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.

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

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