking the money for the plants, and Plant Heritage had got a little stand as well.  Somebody put bunting along the front of the large gazebo, and it all looked very festive and terribly English.

The plants were a mixed lot.  There were the things that come readily from seed where you tend to end up with spares, lots of tomato plants, baby chili seedlings, courgettes and Cosmos.  There were things that seed themselves in the garden but make you pot them up when you weed them out by dint of looking so much like real plants that you can't bear to put them on the compost heap.  A great many geraniums, mostly unlabelled beyond 'Geranium' and maybe an indication of what colour they were, fell into this category, along with a solitary potted yew, presumably bird sown. And there were things you just can't resist taking cuttings of, like Pelargonium and quite a few hydrangeas.  Some very smart chrysanthemums presented in two litre pots with illustrated labels had been propagated specially for the sale by a couple of club supporters.

My offering was equally mixed, the result of splitting overcrowded things (evergreen Agapanthus bursting out of its black plastic pots after the original plant had literally burst its terracotta display pot), precautionary cuttings now surplus to requirements (cottage pinks, Pelargonium, and an odd fuchsia), excess from deliberate seed sowings (one odd Physalis, some Verbena bonariensis, and some Puya) and survivors rescued and repotted after vine weevil infestations (Sempervivum).  And things that refused to be simply thrown away, like the Libertia peregrinans rescued from digging the remains of the wind thrown Mount Etna broom out of the gravel.  Though by the time I potted them up I did know the plant sale would be happening.  Mine were a bargain at three quid since at Beth Chatto's (where they originally came from) they would cost you a fiver.

It was a good idea having the Plant Heritage stand as well, to provide some rarities for any keen gardeners who were not going to be satisfied by tomato plants and salmon pink Pelargonium, names unknown,  I don't know whether the Suffolk Plant Heritage head propagator really sold enough plants and gave out enough leaflets to make it worth her while spending a morning there, or if she was doing it partly as a favour to the garden club chairman, but either way it was good to have her. I ended up buying two of her plants, an orange flowered perennial pea that I nearly bought a couple of months ago but didn't, and might have bought last month but she didn't bring any more to the next meeting, and a Lychnis that I hadn't been planning on buying, but that looked like something that might suit our garden.  From the plant club stand I got a hairy leaved version of London Pride, that can go down in the shady bottom corner of the back garden I'm in the process of revamping, and a mallow relative I really hadn't meant to buy at all, only the chairman who had propagated it gave it such a glowing review.

I still managed a net reduction in plants, which was one of the aims of the exercise (besides helping the garden club).  The chairman bought my Geranium maderense before the sale even started, and I think most of the Sempervivum went to club members.  All three Puya sold, a big one and two smaller ones, one of the latter to a little boy who seemed very pleased with it.  I hope his mother had taken on board quite how extraordinarily prickly it was.  I wondered whether to point out the inwards facing spines designed to catch and hold sheep by their wool, but I didn't.  The interesting part was what didn't sell.  None of my ginger lilies found a taker, or the Watsonia pillansii seedling. Maybe it was because they are tender, or maybe people were steering clear of orange flowers.  I was surprised not to have any takers for the cottage pink 'Gran's Favourite'.  They were even in bud. Are pinks totally out of fashion?

Nobody wanted the Lychnis chalcedonica, which were also in bud.  I grew them from a packet of seed that came free with a garden magazine, and then the following year was given another packet, so have more than enough.  Their common name is Maltese Cross, they produce vivid red flowers on good tall stalks, and have proved very obliging about being dotted through dense stands of Thalictrum and iris and sending up little points of red here and there.  The plants that went in last year have lasted through the winter and have bulked up since being planted out of their one litre pots.  I find them attractive additions to the border, but then I am keen on little dots of red, and allow Knautia macedonica to seed about for the same purpose.  I suppose if pastels or careful colour coordination were your thing you might not want random spots of red, but I like pink and dark red, very Rothko.  I don't think I would make a big block of Lychnis chalcedonica.  It is a slightly coarse plant with not terribly interesting leaves.

It rained a bit, but by then we had sold most of what we were going to sell.  The surplus tomato plants were donated to the local school, and I was home by lunchtime.

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