ISNA Plant Fair: A rare sight to see

Photo by Geneva Pattison

By Geneva Pattison

The Irish Specialist Nursery Association organises many plant fairs across Dublin and Ireland. Farmleigh was the setting for their Easter bank holiday rare plant fair.

Vendors came from Dublin, Wicklow and even as far as Cork to exhibit their cultivars and produce. It’s definitely a gardening lovers’ paradise and with reasonable prices for expertly grown plants and vegetable varieties, it’s hard to leave empty handed.

There were a few specimens that caught my eye but, as these are nursery plants many of them are in their early stages of life so you need to use your imagination and do a bit of reading.  

An unusual specimen on offer included the black lace elder or “sambucus nigra black lace”. This stunning fast-growing elder shrub is deciduous and apparently very good for local wildlife. It has delicate lacey leaves that appear almost black with purple hues. Like most elders, its flowers bloom in clusters but unlike typical elders they’re tinged pink in colour.

The black lace elder would make for a wonderful, visually dramatic addition to the garden. If you’re an expert in making preserves, remember to harvest the autumn elderberries to make jams and syrups.  

Another strange plant that caught my eye was the Chinese dwarf banana plant or “musella lasiocarpa”. As the plant was on the younger side, I researched how large a dwarf banana plant might grow and got a pleasant surprise.

The plant bears an extraordinarily large yellow flower where the leaf stems converge. These flowers span up to 30cm and are somewhat reminiscent of Asiatic lotus blooms. The plant is suitable for container planting, will not grow larger than a couple of feet tall and enjoys full sun with lots of water. 

The Chilean fire bush similarly sparked my interest. This evergreen tree attracts pollinators during the flowering season in its native continent South America, and hummingbirds are particularly drawn to its vibrantly coloured petals. Its name is derived from its fiery red tubular flowers, similar to red
hot pokers.

The fire tree prefers full sun to partial shade, so an east or south facing garden would suit it. Keep this plant moist but, make sure it has adequate drainage if it’s kept planted in a pot. 

Some members of the ISNA will be exhibiting again in Dublin on the 20th and 21st of July at the Rose Festival in St. Anne’s Park in Raheny.

Visit the ISNA website for more information.