It's not Chelsea, but Milan does have a flower show of its own in May. Called Orticola. Well, OK, not really a flower show, more a trade fair. There's no competitive element, and very little going on other than nurseries and other garden related organisations displaying and selling their products. I did see one demonstration of bouquet making, and there were a couple of areas dedicated to kids, but apart from that it was "just" commercial stands.
Which didn't stop me having to queue for fifteen minutes to pay my 7€ entrance fee to get in. Half of north Italy seemed to be there - making for a bit of a crush in the relatively small area dedicated to the 130 stands inside. I'm still not exactly clear about why I should need to pay for the privilege of having people sell me plants, but I stood dutifully in line to do so.
And, mean streak aside, it was worth it. I saw plants that I'd never be able to find in our local garden centre - and, mercifully, very few that I would. A couple of stands had stock balcony plants -pelargoniums, tagetes, surfinia etc - but always unusual varieties. And the prices were very, very reasonable, making me regret the fact that I'd been terribly strong when I was still at home and taken money out of my purse rather than putting it in... The easiest way to resist temptation, I thought.
Anyway, I wandered around going oooh and aah for a couple of hours. There were a lot of stands dedicated to one plant only. The hydrangeas in the top photo were probably my favourite, while the azaleas below were predictably "in your face"...
And there was even an entire stand dedicated to nasturtiums ...
Or you might fancy some peonies ..
.. great for winding round the maypole. Or is this supposed to be some sort of bridal bower?
There were some more original stands though. If you fancy having chickens in the back garden but are afraid the neighbours will complain, how about these ...
And if you keep a dog outside, how about a green roof for his kennel?
The same stand also had an amazing green wall - unfortunately, it was so amazing that it was surrounded by hordes of people, making it really difficult to get a decent photo.
But I think the stand that wowed me the most was this one, dedicated to water features. Don't know how much luck they had in selling - with the mosquitoes we have here, no-one in their right minds would want a water feature in their garden. But, at the back of the stand, was the most amazing plant - Gunnera mannicata. Not, sadly, right for the balcony. But I stood and looked at it for a long time. Double click on the photo to understand better why it grabbed my attention.
So what did I buy? Well, I was very restrained (apart from not taking very much money, I also had to carry them home on the bus). But I did come away with a couple of salvia faracinea - my attempts to grow them from seed failed miserably this year - two astilbes, one white and one pink, and a heuchera. Not bad for 25€.
And then there's always the catalogue. It has the web addresses of all the exhibitors in it. And a lot of them seem to sell on-line ... tee hee :)