Spring planting is one of the most enjoyable jobs of the gardening year. Flowerbeds in particular are tapestries that evolve over the years and many of the changes you’ll make to the pattern will be prepared in spring.
There are many obvious places to buy plants in bulk, and we wouldn’t for a moment discourage you. They are bright, colourful places where shopping can be very enjoyable. On the other hand this area offers many alternative sources of plants. Some may not cater for bulk-buyers in quite the same way, but they offer compensations. You’ll find plant sales in a variety of contexts, most of which are social occasions where your purchase will support a good cause.
Berkhamsted High Street is a regular source of plants, whether in the daily pop-up stall outside Waterstones or through Berkhamsted Country Market stall on Saturdays. The latter is a cooperative selling locally home-grown plants (and flowers, vegetables and food). In Tring, the Charter Market (every Friday) and the Farmers Market (alternate Saturdays) are worth support for the colour they add to the town and the contribution they make to the local economy.
Ashridge Plant Fair On 20 May this year, 11am-4pm, the estate’s spring plant fair raises funds specifically for the Ashridge Estate National Trust property. Volunteer growers and local nurseries supply hundreds of plant types for this enormously popular event.
Markyate ‘The Markyate Plant Sale has supported the Hospice of St Francis for over 20 years and, from very small beginnings, has donated over £83,000 to their extraordinary work,’ said organiser Ian Bradley. ‘This is only one reason for you come to the Sale on 26 May this year, albeit a very powerful one. Other reasons: the coffee and cake are exceptional; the bands sooth your senses; your little ones are entertained; the company is good; you might even meet your MP or the Mayor of Dacorum; the 8,000 plants, vegetables, annuals for the border and perennials, are grown by a dedicated team headed by a Chelsea Flower Show winner and can be bought individually or, given a few weeks warning (ring Ian Bradley 01582 943133), in bespoke planters and baskets. If you come, arrive early – they open at 10am and the first hour has been likened to Harrods’ Sale! Best of all its free to visit!’
Sunnyside Rural Trust appears at various events and sells plants from its Hemel Food Garden, on Two Waters Road, 10am-3pm Monday to Saturday.
Wigginton Gardeners Association hosts a delightful Plant Sale in the churchyard of St Bartholomews, this year on Saturday 12 May. The sale opens at 10am and goes through to midday. Be there early for the widest choice, obviously, but our experience is that it’s worth turning up at any time.
The National Gardens Open Gardens scheme isn’t primarily about selling plants but some of the regulars, like Patchwork in Hall Park, Berkhamsted, include some plant sales. No, it isn’t somewhere you’d go to stock your garden, but it might provide a feature, a plant you would remember for the associations that go with it. Aston Clinton Open Gardens is on 29 April this spring, and on 17 June Cheddington opens seven gardens to you. Buckland Village, near Aston Clinton, opens a dozen or more gardens and runs a plant stall in the churchyard. The event is usually held close to midsummer, so keep an eye on our What’s On pages.
Fayres & Fêtes
Tring’s Spring Fayre includes on Saturday 12 May a Family Fun Day at the church of St Peter & St Paul. The plant sale, one of very many reasons to go, will include flowering plants and vegetables, and children will be invited too plant a sunflower seed. The first village fête of the year is Aldbury on 7 May, and on 2 June St Leonards and Ashley Green will hold annual festivals. Potten End St George’s Fayre is on 7 April, 10-12, at the Village Hall, £3. The Fayre has a plant stall run by Wendy from 4 Acres Nursery. Any profit made will be split between Village Hall restoration and WI funds. Coffee and cake will be available.
Our favourite farmshop in the vicinty is PE Mead at Wilstone, out of Tring in the direction of the reservoirs. In addition to plants, PE Mead is becoming a kind of artisanal food centre: its own produce in the shop, its oils and dressings, and then around the yard the Puddingstone Distillery for gin and Bakers Dozen for sourdough bread.