"Boots and brollies at Bilpin"

I spent a very wet Saturday at the Collectors' Plant Fair!
Sunday, 17 April 2011     

Hardy gardeners prepare to brave the rain at Bilpin

The title of this blog was suggested by a friend who came with us on Saturday to the Collectors' Plant Fair at Bilpin for the very first time. We had described to her the idyllic times we had had at the Fair over the past six years, wandering through the stalls in perfect autumnal sunshine and picnicking under the trees in the lovely garden there with friends, wiling away the hours until the afternoon shadows lengthened across the lawn and we reluctantly headed down the mountains for home.

Rain is any event manager's worst nightmare and there were bucketloads of it at Bilpin on Saturday - the wettest April day in Sydney for ten years. But as a testament to the resilience and dedication of True Gardeners, the crowds still flocked to the venue. I was envious as my companions pulled on gumboots when we arrived; we all donned our raincoats and put up our brollies to enter the fray. A strong cup of coffee revived our dampened spirits and we were ready to start checking out the stalls.

The plants were clearly relishing the rain and the range for sale was better than ever this year. There were a number of new nurseries featured, as well as old favourites from past years. There were specialist sellers, such as the brilliant display of bromeliads at the Melanquin Garden Nursery stall, which really showed how wonderful these plants are for creating a colourful, low-maintenance groundcover all year round. The sheer diversity of leaf colour and texture was quite stunning. Other specialist stalls sold roses, Aloe plants, Geranium and Pelargonium, Helleborus, orchids, Australian natives, rare bulbs, tropical foliage plants and cold climate beauties.

There seemed to be a lot of Salvia plants for sale again this year at various stalls, showing their continued popularity amongst gardeners. I purchased Salvia greggii 'Crimson and Black' from the stall run by Kerry Mitchell, who is an expert Salvia grower. This has vibrant red flowers held within black calyces on a compact plant (ht 50 - 70 cm) - a stunning combination that I look forward to adding to a border with some dark-leaved plants nearby.

I was also pleased to see many plants from my latest fad - the Acanthaceae family - available, particularly at the Friends of the Botanic Garden stall. This large plant family contains many suitable specimens that grow extremely well in shaded parts of our Sydney gardens, requiring no special attention. At the Florez Nursery stall, I was pleased to obtain Ruttya fruticosa, an Acanthaceae plant unfamiliar to me. It has orange-red flowers in winter and spring on a scandent shrub (ht 1 m) - the blooms are reminiscent of rabbit's ears, or from another angle, flying birds. I look forward to trying it in my garden amongst other hot-coloured plants.

I admired the cheerfulness of the stalwart stallholders as they endured the less than ideal conditions, happy to give information and advice about their plants to their customers. I take my hat off to the organisers, who, with the aid of local fire brigade members, calmly coped with a difficult situation, directing traffic, providing shelter for the visitors from the rain and dealing with muddy paths by laying down bark chips. I realised how very lucky we had been to have had such gloriously sunny days for the previous years' Fairs - and how fortunate we are to have such an event held annually in our region to give us the opportunity to see and buy new plants. I was also grateful to my friends for their good humour and great company through the day - making it another 'Bilpin experience' that we will long remember. As for all that rain, as any True Gardener will tell you: it was great for the garden!

 Reader Comments

1/9  Sue - 2567 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 18 April 2011

The Gardening group from Narellan Probus was there too. Gardeners are such positive people so the rain didn't stop people coming along in droves.Well done to the organisers and stall holders for a great display, great prices and for smiling regardless of the conditions. We will certainly return.

Thanks, Sue. I am sure next year the sun will shine! Deirdre

2/9  Densey - 2446 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 18 April 2011

Deirdre, Ive straight away been in touch with Kerry and she's sending me 2 Crimson and Black Greggis! So thanks for the intro and Im sure I shall be making space for more and more salvias now. Also got some useful tips from Kerry about pruning Greggis. Enjoyed your blog as always! Densey

That's great - she is very knowledgable about Salvias of all types. Deirdre

3/9  Maree - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 18 April 2011

Hi Deirdre I too went there in a shower proof jacket and no gumboots, next time I will be better prepared!I managed to get some plants and really enjoyed the speakers even getting a farewell kiss from Costa.I will certainly go next year and let's hope for more sun! Maree

Thanks, Maree - I think we will all be better prepared for the rain if it happens again. I admired those who were in head-to-toe wet weather gear without the need for the cumbersome umbrella! Deirdre

4/9  Georgina - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 18 April 2011

I had a wonderful day on Saturday at Bilpin.As you said the plants looked wonderful,the people all smiling and ready for a laugh.The organisers should be congradulated on running such a successful event on what we now know was the wettest April day. The red and black salvia was also in my car boot.

Thanks, Georgina; sorry I didn't see you there on the day. It was quite hard to recognise people with their rain hoods on! Hope your salvia does well. I am looking forward to planting mine soon. Deirdre

5/9  Robin - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Thanks Deirdre, what a detailed account of our adventures on Saturday! It was challenging but I did enjoy the experience and the company. Unfortunately purchases were limited because it was too difficult to carry plants and battle the elements. I hope the stallholders sold more on Sunday. Robin

Thanks, Robin, for being a good sport in the pouring rain! I promise you it will be sunny next year for your second visit. Deirdre

6/9  Peta - 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Hi Deirdre, The sea of umbrellas at Bilpin was a 'camera moment'. One grower suggested a Tee shirt, 'I Survived Bilpin 2011'. Sunday was much nicer. I found some fabulous plants - new Arisaemas, edibles, a white Sanicula. Shall live on Vegemite for weeks. The atmosphere was marvellous. Peta

Thanks, Peta. Glad the weather was better on Sunday. We appreciate all your organisation of the event and the opportunities it gives us to see and buy new plants and meet up with gardening friends. Deirdre

7/9  Margaret - 2067 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Hi Deirdre, I didnt get to the plant fair this year as we are going o/s for 6 weeks and didnt want to make things harder for my lovely friend who waters for us. I'm sorry I missed out as you made it sound so good and that black and red salvia sounds lovely. Margaret

Hope you'll be there next year, Margaret. Have a great trip! Deirdre

8/9  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Friday, 22 April 2011

Enjoyed the blog, and the day at Bilpin, altho the weather was vile. I thought the array of plants was much better than last year and also the price was reasonable. Came away with a few treasurers, and look forward to next year!

Thanks,Margaret. I agree that the range of plants available was fantastic. Roll on next year's Fair! Deirdre

9/9  Gil - 2037 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 25 April 2011

What a day! So many smiling faces! Not just the stallholders, but all the gardeners as well! I think the only faces not smiling were those of the organisers, Peta, Beth and Peter: theirs were looks of concern for the comfort of the buyers and sellers. We love them. A memorable day.

Thanks, Gil. It was certainly memorable and showed how hardy gardeners are; I truly admire those hardy stallholders too! Deirdre

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