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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.