Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Plant Auctions - My New Favourite Place

Now I know how the kid feels who's just been let loose in the proverbial sweet shop.

For every Wednesday and Saturday morning there is a plant auction in a little group of buildings tucked away in a quiet corner of Wisbech. I had heard talk of it, but it has taken me four years to get round to visiting... and boy do I regret the wasted years!

The travelling auction begins
They have just about everything you could find in a garden centre, but at rock bottom prices. In some cases you could knock a zero off the garden centre price. Granted, you have to buy plants in lots, but when you can get a whole tray or a group of pots for the same price as one normally costs, then that's got to be good news. In my case, with rather a lot of land to play with, purchasing one plant at a time has no impact whatsoever, so this way of buying is absolutely perfect.

If I'd discovered the auctions a couple of years ago, there would be a lot more shrubs, flowers, fruits and trees in my garden, veg plot, soft fruit patch and orchard. Anyway, my last two visits to the auction have seen me making up for lost time.
I've been quite restrained actually. The focus has been on topping up the orchard, though I have let myself be tempted by a few ornamentals too.

Bare root fruit trees galore.
The bare root tree section is amazing. It comes at the end of the auction, so most people have gone by then. There's not really even any bidding. The auctioneer just calls out what the reserve prices are and which varieties are available. All you have to do is tell him which ones you want. Most fruit trees come in fives, but I like to peruse the ranks of trees before the auction and count the stems in each bundle, for there are twos and threes to be found here and there. If I end up buying five, I can often sell a couple on to fellow smallholders and then everyone benefits.

Click here to read my post on Concorde Pears
So the outcome of my last two visits has been the acquisition of approximately fifty new fruit trees, which has doubled the size of my orchard.
I was especially delighted to find Pear Concorde at £3 per tree (+ 12% commission). This is the pear which did so well last year and I was prepared to pay a lot more to add to my stock.

I've also added to my range of apples. I now have Egremont Russet, Kidd's Orange Red, Laxton Superb, Scrumptious, more Discovery, Blenheim Orange and Ashmead's Kernel.

There are more plum trees, crab apples and cherries too, but I've saved the very best find till last. For my favourite tree in the orchard is my medlar. Even as a young tree it has taken on the appearance of a gnarled, old specimen. It puts on a stunning display of blossom in the spring and produces an intriguing and luxurious crop late in the autumn. The delightful pink tone of medlar jelly provides the final pleasant surprise.

So when, hidden amongst the serried ranks of trees, I discovered the label "Nottingham Medlar" I was very excited. But when I heard the price - £2!!! - yes, that's right, I said TWO POUNDS - I bought five immediately. I think my first medlar tree cost me over £20.

Click here to read my post on medlars, including a recipe for medlar jelly.

All this happened last Saturday, so I have been a busy bee during the week and all my fruit trees are now planted and labelled in the orchard. I've still got some raspberry canes,rhubarb plants and gunneras to go in, but I managed to get the orange contorted willows planted as well as the grasses, the aconites, the snowdrops and the conifers. I told you I showed restraint!

I plan to visit the auction once a month from now. That way, I'll end up with a selection of plants with interest throughout the year. Priority for my next visit are laurel plants and blueberries, though quite what I'll come back with is anyone's guess.

As you can see, I showed considerable restraint and didn't buy too much.

 Wait till I tell you about my other new favourite place! 


  1. Good evening John

    Sounds like you have found a little gem of a venue for plants. If only I had the land! Out of curiosity I have heard a lot about Medlars but have never tasted or experienced them. I take it from your purchase of more medlars that it is a plant that you highly value as well as the preserve produced from it. One Plant I would grow if I had the land would be lots and lots of crab apples they make a wonderful jelly to serve with roast pork. When I can get wild crab apples I make a plain and a spiced version and I also ring the changes with the colours. Do you have nut trees as well?

    Always look forward to reading your posts.

    Today we have bought two Pork bellies -we have had ribs for tea together with a home made mix of plum jelly, home produced chinese five spice sauce and tomato ketchup and the ribs as usual have come up wonderfully tasty and sticky. I will have to make some more five spice sauce soon as I do not have much left on the larder shelf.

    We have also popped four belly pork flat slabs for roasting into the freezer and with the other belly have started off two batches of salted cured bacon (it will keep in the fridge for approximately two weeks and after that can be sliced and then frozen. We cured Salmon at Christmas Gravadlaxs which came out well just hoping the bacon comes out just as good, It all stretches us as the end of the day.


  2. Good luck with the bacon. Sounds delish, as do the plum jelly and sauces. There's no substitute for making your own - so much healthier and tastier than supermarket products and more choice too.
    We too make crab apple jelly every year. It's nice infused with rosemary or chillified!
    As for nuts, our almond and cobnuts did well this year, but I'd like to buy more trees to establish a proper nuttery. Let's hope some appear at the auctions.

  3. Hi John

    You have the land and once you have the land it speaks to you. It must be absolutely lovely to be setting up things from scratch for future generations to enjoy. I hope you find the nut trees too and are able to set up your own Nuttery amongst other things. I look forward to hearing about the other lovely things that you find at the auction. Even though I do not have the land at present I keep doing different bits and bobs so that I learn and get the practice with. One day. I intend to hve a go next month at making faggots /"Savoury Ducks and Hacelet I have recipes for both which I intend to prepare and then freeze to use as I need them. I quite like the idea of setting up a Charcuterie Fridge at some point - do not have the space at present but it is something to think about. I have obtained one or two charcuterie style books for curing meat at home. Might hve a go at some sausage or salami the month after that will have to see. Keep up the good work and the planting but don't get cold that wind is perishing.

    Take care



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