My Thoughts – Plant Fair at Courson

A couple of weekends ago I flew to Paris for some serious indulgence; no, not food, not culture but plant hunting.  Several of my Italian friends had visited the plant fair at Courson in previous years and were full of enthusiasm.  I have to admit to being a little sceptical.  So far, no plant sales fair in Italy has been very good – poor quality plants, always in large sizes and often straggly tall plants that don’t bush out.

I left home late-morning on a warm, sunny Friday; I’d studied the forecast and rain was predicted for late Friday afternoon and Saturday early morning but clearing by 10 am – it might be cold, but warm clothes were not a problem; I’d actually rather be hot than cold.

I was with a French-speaking friend who had visited on several occasions previously (she is a Botanical artist and has had stand to sell her work at Courson in the past).  Our hotel was near the Jardin du Plantes so our walk to the station the following morning was through the garden; a nice start to the day (it was very grey with very low cloud but trusting in the forecast I was hopeful that by the time we arrived the sun would be shining!

As we boarded the shuttle bus that took us the last 30 minutes of our journey to the Chateau of Courson the rain began to fall in earnest, I was trying to be very positive that the rain would stop before we arrived, but no, it rained and it rained and it rained for most of the day turning the ground into a quagmire of mud.

But I had come too far to be put off; French couples and ladies on their own were arriving well prepared with shopping trolleys on wheels, waterproof boots and weatherproof coats with hoods!

Undeterred we entered the showground, first port of call a small tent manned by two patient men each with a computer.  Ask them the name of a plant you were searching for and they would look it up and tell you which stands had it!!!!!!!!!!  I was impressed.

Rows and rows of plant stands, all with great plants; it seemed like paradise.

I wasn’t sure what I would buy but I was hopeful that I would find a good selection of Agapanthus.  Now you may think that Italy would be an ideal place to grow Agapanthus and indeed many gardens have them but all I have been able to find are the very large evergreen varieties that suffer badly each winter and every year I am fearful they won’t survive.  I wanted some hardy perennial varieties that I knew would survive the winter well in my free-draining soil.  Success!  I soon spotted a stand specialising in only Agapanthus!  Better still (from my point of view) he was a Yorkshire man, a holder of the National collection.  We were soon deep in conversation while I was selecting which of his vast assortment of varieties to buy.  The rain came down even harder, he very kindly offered me an umbrella (I had left mine in the hotel – believing the forecast and also not wanting to have one hand occupied uselessly).

With my purchases from him made and the plants safely in bags behind his stall, awaiting collection later in the day I was ready to begin searching for other plants that would fit in my one suitcase.  With my borrowed umbrella I could at least keep my head dry.

Do check out his website, all the plants were well grown, good sized and he promises will flower in their first year in the ground. Agapanthus specialist.

‘Something for the Garden’ – The Agapanthus stand in a moment without rain

Next up Irises; something else that grows wonderfully for me here but which for some strange reason are difficult to find in nurseries here or when you do find the odd one cost a fortune.  Cayeux, one of the leading Iris growers and sellers in the world did not disappoint although if I had been searching for particular varieties I might have been better to simply order on-line; they too have an excellent website and if I decide to buy more I will order from them in this way.

My other passion, as my regular reader will know is grasses; again I was spoilt for choice with many of the stands having grasses and a couple of specialist growers too.  A few found their way into my bags along with some Asters a friend asked me to look out for.

Plant hunters were undeterred by the incessant rain

The show doesn’t have show-gardens, nothing to distract from the pursuit or plants!

This was the closest to a show garden any of the stands got.

I have never seen anything like this before; maybe Hampton Court Flower Show would be the nearest thing but Courson had hundreds of top quality nurseries selling an amazing number of different plants.  I haven’t mentioned the vast selection of trees, shrubs all in different sized containers.  I think many English gardeners would love this show.  It’s not far from Paris and so great for a weekend break.  We combined this with a day seeing the show gardens at Chaumont.  But that’s for another day.

If you are travelling by plane, some careful thought is needed.  My choices of Anapanthus and Iris I packed without soil; the grasses too, I removed most of the soil while still at the show ground.  A tiny Kaffir Lime I tenderly wrapped and placed with soft cushioning around it to protect it from the sometimes rough treatment of the baggage handlers.

23 thoughts on “My Thoughts – Plant Fair at Courson

  1. Despite the rain you clearly had a great time.. I would have spent a fortune and then thought about how I was going to get stuff home. Plants from plant fairs always carry memories of happy days out for me and i am sure yours will too. The Salvia Hot Lips looked healthy! 😄

  2. Now this is interesting since I have wanted to go to Courson but presumed I would have to drive there. I hadnt realised how easy it was to get to from Paris by train so I could go by plane or rail.

    I’m glad you had a good time and the idea of being able to locate a sought after plant via the computer at the show is just brilliant

  3. We’ve been to Paris only once and loved it! Was the hotel you stayed at the St. Christophe? That’s where we stayed and it is near the Jardin du Plantes. We didn’t go to any plant shows but went to lots of parks and gardens.

        • I’m not sure, we were there only for the weekend and it was dark in the evenings when we walked around, but you’re right the food in the area was great – especially as there was ethnic food which is impossible to find in my part of Italy. Had a great Thai meal in a very simple place. Christina

  4. omg Christina what have you done that Iris website is amazing and they will deliver to me!! thank you very much, now to save and plan, the other link to the agapanthus nursery didn’t work for me I tried it twice,

    what a wonderful plant fair, thanks for sharing and I can imagine you enjoyed it though it is a shame about the wet weather, Frances

  5. Shame about the rain but at this time of year I suppose it’s to be expected. I like the fact it’s purely about the plants and there aren’t any show gardens. And love the idea that you can find which stalls sell the plants you’re looking for. from the 2 men on a computer. Wonder whether this would work at RHS shows? Would love to go back to Paris. Haven’t been for about 15 years (oh dear that makes me feel old having worked that out 😦 ) Maybe I could combine a trip with a visit to the fair next year.

    • I think yoiu’d enjoy it. Monday was a lovely day which we spent looking at shops (no space to buy anything naturally); but I bought some lovely cheese at the Sunday market. I was very easy to reach the Chateau by train and shuttle bus, or if you stayed near Orly for the night before the show even closer; it was on the same train line. Christina

  6. Enjoyed this post Christina and my resolve to go to Courson has increased after reading it. Incessant rain sounds like typical show weather. The agapanthus seller was at the Southport Flower Show this August and oh what a breathtaking display. I’m sure that any plant grown in Yorkshire will sparkle in your warmer climes. We went to Courson a couple of years ago or so and that was a brilliant day out – the French certainly do it in style.

  7. Wow. I’ve just added the iris website to my bookmarks, just in case! Shame for the bad weather but you really went to a great place! Reading your post I wondered how you should have left the hotel room with all that soil and mud but you cleverly prepared your plants at the fair!

    • Yes the hotel room just had a few leaves in the bin but I know that another year my friend filled the bath with her plant purchases which must have startled the person who cleaned the room! Christina

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