Hold onto your wallets! Plant fair season has begun!
Despite their utterly lethal effect on my bank balance, I can’t resist a good plant fair. I go to all of them: the one at the village hall, the fundraiser at a local garden, and most of all the rare and unusual plant fairs. I don’t often get a proper Rare Plant Fair coming to my neck of the woods apart from the London ones, which almost always seem to happen when I’m nowhere near London. But a very close second are the Plant Heritage plant fairs run by local groups and always packed with choice nurseries from all around the area (and sometimes considerably outside it).
So it was last Sunday when we had a single rainy day amid two weeks of relentless sunshine and that was the day Plant Heritage’s Surrey Group held its plant fair (the first of three! Oh happy days…) There was much sploshing about with umbrellas and dripping hats: the stallholders were stalwart and resolute and Very Very British. And would you believe there was quite a crowd of galosh-wearing gardeners, also being Very British about the weather and shopping like mad.
I’m not allowed to buy any more plants for the garden at the moment. Not that it stops me, but I’m trying not to stock up my borders too much more as it’ll all just have to be dug out again after we sell the house and that will just make me feel guilty.
So I was munging around feeling frustrated when I caught sight of this little corner of an un-named stall.
I am usually a little snobby about pelargoniums. They’re all right, but have something of the granny about them even if they’re in trendy shades of plum purple (the only ones I can bear to have about the place. Or maybe white).
But these, dear reader, aren’t just pelargoniums: these are scented-leaved pelargoniums.
It’s at times like this I wish this were a scratch-and-sniff blog. Take those leaves between your fingers and rub gently. Your fingers will come away redolent of smoky cinnamon; perfumed with the scent of rose-petals; tangy with lemon.
The flowers are small and delicate and not at all showy, just as I like them: I can even forgive them for being mostly pink. As with most plants which are all about the foliage, they have such very interesting foliage, too.
Pelargonium ‘Crispum Variegatum’: another lemony one
It’s not often I like a variegated leaf, but this is not variegation for the sake of variegation. Small and interestingly crinkled, the leaves give off a spicy citrus scent if you brush past it. This one can apparently be trained to shape: now that might make topiary interesting.
Pelargonium ‘Lara Jester’
I think I like the rose-scented leaves best: they certainly have the sweetest perfume. I covet ‘Attar of Roses’ and one day will find it again: it remains the one that got away after I decided a few years back that a huge plant for just three quid was one too many for the car boot. How wrong can you be.
Other scents are definitely more savoury and might best be described as ‘interesting’ – certainly spicy rather than conventionally perfumed. But one day I shall build up enough plants to pick and dry the leaves for pot-pourri, and then they will come into their own: I dream of lemony P. graveolens, or P. odoratissimum which is said to smell of Granny Smith apples. ‘Prince of Orange’ – does what it says on the tin – ‘Copthorne’ – smells of cedar – and P. dichondraefolium, smelling of black pepper, are close behind.
As it was, I came away with P. ‘Ardwick Cinnamon’ (white flowers, leaves the scent of cakes in autumn), P. ‘Cy’s Sunburst’ (variegated gold with a lemony fragrance) and the intriguingly curly-leaved P. graveolens ‘Bontrosai’, with a perfume of roses. I always said I wouldn’t start collecting plants, but I fear I may have succumbed.