The season of open gardens and plant fairs is upon us. These are merry events, packed with garden enthusiasts; plant collectors, would-be specialists, old-timers and the young, all eager to see and purchase the very best that horticulture has to offer.
My abiding memories of these are many, mainly the ache in my feet and the search for somewhere to sit down. And yet I plod on, finding that the more you attend the more fun it becomes. I have yet to meet a gardener who did not enjoy attending one of these great events even among the few who complain about the inadequacies of the site, the layout of the event, parking, or the lack or otherwise of facilities. A great passion keeps them interested and this matures and grows with the years despite economic restrictions and age limitations.
Of course, the premier event of spring here in the south is, and always will be, the Fota House and Gardens Fair which this year takes place on Sunday, April 22, from 11am to 4pm. This is now recognised as the biggest plant and garden fair in the country, excepting the hugely sponsored ‘Bloom’.
This year, the Fota event expects 70 to 80 specialist nurseries to attend, each of which will have for sale rare and unusual trees, shrubs, alpines, herbaceous and water plants at very reasonable prices. Now I suggest is your chance to get a specimen of that recently featured Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’, a scented, miniature daphne perhaps, or indeed, some new varieties of erythroniums, trilliums, and blue anemone. The specialists at Fota cater for all tastes. Retailers providing garden furniture, pots, sculptures, ornaments and tools have also been invited to attend, thus enabling the visitor to buy everything needed for the season ahead. Catering facilities will be available in Fota House (and on site throughout the day) and parking in the adjacent grounds is included in the admission price of €8, half of which will go directly to the Friends of Marymount Hospice.
There will also be an opportunity for those attending to walk around the beautiful gardens and arboretum at Fota and to visit the newly renovated Fota House to see the recently hung collection of pictures which represents the third most significant public collection of Irish art in the State.
This southern affair comforts me in its ability to provide an annual first-class fair for gardeners countrywide. It’s the pinnacle of late spring gardening events here in the south, a celebration of the spirit of horticulture, and the triumph of enthusiasm over indifference and hard times. For those with an interest in gardening and the great outdoors this is an event not to be missed.