Rare Plant Fair at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Birmingham

Ian and Teresa Moss, from Rare Plant Fairs, on why a specialist plant fair is the ideal place to find the perfect plants and inspiration for your garden.

Once we get hooked on gardens and gardening, we all become fascinated with new and unusual plants. Whether we specialise in collecting a particular group of plants such as roses, snowdrops, irises, etc. (our personal passions are hardy geraniums and salvias), or are just interested in anything that is rare or novel, we’re constantly on the lookout for that special plant. However, finding the plants that we need, or want, (not always the same thing!) is not always easy. The best sources are the many specialist growers and nurseries around the country, but many are based in remote locations, or may not be open regularly (or at all) to the public at their home sites. So how can these nurseries and the avid gardeners desperate to buy their plant be brought together? The solution lies in specialist plant fairs, such as our own Rare Plant Fairs, that are held around the country throughout the growing season from March to September.


Plants leaving by the barrowload at Kingston Bagpuize House, Oxfordshire!

The Nurseries

As retired nursery owners ourselves, we know that plant fairs are vitally important for small, independent nurseries to bring their plants to the attention of the wider public. Many will travel significant distances to exhibit at a fair, giving visitors access to growers that they wouldn’t otherwise easily find. The nurseries that come to these events are genuine growers who are passionate about the plants that they offer, and are dedicated to offering well grown and unusual plants. At our fairs we have specialists in perennials, shrubs and trees, alpines, cacti and succulents and exotic plants, and most fair organisers will try to ensure that every event has the widest possible range of different plants available for sale.

Another great advantage of buying your plants at a fair is that you can talk directly to the nursery owners, who enjoy the opportunity to talk to enthusiastic people about what they grow, and are very happy to provide all of the advice and tips needed to select and grow the right plants for your garden. Whether you are a novice gardener just starting out on your first garden, or an experienced gardener looking for that special plant, you will always find something to interest and excite you. And if there is a “must have” plant that you want to make sure is there for you at the fair, just contact the nursery ahead of the fair and they will be happy to bring it for you.


Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’, an Itoh paeony grown by Lilies and Chillis from Derbyshire


Salvia dombeyi, from Foxplants in Devon


Helleborus x hybridus selection bred by Kapunda Plants from Bath


The Gardens

The other major attraction of visiting a plant fair are the stunning locations at which they are often held. All of our fairs are held at beautiful and prestigious gardens across the country, with a wide range of styles. For example, we have fairs at ancient and venerable locations such as the Bishop’s Palace, Wells, where there is evidence of a garden before building of the Palace started in around 1206, and at Hanham Court Gardens, near Bristol, where there is evidence of occupation back to Roman times. Then there are more recent gardens such as the fabulous Arts and Crafts gardens at High Glanau Manor, Monmouthshire and Winterbourne House, in Birmingham. Gardens in more unusual settings include the unique woodland gardens at Evenley Wood, near Brackley, a superb woodland garden with many rare shrubs, trees and bulbs, set within a 60-acre plantation. All of these beautiful gardens provide a wonderful setting for the fairs. The gate receipts from the fairs also help to support the upkeep of the gardens, a number of which are charitable trusts, and some also benefit important local charities.


The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset


High Glanau Manor, in Monmouthshire


Hanham Court Gardens, Nr. Bristol


A day out at a specialist plant fair is a really enjoyable experience, and you will hopefully go home with that plant you’ve always been looking for, as well as a few more besides!

9Rare Plant Fairs have a programme of 14 specialist plant fairs across the South and South West of England, the West Midlands, and in South Wales, in 2017. For more information, including details of all the specialist nurseries attending, visit www.rareplantfair.co.uk or call the information line on 0845 468 1368*

*Calls to the information line cost 5p per min plus your network access charge