Crocus, the online plant nursery, is having another open day this Saturday, 2 July. Unfortunately, I won't be able to go as it is a, prize day at my daughter's school, and b, the Streatham Choral Society summer concert, in which I am singing*.
In a moment of madness, I considered sneaking down to Windlesham first thing in the morning, but luckily sanity prevailed. Bad enough to have to change clothes twice in one day (smart casual for prizegiving, long black for concert) without having to climb out of grotty gardening gear as well.
I can't really complain - I've been to two Crocus open days this year. If you haven't yet been, here's what I hope will prove an informal but useful guide.
1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. The site is much larger than it looks, and in any case, you're going to be walking up and down rows of plants, not just going once round the whole site. If it's sunny, wear a hat. All that stooping over things and peering at plant labels will give you sunburn on your neck. I know this from personal experience.
2 Learn how to be a trolley-stalker. Everyone else will seem to have a trolley except you. The trick is to nobble someone as they come out of the paying area and ask them if you can have their trolley when they've unloaded. You then have to walk with them back to their car, and it's a nice generous gesture to help them unload (if they want you to). On the way to their car, and upon your triumphant return to the payment point, you will be accosted by other "trolley stalkers".
3. Remember that Crocus is not a retail operation. This is not Sainsbury's or Tesco - they can't just open up another 10 tills if it gets busy. If you have to queue for a bit, it will all be worth it when you get to the till and find the bill is at least £20 less than you thought it would be. And while you're waiting, you can admire your plants. And have a nose at other people's choices.
4. If you think you're going to buy loads and loads of things, ask for two sets of stickers. You'll be given these stickers, which have a number on them, at the start of your visit. The system is that you put a sticker on the plant you want, and it is then collected up by the many trailers touring the nursery and returned to your crate at the payment point. Your crate(s) will have the same number(s). It's very frustrating to be in the farthest reaches of the nursery looking at grasses, say, and find you've got to walk all the way back to the entrance for more stickers.
5. There are limited catering facilities (a van selling burgers etc, and drinks), and limited seating. There's a cafe at Hillier's next door, but on a sunny day, when it's likely to be busy, it's best to take a snack and a drink with you.
Happy plant shopping!
*Mozart, Mass in C K317
Britten, Rejoice in the Lamb
George Dyson, Hierusalem