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One plant, two names - again

Sweet Pea, Blue Shift', 'Duchy of Cambridge'. Image ©Keith Hammett
It’s confusing, it helps no one – and some people will buy the two varieties thinking they’re different… when they’re actually exactly the same.

One of our foremost creators of fine new sweet pea varieties, Keith Hammett, developed an impressive new variety called ‘Blue Shift’ – the flowers change colour as they mature. This is what he says about it himself: “This is a completely new development where blooms open as mauve shades, but change to a range of turquoise and ultramarine shades, which gives a bunch of flowers a unique “mother of pearl effect”.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

So what’s this that Unwins Seeds are selling? They call it ‘Duchy of Cambridge’. They say: “The delicately scented blooms open in royal blue shades of turquoise and ultramarine and gradually change to incorporate more feminine pinks and mauves – creating a beautiful ‘mother of pearl’ effect.” And the variety is illustrated… with Keith Hammett’s own picture.

It’s the same thing. Click on the image above to see.

So, basically, it really looks as if what Unwins are doing is selling Keith Hammett's ‘Blue Shift’ – but calling it ‘Duchy of Cambridge’. Ten-Out-of-Ten for creating confusion and Zero-Out-of-Ten for giving the raiser of this variety the credit he deserves. This is the guy, by the way, who’s won more awards than I have space to include.

Now, I must be sure to say… Over the decades that I’ve been interested in sweet peas, and in other seed-raised plants, Unwins were extremely helpful. Their trials were fine examples of how assessing new seed raised plants should be done. Their help was invaluable when I was working on my book on sweet peas, and the thanks I gave in the book were entirely genuine.

But what are they up to now? They even describe ‘Duchy of Cambridge’ as “our delightful new and unusual sweet pea variety.” Hello… “our”? Don’t think so…

This self serving approach to the marketing of plants confuses customers, denies credit to those who deserve it, devalues the extraordinary amount of work that goes into developing new varieties and ends up making gardeners suspicious when they see “new” attached to any plant.

Can’t everyone just stick to the right name and give credit where it’s due?

You can buy Sweet Pea 'Blue Shift' from the man who raised it - along with many other fine varieties.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: My copy of Which? Gardening just arrived. [For North Ameican readers, this is lilke a Cosumer Reports magazine for gardening.]  Best By New Plant this month is a plant they call Lathyrus latifolius 'Mother of Pearl'. "Flowers open purple and gradually darken to deep blue. This sweet pea is also known as 'Blue Shift'," they say. So now we have a third name for 'Blue Shift' - and they say it's a perennial and not a sweet pea!

Which? Gardening say this fictional plant is available from English Sweet Peas - not any more. But English Sweet Peas do list 'Blue Shift' as a sweet pea - "flowers open a rich purple and gradually darken to a deep blue".  Well, they must have listed Lathyrus latifolius 'Mother of Pearl' when Which? Gardening did their fact checking. But no more.

What a mess!