Bank Holiday Bushton Manor Plant Fair

One thing that’s synonymous with a British Bank Holiday is rain. Its a bit of a running joke. That and traffic jams.

Another one is the village fête – and now we’ve reached the giddy summer heights of May, the season is starting. Some are better than others, mind, but they all rely on community feeling and an officious group of people with clipboards (if you’re very unlucky then there may well be Morris dancers). Last year a friend invited us to one in their village where I managed to buy a lovely little dusky Geranium phaeum.

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Closely aligned to the village fête is the plant fair, and I had discovered that a nearby manor was hosting its annual plant fair today, so off we trotted. I tend to try not to get too excited about this kind of thing as it normally ends in disaster – but you never know what little surprises you might find and in somewhere that also has an open garden then you can have a bit of an ogle at their borders.

I was hoping that this was going to be the case – at the very least so I could take some photos and share them here. The manor house at Bushton was built in 1747 and constructed of red brick with stone quoins and moulded architraves. There are pictures at the Clyffe Pypard website.

Parish of Clyffe Pypard from the 1890 Ordnance Survey map with modern civil parish boundary superimposed. From  Wiltshire History
Parish of Clyffe Pypard from the 1890 Ordnance Survey map with modern civil parish boundary superimposed. From Wiltshire History

The gardens consist primarily of a large lawn area and some impressive hedging (impressive in ubiquity and neatness of clipping, not in species or topiary). There is a walk around a small lake, and a vegetable garden (somewhat underutilised and not particularly well-maintained) with an old wooden-framed greenhouse that did appear to be used (from a distance anyway).

At the ‘top’ of the lawn was a deep mixed border with some shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Unfortunately due to the proximity of the ‘barbecue’ food stall and seating arrangements I wasn’t able to get a good look, but what I did see seemed … underwhelming. There was no sign of any late Spring bulbs such as tulips or any Summer-flowering bulbs such as alliums.

So that was a disappointment – and a semi-apology for the snark as the house is only open to the public one day a year so their gardens are not designed to ‘show off’ to the riff-raff (a distinct lack of foresight there, I thought, and a well-kept garden is as much a pleasure for the gardener as it is for any visitor at any time).

The main plant stalls were located in the main drive area and around in a yard. Apparently it is now possible to run plant stalls at these things and stuff them with plants you’ve dug up out of your own driveway. Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is pretty in its place, but not something I expect to see at a plant fair. Nor are dead cuttings – in this instance, purple sage (Salvia officinalis var. Purpurascens). Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum x hybrida) was in abundance, as were different (but not necessarily unusual) varieties of hosta (although I prefer the older generic name – Funkia) and geranium.

There were some professional stalls from local nurseries – such as Sonia Wright Plants, Wanborough Herb Nursey, and Foxley Road Nurseries – as well as the more amateur offerings.

In the end it was my other half who made the sole purchase of the visit: Geum ‘Cotton Candy’ (if it had’ve been up to me then we would have left with empty hands).

Apparently this little one does well in either sun or part shade with a height of around 35cm and a spread of around 50cm. Where is it going to go? No idea!

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