Epimedium Plant Fair Displays Report.

In an earlier post, I mentioned our plans to display Epimediums at plant fairs put on by the Essex and Norfolk Groups of Plant Heritage (NCCPG).

The Essex Group’s plant fair at RHS Hyde Hall was held over the weekend of 18th and 19th April. We put on a similar display to last year, in our own little gazebo. For one reason or another, the interest was not as strong as last year.

We think the main reason was, we set up at the back of our allotted space and the two nurseries who were selling plants either side of us, had put plants out well beyond the front of our gazebo. People tended to see the next lot of plants for sale, and make straight for them, with hardly a glance into the comparative gloom inside our gazebo. It was a nice bright sunny weekend and many people had sunglasses or reactolite glasses, which put our display into even more shade. Those visitors who did venture in to examine our Epimediums were generally impressed.

The Norfolk group’s plant fair was only open to the public for three hours between 10.00am and 1.00pm on Sunday 3rd May.

This time we were in the Hethersett Village Hall as the featured plant of the fair. Next to us, at the stage end of the hall, was Keith and Ros Wiley of Wildside Nursery and Garden, Keith being the ‘gardening personality’ of the fair. Keith is a gardening book author and speaker, as well as creating Wildside Garden with Ros, which has been featured on television. They had a selection of plants for sale including a good number of Epimediums. The Norfolk group had a fine banner made up for us, which we were given afterwards, to use at any other indoor displays, we may exhibit in the future. According to our sat-nav, the journey from home to the hall was exactly a hundred miles and we had left home soon after 7.00 am to allow enough time for setting up. We were given a very warm welcome on our arrival with offers of cups of tea or coffee, and assistance was given to bringing our plants from the car into the hall. We were so lucky to be inside as there were twenty or so nurseries in a playing field outside, and the weather was horrible. It was raining and windy and the worst day for several weeks. Judging from the number of visitors coming into the hall carrying carrier bags full of plants, it wasn’t a total, unpleasant, waste of time for at least some of the nurserymen and women. We were busy with lots of interested people from before the10.00 o’clock opening, with members of the Norfolk group and some of the outside nursery people, right through to the end, with numbers just waning in the last half hour or so. Many people missed seeing our ‘DISPLAY ONLY’ sign and picked up our plant in the hope of buying them. This meant our display took a bit of a bashing, but no plants were significantly damaged. Over all we whipped up a good deal of enthusiasm for Epimediums, with our display. I thing Keith and Ross did quite well, as they almost sold all the Epimediums they had brought with them. Several of our plants were more popular than others, perhaps because they were more different from the rest. One, an old variety, E. x versicolor ‘Versicolor’ (syn ‘Discolor’) was an unexpected favourite, but the plant did look lovely with its pink and yellow flowers and pinky red suffused young leaves. E. grandiflorum ‘Lilac Seedling, again was not one we predicted, as one which would receive a lot of favourable comments, but it was a good plant we were showing, which was covered in flowers. The third one was E. ‘Red Maximum’ a very recent hybrid, bred by Belgian nursery man and Epimedium specialist Koen Van Poucke (www.koenvanpoucke.be). It has the darkest red flowers of any evergreen Epimedium we know of.