Flower shows

After the Chelsea Flower Show

The Diamond Jubilee Award for the best exhibit in the Great Pavilion was awarded to Ashwood Nurseries Image ©Ashwood Nurseries

I wrote about the Philadelphia Flower Show here last year, and ran a guest blog earlier this year about the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Now, I’m just back from the granddaddy of them all, the Chelsea Flower Show.

Well, I remarked on the poor light in the exhibition center at Philadelphia, the shortage of actual flowers was a feature at San Francisco and the surfeit of irrelevant trade stands was noted at both – no such problems at Chelsea.

Chelsea is about plants and gardens and the trade stands reflect that pre-occupation. There were seventeen outdoor show gardens (and the minimum size is 10m x 10m), thirteen smaller outdoor show gardens, and a generous helping of outdoor trade stands designed as gardens as well as garden-related sales booths. No booths promoting river cruises or kitchen gadgets or miracle cures.

In the three acre Great Pavilion, a bright, modern structure that replaced the vast canvas tent a few years ago, were one hundred and three floral exhibits staged by nurseries, growers, florists, specialist societies, horticultural colleges and scientific institutions.

Vast billows of roses, walls of phalaenopsis, cottage style perennial plantings, cacti, a whole stand of perhaps a hundred different miniature hostas (I lost count, I’m afraid), fragrant hyacinths, luscious strawberries ready to pick, strings of tempting cherry tomatoes and so much more. Daffodils were at their peak, dahlias were in full flower - a surprising duo and neither looked forced.

The Diamond Jubilee Award for the best exhibit in the Great Pavilion was awarded to Ashwood Nurseries for their stunning exhibit of hepaticas (above), they showed all twelve species together with a range of hybrids including some developed at Ashwood.

It’s a lot to take in but you can see the plants and gardens at the Show (and see how the show comes together in the three weeks running up to the opening) from home, check out this page of videos on the Royal Horticultural Society website.

I wrote about the Chelsea Plant of The Year competition in The Telegraph and blogged every day for my Plant Talk blog for Mr. Fothergill’s.

I’ll also again be writing up the Chelsea Plant of The Year competition for the RHS magazine The Plantsman.

And I'll be discussing the Chelsea Plant of The Year winners here soon.


A shortage of flowers and gardens at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Guest post by lawyer (and nephew)  Jonathan Weisbrod

The water gardens caught the eyeI distinctly remember the first Flower & Garden Expo I attended. In the mid-90s, my family went to the Philadelphia Flower & Garden Show. It was a rather grand experience, between floral displays and booths upon booths of plants I had never heard of or seen before. Admittedly grandeur to someone under the age of ten is easy to come by.

Over the years since I’ve attended a lot of festivals and conventions celebrating everything from hot air ballooning to chili peppers, but beyond “craft & garden” fairs – nothing with horticulture at the forefront. As a recent transplant from New Jersey to San Francisco, it seemed appropriate to try and take in my new coast. Why not spend a day at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show? #throwbackthursday or in this case Saturday.

To be fair, I knew my past expectations needed to be tempered, still I was surprised by the amount of craft fair wares available relative to the garden vendors (how many people do you need selling aged balsamic vinegar?). The event felt more like a crafts fair with gardens added on than a garden expo colored by craft vendors. The proliferation of gutter cleaning devices, new windows, and college-student MLM king Cutco takes a bit away from the whimsy.

Oh right, the garden displays. There were some very pleasant, zen displays. However, More gardens and flowers would have complimented the non-horticultural displaysthey weren’t just an afterthought in this reflection on the show, they felt like one at the show itself. The actual garden displays numbered just over half a dozen but with rather narrow scope. As such a novice, perhaps it's not surprising the water displays jumped out at me most – but they certainly felt more the focus of each set up rather than anything floral (though a raining bridge is cool concept for a few minutes).

All-in-all mixed feelings, not an overwhelming disappointment, but far from a success in my book. I was able to learn a bit about products to implement in my own garden which certainly a big plus, if only I gleaned more about plants to put in it…


Powerhouse Plant wins Chelsea Plant Of The Year award

Viburnum Kilimanjaro Sunset: Chelsea Plant Of The Year Image ©GardenPhotos.com
A couple of years ago I published a book called Powerhouse Plants. It was my choice of individual plants that have two, three or even four different features that bring colour and interest to our gardens at different seasons of the year. Now, a Powerhouse Plant has won the sixth Chelsea Plant of The Year award.

Announced recently at the Chelsea Flower Show, Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum Kilimanjaro Sunrise (‘Jww5’) (above, click to enlarge) won this year’s award, its four seasons of interest marking it out from the other entries.

The white lacecap spring flowers, developing pink tints as they age, are followed by red berries maturing to black, then a second flush of flowers opens later in the year which is rounded off by a fiery burst of autumn leaf colour. This form develops into a slightly smaller shrub than previous varieties but is as tough and easy to grow.

Salpiglossis 'Polka-Dot Purple' Image ©GardenPhotos.comIn second place was a very different plant, a streptocarpus called ‘Polka-Dot Purple’ (left, click to enlarge), from Dibleys, the world’s leading streptocarpus breeder and the same breeder that created the first winner of this award back in 2010. The prettily purple patterned white flowers caught everyone’s eye. This is an ideal windowsill house plant that flowers for ten months of the year.

In third place, Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ (below, click to enlarge) is a richly coloured half-hardy perennial developed in Australia. This long-flowering plant is hardy in warm gardens and is superb for summer patio containers everywhere else.

It’s a great to see a plant to that so completely fulfils the Powerhouse Plants ideal of multiseason interest winning this prestigious award.

Viiburnum plicatum f. tomentosum Kilimanjaro Sunrise (‘Jww5’) is available in Britain from Crocus but is not yet available in North America.

Streptocarpus ‘Polka-Dot Purple’ is available in Britain from Dibleys and will be available in North America in a year or two.

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ is available in Britain from Dysons Nurseries. The plant has its very own website and in North America is part of the Southern Living Plant Collection.

Find out more about Powerhouse Plants.
Salvia 'Love And Wishes' Image ©GardenPhotos.com


The Philadelphia Flower Show

Jacques Armand International exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Image ©GardenPhotos.comWe were at the Philadelphia Flower Show on Friday and it was quite an eye opener. Though quite why the country’s best known flower show is held in a dark and dingy exhibition hall when there’s 2ft/60cm of snow on the ground is baffling.

But both the landscapers and the individual exhibitors rose to the occasion, as they have done since 1829, with spring bulbs, orchids, tropical foliage and begonias in particular providing color.

There are two main types of horticultural exhibits: displays of plants staged by landscapers and the competitions for individual plants in staged by home gardeners. The tulips, daffodls and dwarf bulbs staged by Jacques Amand International (left, click to enlarge) and the orchids from Waldor Orchids stood out.

The Jacques Amand exhibit, along with bold clumps of tulips that were proving remarkably resilient after more than a week in the poor light, featured drifts of ‘Alida’, a lovely vivid blue reticulata iris which is a sterile sport of the old favorite ‘Harmony’. The orchids on the Waldor Orchids exhibit were mainly well established varieties – why risk your really special plants in such difficult conditions? – but included some dramatic specimens. I’ll not mention the name of the exhibit that featured a frost-hardy, moisture loving astilbe alongside a frost-tender, drought loving agave. Not a planting idea to be recommended.

Over in the better lit competitions for individual plants, the range of scented-leaved and foliage pelargoniums was impressive and there were also some rare orchids to be seen. The Black Orchid, Cymbidium Black Ruby, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Image ©GardenPhotos.com
Former trustee of the American Orchid Society, and author of Bloom-Again Orchids, judywhite – aka (if you dare!) Mrs Rice – picked one out. “There was an orchid hybrid, Cymbidium Black Ruby (C. canaliculatum x Ruby Eyes), that Lois Duffin of the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society exhibited, that was one of the darkest blackest flowers I've seen. So much so that people seem to now be calling that cross the Black Orchid. But her unnamed cultivar was exceptionally dark, and also had a white picotee edge to it. Very nice, unusual.”

But here’s the thing. For most of the exhibitors the fact that show is held in the snowy Philadelphia winter is irrelevant, it may even be an advantage. After all, if you’re trying to sell people cruises and beach vacations, trudging through snow to get to the show probably makes them more inclined to yearn for a sunny getaway.

For there are far far more sales stands, many unrelated to gardening (dog treats, soap, jewelry…), than anything else. The Marketplace alone was filled with 195 sales stands, with more outside the main hall and among the 44 more-or-less horticultural exhibits. Some were definitely for gardeners, including the Hudson Valley Seed Library and Peony's Envy Flower Farm, but Disney and Subaru were everywhere. And, frankly, speaking as an A. A. Milne fan, a display that is “inspired by the movie Winnie The Pooh” starts off at a disadvantage, says he politely. Perhaps I’m just the wrong generation.

Dan Aykroyd promoting his Crystal Head vodka at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Image ©GardenPhotos.comThere was also, and I didn’t expect this, a lot of alcohol about. Glasses of wines and spirits were on sale at a number of sites in the main exhibit hall - I saw one visitor making off with a double sized bottle of red wine from one of the concessions. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, who run the show, even have its own brand of cider.

And then there was actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd (click to enlarge). He was up on the stage in the main exhibit hall promoting his Crystal Head vodka and then he cheerfully spent hours signing the labels for the long line of people queuing patiently to the accompaniment of a rock band.

So, having judged many times at The Chelsea Flower Show in London, can I suggest any lessons that Chelsea could learn from Philly? Keep up the good work, seems to be the main lesson, and don’t be tempted to expand the shopping or add vodka promotions.

But wait, it’s all very well for me to be snippy about the domination of shopping at the flower show. But the number of Americans who share the well-known British mania for gardening is limited and Americans love to shop more than Brits do (although Brits are catching up fast). So perhaps the show has it right after all? And without it the finances of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society would surely be in a very sad state.


Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year Winner: Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia. Image © Crocus.co.uk
The winner of the Chelsea Flower Show 2013 Plant Of The Year was announced late on Monday. The award goes to Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress'. A selection of a Chinese species, made in Georgia, I feature it on my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog in September last year. This is what I said:

Mahonias are amongst the most impressive and dependable of flowering shrubs – but they have a problem. They’re spiny, sometimes viciously spiny. Not any more.

Mahonia eurybracteata is a modestly sized evergreen shrub that grows wild in five provinces of south west China. Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, and about as wide creating a more or less rounded plant, the long slender divided foliage is slightly greyish green, soft to the touch and not at all spiny or holly-like as so many varieties are.

From August until October the flowers appear, upright clusters of spikes at the tips of the shoots are lined with slightly fragrant, bright yellow flowers that last for many weeks and are followed by blue berries.

‘Soft Caress’ is a new form selected for its extra hardiness and for foliage which has a more noticeably silvery sheen. The leaves may also take on reddish tints as the days shorten and the nights become cooler. ‘Soft Caress’ is neat enough to be grown in a container, or is happy in a sunny or partially shaded border where it appreciates fertile, but well-drained soil.

‘Soft Caress’ was selected by Ozzie Johnson and Karen Stever from a group of seedlings of Mahonia eurybracteata grown at ItSaul Plants in Chamblee, Georgia.

In Britain you can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Crocus and from Gardening Express.

In North America you can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Wayside Gardens and from Springhill Nursery.


Plant Of The Century

It’s a hundred years ago this year, in 1913, that the most famous flower show in the world, The Chelsea Flower Show, was first staged and to mark the centenary of the show the Royal Horticultural Society is asking gardeners to vote for the Plant Of The Century.

They’ve chosen a plant from each decade, and each is introduced on video by a gardener of the appropriate generation - from a 92 year old ex-paratrooper to an eight year old schoolgirl. Anyone can go online and vote for their favorite. These are the plants.

Saxifraga ‘Tumbling Waters' (1913-1922)
Saxifraga-700










Pieris formosa
var. forrestii (1923-1932)

Pieris-2-700




Lupinus
Russell hybrids (1933-1942)
Lupinus-700




Rhododendron yakushimanum
(1943-1952)
Rhododendron-700




Rosa Iceberg (‘Korbin’) (1953-1962)
Rosa-700




Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ (1963-1972)
Cornus-700










Erysimum
‘Bowles's Mauve’ (1973-1982)
Erysimum-700




Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’ (1983-1992)
Heuchera-1-700




Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’) (1993-2002)
Geranium-700




Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’ (2003-2012)
Streptocarpus-700




Not everyone is happy with this list, I have to say. As one Royal Horticultural Society insider (who had better stay nameless) has already emailed me: “Typical RHS, they’ve ignored all the annuals and patio plants that people actually grow and included two shrubs that only grow on acid soil which most of the country doesn’t have.” Hmmm… Got a point, there…

Me? I’d probably vote for Iceberg rose although now that the sulfurous pollution that kept mildew and blackspot at bay in the 1950s is gone it’s a martyr to disease. Or the Russell lupins. But I think Geranium Rozanne will probably win, especially as the nursery that sells it has its PR firm campaigning on its behalf.

Click on the images to see each one enlarged. Check out all ten plants on the Plant of The Century webpage, or click the plant links above to see details of each plant an cast your vote. Voting closes at 12 noon BST Friday 24 May, 2013. Which do you think is Plant Of The Century?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year

Digitalis Illumination Pink - Plant of The Year winner 2012. Image © RHSIt took a long time to get it off the ground, but in the three years that the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Award has been running it’s quickly established itself as a highlight of the gardening year.

Only plants which have not been seen at a flower show before are eligible for the award. The RHS Plant Committee draws up a list of twenty finalists from all those entered, then on the afternoon of Press Day at the show each one is presented to the members of the RHS specialist plant committees by the nursery or breeder who’s introducing it. There’s a vote, and the winner is declared. The news quickly runs around the world and success inspires a dramatic boost in sales, even amongst plants that don’t win.

This year’s Plant of The Year is Digitalis Illumination Pink (‘Tmdgfp001’) (above left, click to enlarge) a hybrid between the familiar biennial foxglove, D. purpurea, and a perennial, slightly woody species that until recently was called Isoplexis canariensis . It’s stunning… Created by Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valins, it combines the robustness and hardiness of the British native, with exquisite colouring of the Canary Islands native. And it’s sterile, so flowers for months. It’s available in Britain, and is currently being propagated for release in North America. Anemone 'Wild Swan' - Plant of The Year winner 2011

Last year’s winner was a hardy Anemone hybrid, ‘Wild Swan’ (right, click to enlarge), developed from A. rupicola by Elizabeth MacGregor at her nursery in Kirkcudbright, between Dumfries and Stranraer in south west Scotland, where it had been on trial for ten years. ‘Wild Swan’ is available in Britain, and is now being grown by Monrovia for sale in the US.

Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue' - Plant of The Year winner 2010. Image ©GardenPhotos.comIn 2010 the first winner was an impressive Streptocarpus from Dibleys, ‘Harlequin Blue’ (left, click to enlarge) was the first bi-colour streptocarpus with flat-faced flowers that show off the colour well. The yellow on the lower petals makes a bold contrast to the blue upper petals. ‘Harlequin Blue’ flowers prolifically on compact plants. It's available from Dibleys in Europe, no sign of a North American source yet (please correct me if I’m wrong).

So three great plants are the first three Plant of the Year winners. All are well worth growing.


Guest post: A Canadian gardener visits Chelsea

Guest post: Canadian garden writer and editor Fiona Gilsenan, relocating to England, visits the Chelsea Flower Show almost as soon as she arrives in Britain.

Lovely tangly plantings in The RBC Blue Water Garden (Silver-Gilt). Image © Fiona GilsenanI didn’t exactly plan my arrival in my new homeland to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, but I don’t mind that it did. Fresh off the plane from Canada (after a few days rest in lovely Northamptonshire) I joined the throng of RHS members  hurrying through the streets of SW3 to see Diarmud Gavin’s planty pyramid and find out who got the Gold. Here are a few of my highlights.

Naturalistic plantings. There was lots of mingling and drifting going on in the planting beds, with almost all the big show gardens going for the meadowy look. Capel Manor College (above left, click to enlarge) even had a display entitled ‘Mad about Meadows’, explaining the finer points of Bat Meadows (a new category for me).

 A weedy wall in the Plankbridge Hutmakers garden (Silver Medal). Image © Fiona GilsenanRoundup ready. All this wispy, crowded planting does lead to one inevitable result: weeds. I saw more weeds in the beds than ever before at Chelsea, most looking like an accepted part of the plantings. I was itching to put on my flash new gardening gloves and pull out a few.

Heliconia vellerigera ‘She-Kong’ doesn’t shave her bracts. Image © Fiona GilsenanFreaky flowers. Under instructions from my 11-year-old son, I looked long and hard for the  ‘weirdest flower there’. A few of the orchids and Nepenthes were among the usual suspects, but I settled on this tarantula-like false bird-of-paradise, Heliconia vellerigera ‘She-Kong’ (left, click to enlarge). I think my son will agree.

Favorite show garden. A toss up between the DMZ Spent bullet casings and buttons line the path of the DMZ garden (Gold). Image © Fiona GilsenanForbidden Garden and Jo Thompson’s Caravan Club. Designed by Jihae Hwang, the DMZ garden (riht, click to enlarge) represents the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, and is filled with remnants left from the conflict. Above all, it’s a garden with meaning and memory that is powerful and spookily evocative.

Aeonium ‘Logan Rock’ named for the raiser's favourite pub. Image © RHSNew aeoniums. Plant of the Year 2012 was a pretty foxglove (Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’), but I loved the two aeoniums from Trewidden Nursery, both of which made it onto the shortlist of 20. Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’ and A. ‘Logan Rock’ (left, click to enlarge) are compact and container-worthy. Also working in their favour: breeder Claire Batten tells me they are named after her favorite beer and pub, respectively.

Thank you to Fiona Gilsenan, newly arrived in Britain, for this view of Chelsea.


The Hampton Court Flower Show

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2011. Image ©RHS Been a bit quiet here at The Transatlantic Gardener, hasn't it? Sorry about that, but I've been reporting on the largest flower show in the world for the Royal Horticultural Society and, to be honest, I've been a bit busy – what with starting at the show at five in the morning.

Thirty four acres… Fifty one show gardens good, bad and indifferent… 600 exhibitors… A huge and wonderful garden of edibles of all kinds… a very impressive Rose of The Year… spectacular floral exhibits.…160,000+ visitors in a week… Over 48,000 cups of Fair Trade tea and coffee sold… 14,868 glasses of champagne enjoyed…

Full coverage here

My contributions include:
Video report on new and interesting plants (scroll down and click the link)
Slide show report on new and interesting plants
The Edible Garden
The Plant Heritage Marquee
Cottage Garden Annuals

More to come...


Plants at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Chelsea Flower Show,Raymond Evison,Clematis. Image ©RHS (all rights reserved)
Here are links to all my writings about the plants at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

Chelsea Flower Show 2011: New Plants – Daily Telegraph

New plants, and the not so new? – The Guardian

Anemone ‘Wild Swan’: 2011 Chelsea Plant of the Year  – Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog

New Australian irises at Chelsea – Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog

Unique new hybrid lily - Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog

Chelsea Plant of The Year 2011 finalists – Transatlantic Gardener

Begonias at the Chelsea Flower Show – Transatlantic Gardener

Comprehensive descriptive A-Z of new Chelsea plants – coming soon as part of the RHS Chelsea coverage