Meet: Peta Trahar, co-founder, Collectors' Plant Fair

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5 Jan 2016

Last year marked the tenth Collectors' Plant Fair, a fixture on garden-lovers' calendars. Peta has been there from the beginning. Today we salute the history of Australia's Most Treasured Gardening Event and how it came into being.

Interview and photos: Robin Powell via The Garden Clinic Magazine

The Collectors’ Plant Fair celebrates its first decade. How did it all begin?

I’d been exhibiting at all the garden shows as ‘Town and Country Gardens: rare and unusual plants’. I don’t really like the phrase, but at the ABC garden show there was a real buzz around the stall. My friend Beth Stokes commented on it, and she said ‘you know we really should do something featuring rare and unusual plants; and these city venues are hard on the feet so it’s got to be at your place.’ And you know, with the ignorance of being 12 years younger, I just said ‘Oh yes’.

It was a great success at your property Woodgreen in Bilpin for seven years.

Yes, Beth was right. People loved being in a country atmosphere. And running it on our own property was a good way to learn about event management. We three – Beth, my husband Peter and me – make a good team. We have different skills, and unlike other event management companies, this is our single focus. We took a break after our seventh year, when it rained and we all slogged around in the mud. We realised that we can’t really expect people to keep driving out all this way. Clarendon Racecourse is great solution. It’s charming and has a village-like atmosphere, and a train so you don’t even need to drive. 

How has the Fair changed your life?

As a person, it’s made me more confident. I’ve learned how to deal with logistics, and how to accept criticism. We hand out feedback sheets each year and there are always some snarky remarks. You have to take that on and see if there is any truth in there and what you might do about it. It’s also meant I can’t get out into my own garden as much! 
 

Your garden is a source of plants for your nursery. Will you be selling anything at the Fair this year?

I did when we started out, but I don’t any more. We have a wait list of nurseries that want to be involved with the Fair and I don’t think it’s fair that the convenor should take a spot.

You say you don’t like the phrase ‘rare and unusual’. Why not?

I just like to expand on it – these are plants that might be old-fashioned, hard to propagate, or slow to propagate or otherwise unsuited to big commercial horticulture. They are treasures. Someone called us Australia’s treasured gardening event. I like that.