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Cultivating new ideas as BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair comes to Audley End House and Gardens





The BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair was a feast for the senses at Audley End.

Fragrant blooms, lush foliage and stunning flowers in a myriad of colours transformed the grounds of the Palladian mansion as specialist growers filled dozens of stalls with the fruits of their labours, inspiring thousands of amateur horticulturalists.

As the sun shone, pollinators gorged on the blossoms’ nectar as green-fingered visitors filled bags and trolleys with booty for their own gardens.

Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End

Once visitors had sated their appetite for exotic and unusual plants, there was a chance to explore the grounds of the English Heritage property, designed by Capability Brown, and its walled kitchen garden.

Once its fruits and vegetables had whetted their appetite, the fair offered a host of street food, courtesy of the BBC Good Food Market, and bandstand entertainment to enjoy while eating in the bucolic setting, including performances by Bishop’s Stortford Rock Choir.

The singers joined forces with colleagues from Saffron Walden, Cambridge, St Neots and Huntingdon for four appearances over Saturday and Sunday.

Rock Choir at Audley End. Picture by Robert Beckwith
Rock Choir at Audley End. Picture by Robert Beckwith

The three-day event also provided food for thought for keen growers. There were top tips from Gardeners’ World presenters Frances Tophill, Arit Anderson and Adam Frost on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

As well as a host of borders and gardens designed especially for the fair to provide inspiration, there were practical workshops for would-be mushroom growers and dahlia bouquet-making sessions with Kim O’Brien.

But as a keen allotmenteer, I was more interested in dahlia tubers than blooms. Thanks to genial expert Matt Oliver, formerly of RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford, and now the head gardener at Ulting Wick, near Maldon, I now know I can harvest and eat the flowers’ underground nutrient store.

During his talk on exotic edibles, he also introduced the audience to the possibilities of yacón - a species of perennial daisy grown in South America for its crisp, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots.

Matt likened that taste to water chestnut and explained the plant can also be processed to render a thick, sweet syrup similar to treacle.

He treated fans to a taste of stevia, a native of Paraguay and Brazil. Also known as candy leaf, it gives a calorie-free sugar hit and is now used widely as an artificial sweetener in soft drinks etc.

Most tantalising was the Chilean guava plant. Its fruit looks like a blueberry and was said to be Queen Victoria's favourite.

According to Matt, it is easy to grow, so after his entertaining and educational talk, I hightailed it to Jurassic Plants to buy a tiny example and was seduced by a Szechuan pepper plant as well.

That’s the problem with gardening – it quickly becomes a growing obsession.

Presenter Adam Frost with fans at Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Presenter Adam Frost with fans at Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Matt Oliver at Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Matt Oliver at Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End
Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End

All pictures by Gerred Gilronan.



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