There were a few nurseries outside selling their plants, but fewer than in previous years I thought. They travel from all over the country to exhibit and sell at flower shows like this, but I guess with the recession they may have had to stay closer to home this year.
As well as the plants, there were some great garden sculptures for sale.
And some gorgeous furniture too. I loved this arbour from Henderson Garden Products. I can just imagine sitting outside on a warm summer's night, with a glass of wine and a good book, lantern burning cosily...
Street entertainers wandered up and down the main aisle, doing their best to give everyone a good laugh and brighten up the gloomy grey skies.
Inside the main plant marquee Gateshead Council showed off their silver-medal-winning Chelsea garden 'A Window of Opportunity', sponsored by Northumbrian Water. The plants in the garden are watered via pumps which are powered by two static bikes. Water runs down the frames and trickles down through the terraced edible planting in the rear BBQ area. The idea was to show how growing plants to eat can be fun, and the importance of water. It looked really attractive, and I'm sure all the herbs, fruit and veg tasted fantastic too!
Here are some of the other exhibits which I liked:
Chesters Grove Garden Centre won a silver medal for their cottage garden - with lovely arbour!
Cowell's Garden Centre won a gold medal for their showcase of hanging baskets and container planting.
A silver gilt medal was awarded to the Cottage Garden Society for their colourful, tranquil retreat.
The Northern Fruit Group had a really juicy and colourful exhibit.
I especially like the gold medal garden created by the Durham Organic Gardeners' Association, full of edible and attractive planting - and all in containers.
Willowbog Bonsai displayed a fantastic array of exquisitely pruned bonsai, and were awarded a gold medal for their efforts.
Students from East Durham College created a really striking planting scheme to run either side of a rill, complete with heron ready to snatch an unsuspecting fish!
And students of Finchale Training College created a bright and colourful garden workspace.
I had a great time in the Craft Marquee too, doing a bit of birthday and Christmas shopping. I love to buy handmade gifts that you can't find on the high street; and it's good to support fellow makers too.
Sue Fenlon uses watercolours and pastels to create some exquisite artwork. The colours are so dreamy and soft.
Elizabeth Bailey displayed lovely pieces of handthrown earthenware pottery; some decorated with simple, quirky animal images. I loved the mouse plate - great for cheese and crackers?!
Ingrid Wagner (of 'Coat for a Boat' fame) had an exhibit showcasing her Big Knit products. A simple but beautiful rug can be knitted in only four hours using BIG needles (40cm to 1.2m in length!) and recycled BIG yarn. I had a try of her big crochet hook too; it was a bit awkward at first but after a few minutes the results were quite attractive. Not an implement to be used on public transport though!
I also had a lovely chat with Alan Birchall who makes original stoneware ceramics. He really enthused about the different clays, slip and glazes that he uses. That's why it's so lovely to go to craft fairs like this because you can chat to the makers and find out exactly what they do - and why they love doing it. You don't get that sort of enthusiasm from your average high street retailer!