Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cottesbrooke Hall Plant Finders Fair

Mark and I had an enjoyable day off work on Friday and drove up into Northamptonshire to the Cottesbrooke Hall Plant Finders Fair, an annual plant fair held in the grounds of a large country manor house. Although we knew of the fair by reputation we hadn't visited before, now we have been I suspect we will be back next year.

The plant fair is laid out in the naturalistic landscaped grounds of the hall, just beyond the formal lawns and gardens, leading down to a lake, complete with picturesque bridge. The attention to detail was exceptional, each stand clearly labeled and rather than a mix of tables and awnings, a consistent set up of tents and large white parasols added to the summer feel. Each stand had tables set up that were wrapped in hessian and turfed on top - a quirky feature we both enjoyed.

Where to start...

On entering we were slightly bewildered at first by the huge number of exhibitors, selling a wide range of plants and other garden accessories. We started out by taking a fairly casual walk round, buying one or two smaller choice plants along the way. After getting our bearings we stopped for some refreshments before exploring in more detail.

As we expected we were drawn to the stand of Crûg Farm, where Sue and Bleddyn had a fantastic selection of plants from their own seed collecting trips in Asia. Hardy scheffleras over 6 feet tall grabbed our attention, and we just had to add a few more gems to our shopping list.

We made a number of trips back to Crûgs stand during the day before finalising our shortlist.

Just across from Crûg was the stand of Edulis, a nursery we had heard about but so far haven't been able to visit yet. They specialise in exotic and unusual plants and we were not to be disappointed, buying a Schefflera macrophylla and Zanthoxylum schinifolium (Szechwan Pepper). When we wandered back later in the day they had sold out of these plants so I'm glad we picked them up when we did.

Edulis also had rather fetching metal seed pods, which we were rather taken by, although we didn't end up buying one - maybe next time!

A new nursery to us and one which we must make the trip to visit this year was Olive Grove Nurseries, who had a fine selection of hardy palms and other big exotics, all at very reasonable prices. Despite being tempted by quite a few plants we chose a very good sized Dasylirion wheeleri that Mark felt would make a great addition to one of the beds being planned by our new Koi pond.

I have always been drawn to alpine plants, such as saxifrage, sedums and sempervivums, and although we do grow a few we have never really explored these plants in much detail. After seeing the plants on offer by Slack Top Alpine Nursery I feel this may change! I was drawn to a number of unusual silver alpines which will also form part of the planting in the new beds with the dasylirion from Olive Grove. These are not just attractive plants, everything on the stand had been though the winter at the nursery (-17C) so should be more than happy in our garden.

As well as plants there were a number of stalls selling various garden accessories, tools, ornaments, furniture and even subscriptions to gardening magazines.

Brooks Furniture from Dorset make unusual garden furniture, gates and even tree houses from English hardwoods such as Oak and Chestnut. But rather than use machine prepared timber, they work with the unusual shapes or lines of the wood and encompass these into the design. Although we didn't come away with any furniture, the examples on display gave us a few ideas for future projects.

The only downside to the whole day was the traffic chaos ahead of entering the grounds, it took nearly an hour to drive the last half mile and get parked up, the problems caused mostly by the organisers taking payment as cars entered the site, rather than by allowing visitors to park up and pay an entrance fee on foot. Having spoken to several of the exhibitors they were well aware of the traffic problems and hopefully more suitable arrangements will be made next year.

The weather at times looked like it might decide to rain, although we were lucky had no rain until we got home, in the end it was quite a warm and sunny day.

No plant buying trip would be complete without a couple of photos of what we came away with, so rather than disappoint here's a selection of our haul!

Planning how to fit it all in.

Success, it all fits in.

Some of the plants once we were back home.

... and a few mor


  1. Looks like a fantastic event! I am very impressed with your plant packing skills. Is that a Roscoea at the bottom right of the bottom picture?

  2. I like your selection of plants. I didn't know there was such a thing as hardy shufflers - something I will need to explore. I can tell you are accomplished gardens just by the way you were able to load so many plants in your car!

  3. Oops! That was supposed to be hardy scheffleras - it's way late and my typing skill are deteriorating.

  4. Quirky feature indeed!...What lovely plants you bought. I am so jealous of your Schefflera choices, why is the US so far behind?

  5. Loved your selection of plants,- also liked photos and your comments, very interesting. Can you let us know when the next event takes place - I would love to go, but need warning to make arrangements.

  6. What a great way to spend a Friday and It seems like you got a great loot too

  7. You have a lot to add to your jungle tropics. If only you are near us, we have lots and lots of those in cheaper prices. Those wooden seats and table are what i like, they seem like scraps from the sawmill but very lovely outdoors.

  8. Thanks College Gardener! Well spotted, they are Roscoea indeed, bought a couple at the plant fair :)

    Debs, there are several relatively ‘hardy’ scheffleras available here, collected at high altitude areas of east asia. Hope you had a good night’s sleep since then and feeling more rested now. Gaz has perfected loading the car to a fine art now, practice makes perfect I suppose :)

    Hi Loree, I’m so pleased with your purchases! :) One of those times that we went home it just ‘felt’ right and didn’t feel I bought anything I’m not too sure of or left a precious plant behind. I think there are a lot more high altitude sourced Scheffleras already in the US, much more than thought, they are just being held up by a few… Hopefully more will be available to the public in the next few years.

    Anonymous, thanks for popping round! There’s a bit of conflict with the dates they announced whilst there and what’s actually on the calendar. I’d say it will be the 22, 23, 24 of June next year but keep checking their website for any updates.

    Fer, it was a gorgeous Friday, what a blast! Can’t wait for next year!! :)

    Hi Andrea, we’ve still got lots of room left especially with the new bit we’re developing. I like those hand carved furniture a lot, made from lovely Oak which is highly desirable here, much like Narra is to there :)

  9. Nice post as always;) Great carnival i think...and wish to be there 1 day. I love your collections ;)

  10. Wonderful post. Wonderful loot. Well done on the packing, Gaz. It's usually taking home the loot that poses a challenge. I've seen quite a few buyers overdo it at sales and end up flummoxed as to how to get the plants home.


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