Plant awards

RHS 2022 Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year Winner

Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year 2022 Winner: xSemponium 'Destiny' ©RHS
Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year 2022 Winner: xSemponium 'Destiny' ©RHS

The Plant Of The Year competition has become one of the highlights of the Chelsea Flower Show. The TV prioritises gardens over plants, so the Plant Of The Year competition, along with Britain’s plant preservation charity, Plant Heritage, is leading a battle on behalf of plants as gardens take over the Show. The Great Pavilion, just under three acres, once bursting with plant exhibits, now includes gardens and floristry and the number of nurseries exhibiting plants is well down. This year, in a return to the long standing procedure Chelsea was again in May and, after a year with nothing but a virtual show and then a show in September - it was again a real spring show that we could actually attend. Just like the old days.

So. The Plant Of The Year competition. Entries to the Plant Of The Year competition have to be brand new, never seen at a flower show before and a genuine development on older varieties. They also have to knock your socks off and promise to do so for years and not be one-year-wonders. The RHS staff experts narrow the entries down to twenty finalists and then RHS committee members, trials judges and other Society expert volunteers inspect the plants and watch presentations on each finalist and then vote for the best.

This year’s winner was xSemponium ‘Destiny’, a gorgeous succulent hybrid between Sempervivum ‘Green Ice’, a houseleek which brought improved hardiness, and the frost tender Aeonium 'Ice Warrior' which brought the large leaves and the sumptuous colour. It was raised by Daniel Michael of Surreal Succulents, the first of this type was a finalist in last year’s Plant Of The Year competition. Find out more about xSemponium ‘Destiny’, on my Plant Talk blog for Mr Fothergill’s.

In second place in this year’s Chelsea Plant of The Year competition was Armeria ‘Dreamland’, and in third place was Salvia Pink Amistad (‘Arggr17-011’).

Armeria 'Dreamland' (left) and Salvia Pink Amistad (‘Arggr17-011’), runners up in the Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year competition 2022 ©RHS
Armeria 'Dreamland' (left) and Salvia Pink Amistad (‘Arggr17-011’), runners up in the Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year competition 2022 ©RHS

‘Dreamland’, one of three pink varieties and a white in the Dreameria Series, is a unique re-flowering form of the wild sea pink that grows along seashores all across the northern hemisphere. It is usually considered a spring flowering alpine but now, after ten years of development in Australia, it works as a front-of-the-border hardy perennial flowering for well over six months of the year and coping well with drought, frost, wind, and salty seaspray.

In one sense, the third placed plant is similar – it, too, is a new version of an old favourite. ‘Amistad’, a hybrid between Salvia guaranitica and Salvia gesnerifolia, was found in a garden near Buenos Aires in 2007 and has sold over four million plants. Pink Amistad is, as you might guess, a pink flowered version. It was found by Argentinian salvia breeder Rolando Uria and is elegant and prolific.

Having said all that, one of the most interesting features of this year’s Show was the fact that two plants that were not entered into the competition might well have been winners if only they had been submitted. More on those next time – and which one did I vote for myself? Next time…

Future Gold Medal Winners?

Green flowered echinacea in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial
Green flowered echinacea in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial

Fleuroselect is the across-Europe organisation that grows new seed-raised flowers in eleven countries, compares them with existing similar varieties and gives Gold Medals to those that really are better than what’s already around.

The Mr Fothergill’s trial ground in Suffolk is one of two British sites where trials are held and I’ve looked them over twice this year and picked out the most promising. None of them have yet been given names.

My first visit was on a scorching day and the second was in a downpour, so I got see them in both extremes and there were three that really stood out.

Space-alien Helianthus, sunflower, in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial
Space-alien Helianthus, sunflower, in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial

First, one that I admired but didn’t really like. It was a short wild-looking, space alien sunflower in a pretty pale yellow with flowers that – well, you can see above.

One that I did like was a dwarf perovskia (now reclassified as a Salvia – don’t ask!). It was half the height of ‘Blue Steel’ growing alongside, with growth that was more dense and spikes on which the flowers were more tightly packed.

There was also a green-flowered echinacea (above) which I did like. I’ve grown ‘Green Twister’, with green petals tipped in purple, for a few years now but this one was completely green. The flowers were also smaller than those of ‘Green Twister’ which are sometimes too large to be elegant.

Seed-raised sedum in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial
Seed-raised sedum in the 2021 Fleuroselect trial

Finally, the pick of them all was a seed-raised form of Sedum spectabile (above). At first I wondered why anyone would want to grow this plant from seed, but there are growers who like to raise all their plants from seed so I suppose it fits into their programme.

Tight, extraordinarily compact, very prolific, early flowering on very short stems, the new flowers were a little slow to overtop the older ones and many of us will prefer one of the increasing number of varieties raised from cuttings, rather than seed. But it’s certainly impressive.

The echinacea, I’ll definitely be growing – when it finally comes on the market. And perhaps it will be awarded a Gold Medal?

Powerhouse Plant wins Chelsea Plant Of The Year award

Viburnum Kilimanjaro Sunset: Chelsea Plant Of The Year Image ©
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 ©

Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year 2014

Chelsea Plant Of The Year winner and runners up 2014. Images ©RHS except the tomato ©Tiffany Woods/Oregon State University
There are plenty of trade shows around the world where awards are given for new plants. But the Chelsea Plant Of The Year is one of the few awards made to new plants as they’re launched to gardeners. The 2014 award, the fifth, was made last week at London’s prestigious Chelsea Flower Show and the winner was a double flowered, bicolored variety of mophead/Hortensia hydrangea - Hydrangea macrophylla called Miss Saori (‘H20-2’) - which is not only an eye-catchingly attractive hardy garden shrub but which has already had success as a cut flower.

This year’s runner up was the unique black and white tall bearded iris ‘Domino Noir’, raised in France, and in third place was the Dutch, long flowering, hardiest yet Gerbera 'Garvinia Sweet Glow' with vibrant orange flowers.

Highlights amongst the rather long shortlist of twenty plants were the first double-flowered black petunia, ‘Black Knight’, the antioxidant-rich purple tomato ‘Indigo Rose’, the largest flowered Alstroemeria yet seen Inca Smile (‘Koncasmile’) and the lovely golden leaved Eryngium ‘Neptune’s Gold. All are illustrated above (click to enlarge) and should become available to gardeners soon.

Chelsea Plant Of The Year winners 2010-2013. Images ©RHS.As for previous winners, so far the track record and the international availability have been mixed. Previous winners were (left, click to enlarge):
Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’ (2010): Beautiful, compact and with a long season but as a house plant it has limited appeal. Not yet available in North America.
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ (2011): A lovely white flowered variety with blue backs to the petals but, as the plant buyer for a major UK mail order nursery told me: “We had huge problems with it – we received poor quality plants and there were long delays. My understanding is that there are still problems, so we won't be listing it in the near future”. Available on both sides of the Atlantic.
Digitalis Illumination Pink (‘Tmdgfp001’) (2102): A spectacular breeding breakthrough with dramatic, colourful, bee-friendly flower spikes and now widely available on both sides of the Atlantic but less hardy than first claimed.
Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’: The first winner to be developed in the US, and an excellent evergreen shrub without the spines that so many mahonias have and which many people find annoying. Available on both sides of the Atlantic.

You can find a full list of this year’s shortlisted plants on the RHS website.

All Images ©RHS except Tomato 'Indigo Rose'  ©Tiffany Woods/Oregon State University.

Transatlantic flower awards

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) ‘Sweet Black Cherry’, Petunia ‘Cascadia™ Rim Magenta’, Lobelia ‘Waterfall Blue Ice’. Images ©Ball Colegrave
There’s been a flurry of announcements of awards from both sides of the Atlantic, awards that result from the voting of real gardeners looking at real plants growing in borders and containers rather awards given by committees sitting round a table. So let’s run through some of the awards for summer flowers, I’ll take a look at this year’s tomato taste tests another time.

BallColegrave Visitor’s Favourite (Blue Flag) Award

Chosen by visitors to the summer trials and displays at Ball Colegrave in Oxfordshire, the UK outpost of the Ball Horticultural Company). neither sell retail, you make your choice by sticking a blue flag by your chosen plant, the flags are counted every day, and the numbers tallied. Last year’s results are here.

This year home gardeners picked a new Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William), ‘Sweet Black Cherry’, as their favourite, a first-year-flowering type for borders and cutting in a rich deep red. This was followed by the dramatic white-edged, Petunia ‘Cascadia™ Rim Magenta’ for hanging baskets and in third place Lobelia ‘Waterfall Blue Ice’, from cuttings not seed and very resilient, and a very colourful basket plant. (All above, click to enlarge).

For trade visitors (garden centers, commercial growers etc) Petunia ‘Cascadia™ Rim Magenta’ came top with the big and bushy Begonia F1 ‘Whopper™ Mixed’ second and the vivid orange-and-gold Zinnia ‘Zahara Sunburst’ third. Put all the voting figures together and Petunia ‘Cascadia™ Rim Magenta’ was the winner. Last year Calibrachoa ‘Cabaret™ Bright Red’ came out top overall – not even in the top twenty this year.

American Garden Award
Verbena ‘Lanai® Candy Cane', Zinnia ‘Zahara™ Cherry', Impatiens 'SunPatiens® Compact Electric Orange' Images ©American Garden Award

Across the Atlantic, visitors to thirty one public gardens across the country voted for the American Garden Award – which, in spite of its name, is given to plants. All the top flower breeders around the world pick just four of their new plants to enter – and the visitors vote.

The winner for 2013 was Verbena ‘Lanai® Candy Cane' with its colourful striped florets in long lasting heads. This was followed by Zinnia ‘Zahara™ Cherry', another in the very adaptable Zahara Series but in rich cherry red  and third came Impatiens 'SunPatiens® Compact Electric Orange'. This is a very vivid orange colour, it takes the sun well and of course is tolerant of the mildew which has wiped out do many other impatiens. (All above, click to enlarge).

People's Choice Begonia Award
Begonia 'Peardrops', Begonia 'Volumia Rose Bicolour', Begonia 'Nonstop Golden Orange' Images ©RHS

At the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley, just south of London, more than 2000 visitors voted to name their favourite begonia as part of the charity's People's Choice initiative. They were invited to vote for their favourite in three categories.

Amongst the Begonia Semperflorens Cultorum Group (fibrous-rooted begonias) planted in borders, the winner was ‘Volumia Rose Bicolour'. A more vigorous plant than traditional Semperflorens cultivars, it has large white and rose bicolour flowers that vary in colour intensity depending on the temperature.

Favourite Begonia x tuberhybrida (tuberous-rooted begonia) winner, planted in borders, was ‘Nonstop Golden Orange'. Introduced as long ago as 1971 and, as its name implies, it has an extended flowering period that runs from late spring to late autumn.

Finally the favourite begonia of any kind for containers or hanging baskets was ‘Peardrop', a lush rich salmon and golden orange hybrid bred by UK breeder Dennis Need. (All above, click to enlarge).

Recently published online…

Sweet Pea 'Northern Lights', a unique dwarf variety. Image ©Mark Rowland

Time for another quick recap on my work which has been published online over the last few weeks.

Transatlantic Gardener

Be smart when choosing Dill, Cilantro and Chervil

Wasps’ nest over the water

Powerhouse Plant For All Seasons: Clethra 'Ruby Spice'

Unique British sweet pea - also available in the US (That would be the dwarf 'Northern Lights', above clck to enlarge)

"Don't buy seed of perennials," says British expert!

Hitler rants on taxonomists who change plant names

Four, long season foliage plants

American tomatoes for British gardeners

The Telegraph
Sow now for sweet pea success

The Guardian
A perennial problem: Is plantsman Bob Brown wrong to claim buying seed of perennials is a waste of money? Yes, says me
This is a revised version of my "Don't buy seed of perennials," says British expert! post that was published here on Transatlantic Gardener.

The Plantsman
Chelsea Plant Of The Year 2013 Winners and finalists reviewed. The winnner is seen below (click to enlarge)

Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog
Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’: new colour from Thompson & Morgan

New sweet peas to sow this autumn

Sweet Pea 'Sir Henry Cecil': New from Mr Fothergill's Seeds

Rose Lady Marmalade: Rose Of The Year for 2014

Royal Hortcultural Society website
Ten award-winning autumn grasses

Exotic and unusual climbers

Chelsea Plant Of The Year 2013: Mahonia 'Soft Caress'. Image ©

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

Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia. Image ©
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)

Pieris formosa
var. forrestii (1923-1932)


Russell hybrids (1933-1942)

Rhododendron yakushimanum

Rosa Iceberg (‘Korbin’) (1953-1962)

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

‘Bowles's Mauve’ (1973-1982)

Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’ (1983-1992)

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

Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’ (2003-2012)

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?







Transatlantic plant awards

Weigela Wine & Roses ('Alexandra') has both a British and a Pennsylvania award. Image © Garden
There’s a big difference between Britain and North America in the ways in which awards are given to plants. In Britain, there’s really only one award that’s worth anything: the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM). The award has just been completely revised and updated, and the new RHS hardiness ratings applied to each of the just over 7000 ornamental and edible plants that now have the award.‬

‪Of course in a small country - England is the size of Pennsylvania – one award is fine for everyone. In North America, with its vast variety of climates, having just one award is far less useful. However, it’s only fair to say that the All-America Selections do a good job within narrow parameters by focusing only on seed-raised plants – ornamental annuals, herbs and vegetables. But, being industry-funded, they are not impartial and independent. And the Perennial Plant Association has its Perennial Plant of The Year™ award, chosen each year by the Association’s members.‬

‪But it’s local awards that count, so here in Pennsylvania we have the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal Plants program, which features 212 plants but only cover trees, shrubs and vines – no perennials, annuals or edibles. In Missouri there’s the Plants of Merit scheme, covering 228 plants, although the only edibles included are ornamental ones. From the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, WA, there’s the Great Plant Picks scheme with just under five hundred plants, but no edibles or annuals. ‬
Coleus 'Pink Chaos' is a Dallas Arboretum FlameProof Plant Award winner, but is rarely seen in Britain. Image ©Proven Winners
‪In the south there’s Athens Select, from the University of Georgia, which picks the best heat- and humidity-tolerant plant varieties while the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden has its FlameProof™ Plant Award, which at present includes over 350 plants, but only those that perform “from May right up until first frost”.‬

‪This American focus on state-by-state awards of course makes perfect sense, which makes it especially pointless for North American nurseries to crow about their plants having the AGM, an award for top performers in Britain  – it’s just not relevant. Although occasionally a plant is good enough to be awarded on both sides of the Atlantic: Weigela Wine and Roses (‘Alexandra’) has an RHS AGM, and is also a Pennsylvania Gold Medal plant.‬

‪But I was interested to see that Helleborus x hybridus, given the Perennial Plant of The Year™ Award in 2005, has just been cut from the AGM list; rightly, it is seen as far too variable and gardeners just can’t be sure of getting a good plant under that name. And the whole point of all these awards is to recommend plants that gardeners can depend on.‬

Best heucheras for Britain (America’s choice coming soon)

Heucheras in Pots at Heucheraholics nursery. Image ©
We’ve all seen how, in the last twenty years, heucheras seem to be everywhere: borders, pots and even hanging baskets. And it’s true that for foliage color they’re simply unsurpassed in their range of colors and patterns. After initial pioneering work from Charles Oliver in Pennsylvania, Dan Heims and his team plant breeders at Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon have led the way, with over 400 introductions. Now breeders in Europe are getting in on the act.

In Britain two nurseries, the splendidly named Heucheraholics and Plantagogo, are streets ahead of everyone else in the wide range of heucheras they offer and the promotion that they’ve given heucheras over the last few years. In the past, I’ve asked both of them to advise on the best heucheras: Jooles and Sean Burton suggested heucheras that change impressively over the seasons, and Vicky Fox of Plantagogo suggested heucheras with both good flowers and good foliage. Heuchera plants ready for sale at Heucheraholics nursery. Image ©

But when I visited the Heucheraholics nursery, in Hampshire in southern England, last summer I asked Jooles and Sean to be more specific, to be ruthless: which are the best of the best? They picked out four:

‘Blackberry Jam’ (‘Dolce Blackcurrant’ in the US) has silver leaves with black veins and crimson undersides, with a lovely shimmer (below, left, click to enlarge). The vigorous and tough, British-bred ‘Crimson Curls’ is very well ruffled, with green and bronze leaves which are dark red below. ‘Lime Marmalade’ (below center) has ruffled lime green foliage and the best sun tolerance of the lime leaved varieties. ‘Sashay’ (below right) has wonderfully ruffled green foliage, the ruffles revealing the purple undersides.

Next time I see them I’ll have to ask them which they’d choose if they could only grow one!

As it happens, Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society has just revised its premier plant award, the Award of Garden Merit, and updated its list of the best heucheras for Britain. Here they are: ‘Can-can’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Magic Wand’, ‘Molly Bush’, ‘Purple Petticoats’, ‘Raspberry Regal’, ‘Regina’, ‘Sashay’ and ‘Scintillation’. There were additions to the old list from ten years ago, but they did cut these: ‘Blackbird’, ‘Burgundy Frost’, ‘Chocolate Veil’, ‘Quilter’s Joy’, H. sanguinea ‘Alba’ and ‘Smokey Rose’. They need a few newer varieties, don’t they…

I’ll be looking at America’s favorite heucheras her soon, and at the revised RHS Award of Garden Merit next time.
Heuchera 'Blackberry Jam', 'Lime Marmalade' and 'Sashay'. Images © (left) and Terra Nova Nurseries