Here’s my guide to some of the most exciting and innovative new plants that will be vying for the coveted title of Plant of the Year’ at next week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show!
Over the weekend, provided they look good enough, around 35 shiny new plants will be delivered to a closed room at the showground by nervous nurserymen and growers. That selection is then reduced down to just 20 lucky hopefuls, which go through to the final round, and are put on display in the Great Pavilion.
Then, on Monday at 11am, voting takes place at the show. The voting audience comprises esteemed experts from all corners of horticulture. By lunchtime, everyone knows which plant has been crowned the winner!
Here are my 10 favourites from this year’s entrants! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
1. Pelargonium ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome Series’
(exhibited by Scotts Miracle-Gro)
Climbing Pelargoniums usually offer mixed performance, with the old skool ‘Antik’ variety needing a very early start in order to reach a satisfactory height by midsummer. ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome Series’ isn’t just quicker, but also has awesome zonal type black foliage, which is just so seductive together with the blooms in coral, orange and pink. Bred by Thompson & Morgan.
2. Tiarella ‘Raspberry Sundae’ (Fox Series)
(exhibited by Plantagogo Nurseries)
Tiarella have steadily become the go-to plant for mixed patio pots, and offer something refreshing and different to the usual foliage choices. Of course, not forgetting it’s usual role as a shade-loving border gem too! ‘Raspberry Sundae’ has graduated bicolour flower spikes, and etched and palmate foliage.
3. Iris ‘Cocktail Tropical’
(exhibited by Cayeux Iris)
Richard Cayeux and his family have been hybridising German Iris for over 100 years, and always turn out an eye-popping display in the floral marquee, last year receiving a gold. ‘RTropical Cocktail’ looks exceptional, with rich purple falls against the lightest apricot standards. It’s altogether a colour combination that wouldn’t work on paper, but when you present it in an Iris bloom, it’s simply divine!
4. Begonia ‘Silver Spirit’
(exhibited by Dibley’s Nurseries)
When this one reaches the houseplant massive on Instagram, there’ll be no concealing the squeals of delight! A truly innovative hybridisation, this new look Begonia has the foliage of a Begonia rex (think metallic and blushed) with the upright nature of cane-stemmed Begonias. More excitingly, it can be grown indoors or outdoors.
5. Pelargonium ‘Rushmoor Amazon’ (Rushmoor River Series)
(exhibited by Fibrex Nurseries)
I’ve been keeping a careful eye on the ‘Zonartics’ for a few years now, and they’re finally ready to go (almost) mainstream! A complex breeding programme which began in Australia and culminated in the UK, this hybrid is bringing Pelargonium articulatum and zonal Pelargoniums together for the first time. This marriage ensures more open, flared blooms, and gosh, this one’s almost a true yellow! This is one plant I cannot wait to see at the show!
6. Morus rotundiloba ‘CHARLOTTE RUSSE’ (‘Matsunaga’)
(exhibited by the Horticultural Trades Association)
Completely remarkable, Japanese breeder Mr Matsunaga has managed to ‘miniaturise’ what is traditionally a pretty big tree! Mulberry ‘Charlotte Russe’ maxes out at 1.5 metres and crops heavily in a patio container. The very best plant introductions always offer a solution to a problem; mulberries are a great fruit and used quite distinctively in the kitchen, but weren’t available to smaller gardens, until now!
7. Strawberry JUST ADD CREAM (‘Tmstr14pnk’)
(exhibited by the Horticultural Trades Association)
At first glance, you may not think a pink-flowered strawberry is offering anything new. That’s until you taste the fruits; Thompson & Morgan breeder Charles Valin has managed to guarantee fruits with a delicate, aromatic flavour akin to ‘Mara de Bois’. The plants are ever-bearing too, with fruits all summer.
8. Clematis ‘Taiga’
(exhibited by Thorncroft Clematis Nursery)
Depending on the quality of the sample plants on the day, I think this one could have a real chance to snatch the title! Whilst not an advance in breeding, it’s certainly an eye-catcher which will appeal to a broad audience. A type of Clematis florida, ‘Taiga’ was selected for it’s theatrical unfurling bloom, which culminates in a green-tipped, purple inflorescence!
9. Leontopodium nivale subs. alpinum BLOSSOM OF SNOW (‘Berghman’)
(exhibited by Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries)
It isn’t every day that you’re presented with a new variety of Edelweiss! The variety was bred because the creator wanted to introduce the soft flannel flowers of Edelweiss into the cut flower trade, so this gives us a more upright plant than the usual mountain squatter! A fine border plant, ‘Blossom of Snow’ also offers repeat flowering, making it a good ‘knitting plant’ for borders.
10. Lilium ‘Yin’
(exhibited by H.W. Hyde)
Entering alongside it’s sister variety ‘Yang’, this is a Lily that’s sure to watch the eye! With it’s roots in the species Lilium nepalese, I believe, the colour scheme is dramatic. Maroon blooms, offset by a creamy-green outer have a real stage presence. Despite such exotic heritage, ‘Yin’ is said to be a good garden lily, which flowers in the border or large containers.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, then make sure you stop by the Plant of the Year display to see if you agree with the judges choices! The stand is located in the Great Pavilion on stand E180.