A tale of two teas – and Crug Farm Plant Fair


Sometimes I can be quite good when I’m shopping. Sometimes I can be quite discriminating. Sometimes I can be quite restrained. And sometimes I cannot.

I mean, could you resist this?


Ahem. I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s the excitement.

And anyway, that summary isn’t entirely fair. I can generally manage to stay within a budget and, when it comes to buying things that I need but which fail to interest me, I can manage to walk away and do something more involving (like, if I’m supposed to be clothes shopping, cleaning out the grout on the kitchen floor). Last year I even managed to extend this philosophy to plants and the wonderful plant fair at Crug Farm. Kept to budget, bought four plants, planted four plants, all four plants flourishing. This year I just set a bigger budget…

And so three of us set off. Everything is much delayed, so we weren’t at all sure what would be available; there were even still pockets of snow on the mountains above Crug:


But this is one of the best plant fairs I’ve ever been too (I’d definitely put it on a par with the ones at the Tradescant Trust that I used to go to when I lived in London), so we knew there’d be something fab…

And it is a truth universally acknowledged that a trio of women in possession of a plant-buying budget must be in want of a cup of tea, and possibly also a slice of cake, so we were off to a promising start


before hitting the plant stalls, even if the cups were polystyrene and would not meet with Mrs Bennett’s (or Miss Austen’s) approval.

I knew that I wanted plants for the long bed at the bottom of the garden which P and I have been clearing. In my mind this bed – which has a beautiful red acer and a glorious-in-autumn ginkgo in it – was going to be fundamentally red, orange, yellow and with lots of autumn colour, so I made a beeline for Special Perennials and their selection of Heleniums.

SP stall (and the rest)

Unfortunately, this bed is also shaded for parts of the day and, though some areas are sunnier than others, it soon became clear that my original Helenium dream would not really work. Time for adaptation, and I did manage to find one which could cope – Helenium ‘mahogany’. I snaffled it quickly, adding an Echinacea ‘white swan’ – seen in the Artist’s Garden and much admired. Then I moved away before I bought the rest of the stall.

general viewAnd it went like that. From the stall above I bought – and I’m not entirely sure I haven’t lost my mind – a Geranium macrorrhizum. I know, I know, I’m constantly trying to get rid of my G. macs, but they’re G mac album, and the one I bought has bronze foliage and is called ‘espresso’. Lovely thing.

What else did I get?


Well, the epimedium at the start of the post; couldn’t resist that. I’d just bought something else which took me to budget, then changed my mind and went back and swapped it. Then I found the ‘something else’ on another stall – an Actaea simplex atropurpureum – and decided I really, really wanted it. Quick recalculation and there was still money in the budget, so I bought it too. And a scarlet Monarda, and a Phlox stolonifera – ‘Franz Purple’Eventually we were all carrying so many plants that we had to find a wheelbarrow to take them to the car.

Time to go.

And then we then stopped off at Fron Goch garden centre, ostensibly for a break on the journey back but really for a look round. This resulted in the purchase of a sweet little Dicentra (me) and a lot more plants (the others) and the second tea of the day:


and a final tally…

Well, I didn’t do badly, only exceeding my budget by – er – 20%. That would be the Dicentra – too sweet to be left – some organic plant food and the refreshments, but none of that counts. Honest.


Doesn’t look that much, really. Roll on next year…


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    What a fabulous day you all had, wish I lived nearer! We went to Crug Farm Plants a couple of years ago when we had a short break in N Wales, and there is always so much temptation on offer, I think you were so restrained in what you bought!

    1. kate says:

      I must admit that I only bought from the fair and not from Crug, so I probably need to go back…

      Am in search of tree heather, Erica x veitchii Exeter for preference. I have a purpose, you see.

      1. Pauline says:

        Fascinating, I had no idea that there was an Erica with the name of Exeter (10 minutes down the road). Mr Veitch had a nursery in Exeter so I assume that is the connection, will wait to see its photo when you track it down!

        1. kate says:

          It looks perfect for me – google it. One downside is that it can get quite big, but hopefully that won’t concern me too much! (Ooops – not that I’m planning on leaving, just that it’s got a big site – where the Western Red Cedar was.)

  2. Janneke says:

    You really had a lovely day. We visited Crug Farm last year when we were on holidays in Shropshire. Did you buy an Epimedium? I just made a blogpost about Epimedium.
    Happy gardening,

    1. kate says:

      I did indeed buy that gorgeous babe, couldn’t leave it on the stall. Actually there were lots of epimediums, and choosing was really difficult. Beautiful plants… glad you’re another addict!

  3. Luck you!! What a super day out. My Epimediums are just coming into flower, you will not be disappointed with it, even the foliage looks great for the rest of the year. It would be so wrong if you didn’t go just a wee bit over budget, we all do!!
    I will be looking forward to seeing your border later in the year when you have it all planted out.

    1. kate says:

      It was truly FAB – am saving for next year, and wondering where I can fit another bed…

  4. Cathy says:

    Aaah – a great account of a fantastic day in your usual inimitable style, Kate. Sounds as if everything was entirely satisfactory, assuming the cake was up to scratch of course, as your haul of plants clearly was. I look forward to seeing them in situ – and what variety was the epimedium? Such a lovely colour!

    1. kate says:

      Oh it was lovely – we did get overcharged on the cake, but then Karen had a piece about as big as her head, and mine wasn’t much smaller…

      Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilatee’. Isn’t it cute? I keep going out and whispering sweet nothings into its ear. Oh, Ok, I don’t quite. But nearly.

  5. Dobby says:

    You forgot to say that although it was a bit overcast when we set out, the sun came out and stayed out until we all got home. Amazing. A good day and I dare not add up how much I spent. All I know is that I have a lot of planting to do tomorrow! Now to start saving for next year …

    1. kate says:

      It was good, wasn’t it? Probably just as well you didn’t do any adding up. Extend the national debt, 😉

  6. Anna says:

    Sounds like the perfect recipe for a grand day out Kate – plants, good company and cake. I contemplated going to the Crug Farm Plant Fair as I am not able to visit the Malvern Spring Show this coming weekend. Unfortunately domestic projects won the order of the weekend but surely that must mean a bigger plant/cake budget if I go next year.

    1. kate says:

      Oh, it was fab – small but perfectly formed, and with the plus of Crug too. Save up!

  7. Helen Johnstone says:

    Sad I couldnt make it this year but I can still say “I’ve got one of those” to the top photo 🙂 Maybe next year I can make the trip again as I so enjoyed it last year

    1. kate says:

      I knew you would have!

      It was good – better than last year, I thought…

  8. Christina says:

    I have a better idea; just don’t feel guilty! But then my garden is so full I can’t find anywhere to plant even the MOST wonderful plant. I could have enjoyed the tea and cake though. Christina

    1. kate says:

      Hah hah! And now I’ve seen another plant I need -really, really need – a tree heather. Wanna!! (And I’ve got the perfect spot, too – full sun and acid. Latter easy, former not so, but this is ideal. Sigh…)

  9. wellywoman says:

    Sounds amazing. A bit of a drive for us but could make a weekend of it. I’ll put a note in my diary to think of it next year. Mmmm…. polystyrene cups. I can see why they use them but hate the felling of it so much, that squeakiness. It’s setting my teeth on edge just thinking about it. The cakes look delicious though. What more can you want from a day – sun, tea, cake and plants. Perfect 🙂

    1. kate says:

      It was excellent, despite the wretched cups (and watch for that pesky overcharging). Small but wonderful!

  10. Sounds like a perfect day, and rather restrained all told. Plants, good company, suitable refreshements, unbeatable really. Look forward to some photos of the new acquisitions in situ.

    1. kate says:

      It was, and everything seems to be doing well (translation: nothing’s yet been eaten or destroyed by me)…

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