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August 2008

New RHS clematis bulletin

ClematisBulletin500 The 21st – yes, the twenty first – Trials Bulletin from the Royal Horticultural Society has recently been published – and it focuses on Clematis alpina and C. macropetala.

Following a trial at the RHS garden which began in 1997, the RHS has published a bulletin which helps us in a number of ways. For a start, it makes clear the distinction between C. alpina and C. macropetala, with some very clear pictures. There are descriptions and pictures of the sixteen plants which were awarded the Award of Garden Merit following the trial. It also provides a selection guide, going through the plants, from white to pink to blue, specifying their features and flowering season. There are also some confusions over the names which are resolved.

This is a most valuable report, and you can download it free of charge here. And I should mention that because of the certainty of the naming, the descriptions and the excellent photography this bulletin is of value far beyond Britain where it was produced.

For information on the twenty other bulletins produced by the RHS following trials click here.

Bad publicity

Over on the RHS website I have another blog devoted specifically to new plants. So I recent sent out a circular reminding nurseries to tell me about their new introductions and received a reply from one Britain’s top rose nurseries telling me about their three new roses. It was interesting – but mainly for the wrong reasons.

The first of the three new roses they told me about was in fact introduced in 2005 – not exactly new.

RosaChrisBeardshaw500 The second rose, which was launched at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, is named for Britain’s popular TV gardener Chris Beardshaw who asks that £2.50 from the sale of each plant be donated to Britain’s lifeboat service – excellent. Unfortunately the press release about the rose contains the magnificent line: “Chris Beardshaw has long been a favourite of scented roses.” Oh, those scented roses - they just love that Chris Beardshaw!

The press release on the third rose, ‘Harrogate’, was mostly about how the rose had failed to bloom in time to be launched at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in Yorkshire and expecting that it would be flowering for the Harrogate Autumn Show in September.

None of these points really encourage gardening journalists to write about these “new” roses.

RosaCoronationStreet400 And then there are the pictures that came with the write-ups. For the 2005 ‘Coronation Street’ rose, the picture shows two stars from the long-running British soap holding a small posy of the rose. Excuse me – we’re gardeners! We like to see the flowers not the totty.

They sent a nice snap of the ‘Chris Beardshaw’ rose (see above) – well, one flower anyway. Any chance of seeing a whole plant? In a garden?

And for the ‘Harrogate’ rose we get one of the owners of the rose nursery, a great guy, but there he is grinning enthusiastically, behind one of the flowers which didn’t open. I won't embarrass him by showing it to you. Surely this rose has flowered before… Can we see it at its peak? Can we see a whole plant doing its stuff?

OK… all three roses are getting a mention here – with two of their pictures. Over on my RHS New Plants blog the ‘Chris Beardshaw’ rose gets a mention – well-scented roses are always good and it looks gorgeous.

But think what enthusiasm could have been generated if they’d approached this in a more thoughtful way, concentrated on the qualities of the roses themselves and shown them in garden situations. And left the launch of the ‘Harrogate’ rose until September when it will surely be in flower.

And best of all they could have copied Fryers. They sent out sample plant of Lucky (’Frylucy’), the Rose of the Year for 2009 in Britain. Then we could all grow it and judge for ourselves.

Note to small UK nurseries – Rosie Harkness at Rose Tinted PR does a great job for small (and large) nurseries.

Consumers not so smart say the three-quart-gallon brigade

Over on the Open Register blog – “Blog with the garden retail community” – Sarah Martinez of (American) Garden Center magazine has been posting about the standardization of pot sizes for plants. She reported the opinion that standardization “would make it much easier for companies to reuse containers. Also, it would help pave the way toward more uniform recycling standards.” Seems fair to me. And any industry that uses the term “trade gallon” for a three quart pot clearly needs to get its act together.

But it would also help the consumer - of whom the two follow-up comments are noticeably dismissive. “A uniform standard would leave nothing more than price to compete on” says one commenter. So gardeners are incapable of looking at a weak plant and a healthy one, a small plant and large one, and telling the difference? And checking the price tag? No. That’s exactly how nurseries compete – on value: price and quality.

Then the follow up comment, in full agreement: “It's impossible for the consumer to compare what a 5 gallon Escallonia looks like at Home Depot compared to a 5 gallon Monrovia Escallonia.” Here’s the news: some nurseries grow good plants, some grow bad ones. Some grow both, I’ve seen both good and bad in Home Depot and from Monrovia. The consumer is not stupid – he/she’ll consider the plants and consider the prices. If they’re in the same size pots – well that makes it so much easier. Growers just seem to want to make it difficult.