After Dark – The RHS Spring Fair Late

Even for London it’s been a strange evening. The temperature in the city is not much below 20 degrees, which would be remarkable for a summer night, let alone the first in April. As I strolled home between the darkened mansion blocks of Victoria the air was filled with the heady aroma of cherry blossom and wallflowers; it reminded me of May.

W&S Lockyer Exhibit, RHS Great London Plant Fair 2014

The other unusual happening tonight was the RHS Spring Fair Late, an experimental ‘after hours’ extension of the Great London Plant Fair. Instead of the reverent hum of conferring show-goers, the Lindley Hall was filled with the strains of Mother Ukers and their four-string Ukuleles. Delicious botanical cocktails were served by Midnight Apothecary and scrumptious craft beers by The Real Ale Company. My favourite was Hiver Honey Beer, brewed by Hannah Rhodes using a mix of urban and rural honeys; splendidly smooth and eminently drinkable. Two bottles barely touched the sides.

Dicentra spectabilis 'Valentine', Hardy's Plants, RHS Great London Plant Fair 2014

I could wax lyrical about beer for hours, but let’s get back to the plants. The displays weren’t quite as magnificent as the earlier RHS London Plant and Design Show, but there were shopping and ogling opportunities aplenty. Cropping up everywhere this year is a new selection of bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis (now Lamprocapnos spectabilis if you care to be completely up to date, which I don’t) called ‘Valentine’. The choice of name is apt, given the elegant, cherry-red, heart-shaped flowers that drip from its arching burgundy stems. The fern-like foliage changes through the season from red-tinted to attractive powdery grey-green. All-in-all a tempting new plant for a damp border or woodland garden. From the same nursery, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, was the superb Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’, here photographed against a backdrop of orange geums and mauve anemones.

Mathiasella bupleuroides 'Green Dream', Hardy's, RHS Great London Plant Fair 2014

From Fibrex nursery was Pelargonium cordifolium rubrocinctum which, apart from having an unnecessarily long name, was delicate, pretty and beautifully bushy. Without any of the stiff formality of hybrid pelargoniums, this would make a marvellous summer patio plant, perhaps combined with dark, velvety petunias or silver foliage.

Pelargonium cordifolium rubrocinctum, Fibrex Nursery, RHS Great London Plant Show 2014

An inevitable consequence of making merry whilst at a plant fair was that unplanned purchases were made. The damage was as follows:

1 x Ipomea indica AGM (blue dawn flower) from Fibrex Nurseries

3 x Hyacinthoidies non-scripta, white form, (English bluebell) from W & S Lockyer

3 x Primula ‘McWatt’s Cream’ from Primrose Bank

That’s quite enough to be struggling home with on the London Underground, believe me! Overall I’d say the RHS Spring Fair Late was a great success. At times the Lindley Hall was packed to the gunnels. The atmosphere was jovial and not the least reverent; everyone seemingly having a great time. If a risk was taken with this deviation from the normal weekday, daytime programme then I hope very much that it paid off and we’ll get to enjoy more of these occasions in future.

The RHS Great London Plant Fair concludes tomorrow, April 2nd 2014.  Click here for more information.