Welshampton Plant Fair

16th April 2014

Unique chance to buy rare specimen plants at Shropshire village fair

Rare specimen plants from garden owners, specialist nursery breeding programmes and private National Collection holders across North Shropshire and the Cheshire border will be going under the hammer at a popular annual event next month.

The plants have been donated to a 'special plants' auction at the ninth Welshampton Plant Fair, to be held in Welshampton Parish Hall on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5. Last year’s event attracted a record attendance and raised £6,500, taking the amount raised over the last eight years to more than £30,000.

This year, the proceeds will again be divided between Shropshire Macmillan Cancer Support and St Michael and All Angels Church in Welshampton. The plant fair, which attracts gardeners from far and wide, is a big community effort, with around 40 local people helping on the day.

"The fair is exceptional in bringing together expert professionals and dedicated amateur growers to offer a huge choice of ornamental perennials, annuals and vegetables, along with sound advice," explained event co-ordinator Gillian Eleftheriou.

"The very select lots of specimen plants for the ‘special plants’ auction are all kindly donated by top plantspeople at the forefront of horticulture across the area and include National Collection holders, top gardens and specialist nurseries.

"Their generosity gives us this unique opportunity to offer an outstanding selection of very special plants. We have been very privileged to receive new plants to launch at each of our auctions and this year is likely to be no exception."

The auction is conducted by Andrew Beeston, senior auctioneer and valuer at Shrewsbury-based fine art auction house Halls, who also produces an auction catalogue.

Included in the auction and available to the public for the first time is a newly discovered variant of Strobilanthes atropurpurea from Lesley Jenkins' garden at Wollerton Old Hall. The flowers are white at the base with purple tips, differing from the pure purple flowers of the species.

"It's a wonderful plant for late borders, flowering from the end of August into September," said Mrs Eleftheriou. “Tough, robust and self-supporting, it grows to around three to four feet tall. This trouble-free plant is highly recommended by Andrew Humphris, head gardener at Wollerton Old Hall."

The life of local teenager Tom Hancock, who died from Muscular Dystrophy last summer at the age of 19, will be celebrated in a special way at the event. Because he loved growing things, his mum Heather has sowed sunflower seeds and will sell the young plants to visitors in the Grand Plant Sale at the fair.

Growers will then report back the height of their plants in September to the event organisers and the winner will receive a specially commissioned sunflower garden sculpture made and donated by Clive Knowles, managing director of Black Country Metalworks, Oswestry.

The fair opens at noon for the Grand Plant Sale and to allow visitors to view the auction lots, which go under the hammer at 1.15pm. Entry and car parking are free.

As a treat this year, Andrew Humphris, head gardener at Wollerton Old Hall, will give his top tips to visitors on prolonging colour into high summer and beyond when he talks about "August Pzzazz the Wollerton Way".

"The fair tends to attract people from quite a wide area as well as visitors and plantaholics because it offers such an unusual selection of plants," added Mrs Eleftheriou. "In the grand plant sale alone, we usually have well in excess of 3,000 plants on offer, all grown by a dedicated team of people."