Return to Eden: Crocus Open Day 2012

Pointless. The superbly harebrained, naive notion of taking along a list, to what is undoubtedly one of the best plant sales in the country, is best completely disregarded. The sheer mass of colour, plant quality and scale of varieties available at the Crocus Open Day, is simply too tantalising. My list never saw the light of day. One could argue, that this incredible drive to impulse buy is down to superb sales strategy, but Crocus really know their plants. Presumably, its through their annual Chelsea Flower Show participation, that Crocus always seem to be one step ahead in terms of the varieties on offer. Thus, be prepared when attending the Crocus Open Days, to drive home in a visually impairing, garden on wheels. Make sure the car is void of all but the driver…

Being solely an online business, Crocus organise four open days every year to sell off show and/or excess stock, PR purposes and opportunity to meet and greet their growing database of customers. Open days are spread across the year, with the June, Chelsea-sell-off not surprisingly the most popular, where attendance numbers seem to rival those of the Harrods Sale. RHS Chelsea Flower Show gardens built by Crocus, do not participate in the big Chelsea plant sale finale, which leaves punters keen to take home an Arne Maynard or Sarah Price, no choice but to work the isles and crowds, at the nursery.

Even the most ardent skeptics of the power and influence of the Chelsea Flower Show would be impressed, to see not just the sheer scale of the crowds, but the zeal to purchase ‘that’ plant seen at the show. Just to make it all a tad more cosy, plants from the floral displays on the Royal Barge, designed by Rachel (thank-goodness-my-husband-didn’t-spot-her) de Thame, and (secretly) sourced from Crocus, were included in the sale.

Papaver Somniferum
Simply stunning Foxgloves
Geranium Phaeum Album
Verbascum Cherry Helen
Verbascum Cherry Helen
New favourite: Lysimachia Atropurpurea Beaujolais
Salvia Nemerosa Ostfriesland
Arne Maynard Souvenirs
Here are some stickers,.....
Centranthus Lecoquii
Chaerophyllum Hirsutum Roseum
The lovely Helen: Crocus' Plant Doctor
Geranium Pratense Mrs Kendall Clark
Man on plant mission
Cirsium Rivulare Atropurpureum
Please say you like the look of this one....???!
True high vis...
'Ooh! You are awful, but I like you!'
Paeonia Lactiflora Bowl of Beauty
Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball'
Lychnis flos-cuculi
Wispy Hordeum Jubatum
Striking Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group)
Buzzing till area
Shoppers heading home with horticultural wares
'This will all fit in the car...'
Centaurea Cyanus 'Black Ball'

Admittedly the idea of buying a plant off the Royal Barge did not really appeal. However, the lovely Lysimachia Atropurpurea Beaujolais, prominently and only displayed in the ‘Royal’ plant enclosure, was simply too striking to ignore. Just as their white counterparts, this burgundy Lysimachia would suit our borders beautifully and hence despite their Jubilee provenance, were swiftly purchased. Additional acquisitions, included the stunning pale lilac Centranthus Lecoqii, Salvia Nemorosa Schwellenburg, Salvia Nemorosa Amethyst, Salvia × Sylvestris Mainacht, Chaerophyllum Hirsutum Roseum, and one of the loveliest of wild flowers, much seen at Chelsea this year; Lychnis Flos-Cuculi Alba. The recent heavy rain and flooding in the adjacent fields to our house, has delightfully encouraged its pink cousins to grow. Hopefully they’ll thrive.

Amusingly, looking at my idle plant list, only one of my purchases was planned; Salvia × Sylvestris Mainacht. Yet despite, what seems like reckless purchasing behaviour, there is some method to my madness. I realise this all sounds a little too much like that story about that pair of shoes, that you just really needed. However, the border needed a few structural/larger plants as my beloved Agastache failed to come through the winter and left enormous gaps. In addition, a few additional low/mid sized plants were needed to sit behind the lavender. With these, (granted vague) requirements in mind, the Crocus open day is the perfect place to be plant inspired. Best to pick, your open day depending on requirements, for example for late summer/autumn flowering plants opt for September.

The joy of munificent purchasing does wear off quickly when unloading the car, as it does translate to mega planting. If only, one could remember that on the day…..

Kitchen Garden Rethink: Summer Sowing Fiscal Flower Power: Chelsea in Bloom

any comments?

Comments: 17

  1. We haven’t made it to any of this year’s open days yet, but it looks like another splendid affair! Have grown the same Lysimachia atropurpurea Beaujolais from seed this year, so hopefully will be enjoying it next. I love the purple Centranthus, haven’t seen that before…


  2. Nice review, you will have to visit our nursery one day…. Chris

  3. I hate to revel in it Petra but having just purchased six lysimachai beujolaise for a pound each I share your love of it ,along with 3 Aconitum napellus albidum and six salvia nemorosa pink east friedland ,three salvia nemorosa lubecca ,knautia macedonia,phlox mount fuigi and many many others all sold off at Gardeners world for £1 each I’m on a high ! :-)

    • Wow! Sounds like you had a great day at Gardeners’ World! Some wonderful purchases, including the lovely Lysimachia, and only for a pound per plant! That’s a superbly good deal. Hope you enjoy your purchases, some lovely plants there! Adore Aconitum, Phlox, Knautia and Salvia. Happy planting!

  4. I guess that everyone who came to the event was really astonished by the beauty of all those flowers. If I were there, I could have both a lot myself.

  5. Wonderful post that has me so envious. We have no nursery here in the U.S. that has the kind of inventory that Crocus has….cutting edge plants. I’m struck by how many maroon flowers were in your photos. Another thing I haven’t see here. Thank you for the wonderful photos.

    • Thank you for your kind comment. I am rather keen on maroon/dark purple flowers, so admittedly there may be an element of bias towards those plants. Over the years, I have come to really love those darker colours as they tend to ‘lift’ the borders. Cirsium Rivulare, Alliums, Verbena Bonairiensis, Astrantia Claret, Aquilegia Vulgaris and even the really striking Phlox Dusterlohe are now part of the borders. Many of these are favourites of Piet Oudolf, whom I understand is increasingly popular in the US, so hopefully you will have access to some of these plants in the near future.

  6. Ah that old chestnut. The impulse buy…I am afraid to say that we all it do and will do it again. I have few odd plants that have rooted themselves quite happily into the ground behind an old greenhouse as I failed to find a spot for them.

    • Well no Chestnuts to report here. Goody two shoes has planted it all… Please don’t all clap at once…

  7. Sounds like a great day, Petra. I’m tempted by the September open day as my garden tends to lose a bit of oomph then so I could do with some inspiration. That Verbascum is stunning. I love them and yet have none in my garden, something I should rectify.

    • I thought so too. Stunning Verbascum. Haven’t planted any as always thought of them as rather cumbersome, large, wind prone plants that don’t look good for long. Though, these were simply beautiful, sturdier and shorter than those I seem to remember. The colour was simply mesmerising. Hope you have as much fun in Sept at the Open Day as I did! Remember empty car!

  8. That looks like a fun, but slightly wallet-draining day out! Where are they based?

    • They’re based in Windlesham in Surrey. Definitely worth a trip. Prices are more attractive on the day, where you pay per pot size. In most cases, that is a better deal than the regular price. Hope that helps!

      • I’ll have to have a look if I’m in the area when they have an open day. Thanks!

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