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June 2010

National Plant Show - all the New Plant Awards

NemesiaSugarFrosted4486HTA The first National Plant Show has just closed at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry. This show is geared towards professional plantspeople but we’re all interested in the New Plant Awards. Time to wrap up the coverage.

I ran through the Gold Medal winners late yesterday and highlighted the Best in Show earlier yesterday. So let’s have a quick recap and then look at the Silver and Bronze awards.

Best in show
Begonia 'Glowing Embers'

Gold Medals
Begonia 'Glowing Embers'
Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053)
Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’
Nemesia ‘Blueberry Ripple’
Nemesia ‘Framboise’

Silver Medals
Gazania ‘Apache’ Large plants and large flowers which are red with yellow petal tips LeucanthemumRealGalaxy4541HTA
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer Twist ‘n’ Shout’ The latest in the repeat flowering series
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’ Greenish white flowers on compact plants
Leucanthemum ‘Real Galaxy’ (Right, click to enlarge) Large eyed flowers with a mass of frilly creamy petals
Nemesia ‘Vanilla Lady’, Prolific, white and heavily vanilla scented
Rosa ‘Joie de Vivre’ Rose of the Year, neat, compact, prolific, disease resistant

Bronze Medals
Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’, glossy bronze foliage with a red centre
Gerbera Garvinea Series, Very hardy gerberas for the open garden
Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ Very long flowering with soft orange flowers
NemesiaMirabelle4563HTA Nemesia ‘Mirabelle’ (Left, click to enlarge) Slightly smoky blue purple flowers in great numbers
Nemesia ‘Sugar Frosted’ (Top, click to enlarge) Misty pink flowers and very brightly variegated leaves
Salvia eigii ‘Christopher Fairweather’ Vivid pink hooked flowers on vertical stems
Sambucus nigra
‘Black Tower’ very upright with almost black leaves

Book next year's National Plant Show in your diary - 28 and 29 September 2011.

Gold Medal winners at the National Plant Show

Clematis,Guiding Light,Evipo053,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved So here’s more on the New Plant Awards at the first National Plant Show (last day tomorrow). Sponsored by ProVar, the non-profit agency that markets new plants, yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the awards – which were announced this morning. So here’s the full roster of Gold Awards
Begonia Glowing Embers, which I told you about this morning;
Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053), the latest from Raymond Evison;
Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, a dwarf shrub in brilliant colours;
Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple', an amazingly prolific bicoloured nemesia;
Nemesia ‘Framboise’, also prolific and a wonderful fruity colour.

We gave the Best in Show award to Begonia Glowing Embers, for its combination of sultry chocolate bronze foliage and its many orange single flowers.
Coprosma,Tequila Sunrise,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)
Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053')  (top, click to enlarge) is the latest from ace clematis breeder Raymond Evison. It’s short, reaching just 0.9-1.2m/3-4ft, so is ideal sprawling through a low shrub and produces masses of six-petalled blue-purple flowers with dark centres in early summer and then again in late summer and autumn.

Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (right, click to enlarge) originated in New Zealand as a sport of Coprosma ‘Yuanne’ and its very glossy,  wavy, evergreen green leaves are edged in rusty orange in summer turning red in winter. This looks to be a fine plant to use as a container specimen.
Nemesia,Blueberry Ripple,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved
Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple' (left, click to enlarge) stood out from across the hall. A mass of scented blueberry and white flowers, the two colours separated by a yellow lip, keep coming on bushy plants all summer.

Nemesia ‘Framboise’ (right, click to enlarge), five nemesias gained awards in all, I liked this one for its rich fruity colouring and the way the foliage stayed even and compact and the flowers all stood up above it. Nemesia,Framboise,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved

I’ll tell you about the other award winners tomorrow. These are all new in Britain and just starting to become available in garden centres and by mail order. Look out for them.

Finally, without naming names, it was interesting to see that a number of entries simply failed to follow the rules. Following the rules is absolutely basic.
For example:
Five plants of each entry were required, so don’t submit just one.
Don’t turn up two hours after the deadline, when judging is almost complete, and expect your entry to be accepted.
If the main feature of a plant is its flowers, enter plants which are actually flowering!

National Plant Show New Plant Awards

Begonia,Glowing Embers,Allensmore,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved) Yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the New Plant Awards at the very first British National Plant Show.

We started out with almost sixty entries, and, after much careful deliberation, we gave the award for the Best New Plant in the Show to a new begonia exhibited by Allensmore Nurseries called Glowing Embers (left, click to enlarge).

Created by Fred Yates, who's developed some superb begonia hybrids in recent years including the Million Kisses series, this Begonia pearcei hybrid has single orange flowers which are perfectly set off by the bronze foliage and the mature plants on display are really impressive.

The New Plant exhibit at the show is well worth a look and in fact the whole show is packed with good plants old and new - and not a sun lounger nor any novelty hand tools to be seen. The show features plants - and nothing else. It's open on June 29 and 30 - for more details check the National Plant Show website. I'll be going back to take another look on Wednesday. Oh, by the way, entry is free.

The (British) National Plant Show

[This is a British thing - though perhaps with an interesting lesson for the US too.]

Heuchera,Autumn Leaves,National Plant Show,Terra Nova Nurseries. Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries Next Tuesday sees the opening of the very first National Plant Show. Held at Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry in the English Midlands, on June 29 and 30. Over a hundred nurseries and seed companies will be exhibiting their plants. No patio furniture, no mock-stone containers, no plastic turf, no Christmas holiday gifts, no barbecues, no novelty hand tools, no cure-all pesticides, no cheesy lighting and no plastic anything.

Just plants.

Intended for garden centres, retail nurseries, florists, landscape and garden designers, and other industry professionals of all kinds – the National Plant Show does what so many of us have always wanted a show to do. It forgets everything else and focuses on the plants. Hundreds and hundreds of plants - trees, shrubs, perennials, patio plants - everything, as long as it's a plant.

Plus. There are also seminars from the likes of Raymond Evison (Guernsey Clematis), Andy McInroe (Hillier Nurseries) and Sarah Raven.

I’m honoured to be one of the judges for the New Plant Awards, which will be announced on the morning of June 29, and I’m looking forward to seeing the best of what the British plant trade has to offer. Like Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’ (above, click to enlarge), a star in the making, perhaps, from America’s Terra Nova Nurseries.

You can sign up as a visitor online here.

I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

Two inspiring British gardens to visit

Martyn Cox,London,garden,small garden. Image: ©Martyn Cox.Two inspiring, but relatively small, private gardens – one in the city and one in the country – are opening for charity in Britain this coming Sunday (27 June).

 There are not many garden writers who open their gardens to all comers. But Martyn Cox, who writes a weekly column for one of Britain’s best selling Sunday newspapers, The Mail on Sunday, is opening his tiny London garden on Sunday. And it really is tiny – just 30ft x 15ft - but thoughtfully designed and with so many plants squeezed in it’s a wonder there’s room for the family. If you have a small garden, you’ll surely find it inspiring. Martyn Cox,London,garden,small garden. Image: ©Martyn Cox.

And, of course, being a writer, he wrote a book based on what he learned designing and planting his tiny garden: Big Gardens in Small Spaces - Out-of-the-Box Advice for Boxed-in Gardeners. It’s my guess that if you took the book apart and spread out all the pages the book would probably be bigger than the garden!

Read about the garden
Check details of the opening
Go to Martyn's website

Foxtail Lilly,Tracie Mathieson,country garden,shop. Image: ©Tracie Mathieson. Meanwhile, round the corner from our British base in East Northamptonshire, Tracey Mathieson is again opening her intriguing country garden. This is not a country garden with long vistas, yew hedges and topiary that demands a full time team of two just to keep it all trimmed. This is real.

It’s a fascinating combination of an imaginatively planted, manageable garden featuring perennials and annuals attached to a family house – plus a cutting garden, plus plant sales, plus Foxtail Lilly - the barn shop where you can buy exquisite hand-tied bouquets and antiques with Foxtail Lilly,Tracie Mathieson,country garden,shop. Image: ©Tracie Mathieson. floral themes. There’ll be tea and cakes, too. And lovely views over the meadows.

Tracey’s garden has been featured in both The Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society’s monthly members’ magazine, in the Daily Telegraph, and in the next issue of top selling Country Living magazine.

Read about the garden
Check details of the opening
Go to Tracey's website

Mail order plants: Romence Gardens has a very happy customer

Romence Gardens and Greenhouses, mail order plants, judyhwhite. Image: © I'm judywhite and I'm jumping in here as a guest blogger to mention the very good first-time experience I just had with an online plant source: Romence Gardens & Greenhouses, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan (which is zone 5 here in the USA).

I had been searching in vain for plants of the hardy annual native plant Corydalis sempervirens (I needed plants, not seeds), and finally found them on this site. I emailed to ask how close the plants were from blooming, and immediately got back a nice response describing what they had. Then when I placed the order, on a Thursday morning, I received an email within about three hours saying everything had shipped! I had selected just the normal FedEx delivery, not expedited, and to my surprise, the packages arrived on Saturday morning.

And what packaging (above and below, click to enlarge) – I don’t think I ever remember getting such well-packed plants, complete with excellent Romence Gardens and Greenhouses,mail order plants,packaging,judywhite. Image: © instructions stuck to the outside of the box on exactly how to unpack everything, and then inside found more instructions (right, click to enlarge) carefully telling me how to treat the plants. The plant labels were even taped inside, on the box, behind the plants, instead of stuck inside the pots. Plants themselves were big and in excellent condition, still well-watered. The Corydalis were in bloom and in seedhead; the Digitalis thapsi was also in bloom. Prices were very reasonable, plus I had inadvertently managed to order during a sale.

Romence Gardens and Greenhouses,mail order plants,packaging,judywhite. Image: © The Romence Gardens website says they have been a family owned business for over 75 years, now in the 3rd generation, with over 1000 varieties of perennials, among lots of other stuff. Their motto: Great Plants! Great Varieties! Great Values!

The only small foible was that the plant of Lamium (aka Lamiastrum) galeobdolon 'Hermann's Pride’ that I had ordered came with a tag saying it was L. galeobdolon ‘Variegatum’ instead, even though the plant does indeed look like 'Hermann’s Pride'. (‘Variegatum’ is actually now ‘Florentinum’, says the RHS Plantfinder; 'Florentinum' is much more vigorous than ‘Hermann’s Pride’ and has broader leaves.) The packing invoice had the right plant listed. I just emailed them to make sure I received the right thing.

All in all, a very satisfied customer here. Communication fast and great, shipping almost immediate, packing outstanding, plants superb. Excellent value.

Romence Gardens & Greenhouses

265 Lakeside Dr NE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-451-8214; toll-free 888- 907-5268

by judywhite

How are new perennials created?

Alcea 'Mars Magic',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds. How are new plants created? Well, here’s one way. Jelitto, the international seed company headquartered in Germany, recently launched a new series of hollyhocks (Alcea), the Spotlight Series, in four distinct colors. Seed is available now, but they’re starting to be taken up by some of the big growers so before long there’ll be the option of buying plants.

But how did they do it? Georg Uebelhart is their General Manager and plant breeder. Here he explains how he created the four individual colors in the Spotlight Series. This post is longer than usual, but it really gives an insight into the development of new seed-raised plants.

“Breeding work began back in 1992 when Jelitto Perennial Seeds moved to its new location near Hanover. Sales have always been good with the two mixed coloured items, Alcea Rosea-Hybrids ‘Simplex’ and Alcea Ficifolia-Hybrids but these two strains always included a wide variation in colour. The task was to develop consistent strains in individual colours for a series similar to the double Chaters Series.

“It started when one of our good customers in France sent us seed collected from his own plants - open pollinated seed collected from a yellow plant, a white plant, a pink plant and a red plant with the comment "it would be nice to have straight single colours some day".

Alcea 'Blacknight',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds. “Among all the seed we had saved in our gene bank, seeds from Russia, and the seed from France where sown to start with. Other sources have been added over the years. Not many had flowered the first year after sowing and by the second year it was not really surprising that every batch flowered in mixed colours.

“We began to isolate two plants of each colour and pollinated them within this colour group; we came up with easily twenty different colour variants. Seed of these was sown again and for the next three generations repeating it the same way, again taking only two plants with the same colour.

“Then we have started to back cross these with the parent plants and from then on we saw a slight improvement. Also more plants flowered the first year from seed. In addition we have only used plants which have overwintered so our plants will be perennial and not short lived.

Alcea ,hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto,breeding, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds. “Another problem was that plants which flowered for the first time have not produced a good seed set that year as they flower two months later than overwintered plants and it became too late for seed to ripen. All flowers needed to be bagged (a polystyrol bag was put over each flower stalk) and each bag needed to be opened each day for hand pollination. Also each colour needed to be identified with the use of the RHS colour chart to look for the consistent colour over the years.

“A lot of problems have been faced as some lines while improving the colour became almost sterile. Other lines changed color at some stage, for example red suddenly became black purple and yellow started splitting into dirty apricot. The most difficult colour is pink as these always split into reds, pinks, and whites whatever is done. This is a missing colour in our series but we are working on it!

Alcea 'Polestar',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds. “Some colour lines stopped improving. The size of the flowers changed from rather large to very small. Tall lines became short and short lines became to tall. Foliage shape changed while improving the colour but all the plants in a series have the same foliage type.
“Another problem is producing the seed. Since Alcea are very popular plants in the area where we  producer our seed places have to be found where there are no alceas for at least a 3 km distance to avoid cross pollination by insects. Pollen from one wrong plant can cause our new lines to become mixed colours again.
“Rust resistance is still a target for the future, so far we have only achieved rust tolerance. We have tested almost every Alcea on the market and none has been rust resistant, not even rust tolerant.
“We kept back from introducing our Spotlight Series as we felt the series is not complete without a good pink. But the market changes quickly these days and we had to move forward. Other colours in the works include: apricot, blue purple, soft pink, bright pink, lavender, cherry red, and bicolours.”
Alcea 'Sunshine',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.Thank you Georg Uebelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Perennial Seeds, for sharing this fascinating story. We appreciate it. And we look forward to the new colors.
You can buy seed of Alcea Spotlight Series anywhere in the world from Jelitto Perennial Seeds.
US growers will be able to order plugs from Walters Gardens
US growers can find out how to grow Alcea Spotlight Series in Garden Product News (page 36)

In print and online

Time to update you on where some of my recent work has been appearing.

The Guardian newspaper
The first of a number of pieces for Britain’s finest national newspaper. I had a weekly column in its sister paper, The Observer, for a few years. It’s good to be back.
New Plants

Royal Horticultural Society website
I’ve started two new monthly series for the RHS website, both featuring plants with the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
In one I highlight one of the latest plants to receive the AGM
The first features Dianthus Candy Floss ('Devon Flavia')
In the other I pick ten Award of Garden Merit plants of a particular type or for a particular use in the garden
The first is on plants for summer containers

Amateur Gardening magazine
I’m now writing occasionally for Amateur Gardening magazine.
My first piece is about the RHS Plant Finder. It’s not available online but you can subscribe to the magazine.

New Plants blog
My Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog continues to thrive. In the last three weeks I’ve featured these new plants.
Coreopsis ‘Red Shift’
Golden rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Wilma’s Gold’
Digitalis purpurea ‘Serendipity
Iris ‘Impressions de Jouy’ and ‘Rose de la Vallée’
Hosta ‘Sarah’s Sensation’
Chelsea Plant of the Year - winners
Chelsea Plant of the Year - finalists

The Plantsman
June issue
I have a piece on hardiness rating systems, it’s not yet online but I hope it will be soon.

The Garden
June issue
California poppies (

If you follow me on Twitter I'll let you know when new pieces are published.

How much does it spread? 12in or 36in?

I’m in the last weeks of completing work on my next book and I’ve been checking all the details in the section where the plants are described. [No, I’m not going to tell you what exactly it’s about yet, the publishing business is just too competitive!]

Coreopsis,verticllata,Moonbeam. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved. But one thing’s been worrying me – as it has done for years, I have to say. I’ve given the height of all the plants, but what about their spread?

Think about it. If you plant, say, the well known, award-winning Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’, and invaluable plant - what happens? The plant may be just 6in/15cm across when you plant it but it grows and spreads and spreads some more and continues to spread for years. So how can put a figure on how much it spreads? Over how long? In what kind of soil? In what climate?

I took a look to see what figures various sources give about the spread of Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’.

* The American Horticultural Society’s A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants says 18in/45cm.
* Rather bafflingly, neither the Royal Horticultural Society’s online Plant Selector nor its Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers mention the plant at all but their little Plant Guide to Perennials gives a 12in/30cm spread for all forms of C. verticillata.
* Tracy DiSabato-Aust, in her Well-Tended Perennial Garden, says 2ft/60cm.
* The Missouri Botanic Garden says 18-24in/45-60cm.
* Perennial Resource, from Walters Gardens, says 18-24in/45-60cm.
* The US commercial grower Monrovia says 2ft/60cm.
* White Flower Farm mail order nursery (US) says “spacing 12-18in”/30-45cm – but that’s not quite the same, is it?
* The UK mail order nursery Crocus says 18in/45cm.
* The US mail order nursery Wayside Gardens says 3ft/90cm.
* Plant guru Allan Armitage in his Herbaceous Perennial Plants says 3ft/90cm.

Crocosmia,Lucifer. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved. So, does Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ spread to 12in/30cm or to 3ft/90cm or somewhere in between? I give up. And don’t get me started on plants like Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ – it’s a great plant but it might be 15in/38cm wide at the base and then arch out to 3ft/90cm wide in flower.

In my Encyclopedia of Perennials I simply didn’t give spread. Not everyone was happy. But neither were they confused of misled. In the book I’m working on now I started including a figure for their spread – now I’ve taken all those figures out. If I pick a figure, it will end up being wrong for the majority of readers. The publisher doesn’t know yet. Hope they don’t mind. OK Tom?