According To Seabrook ... Tough job choosing plant of the century

Our RHS is looking for a memorable and good garden plant launched at Chelsea in each of the ten decades over the past century.

Peter Seabrook
Peter Seabrook

One of the ten will be selected as the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Century and become part of the centenary celebrations.

A committee chaired by Bob Sweet and including Brent Elliott and Roy Lancaster has the difficult job of making this selection. I would be very interested to hear which plants readers believe deserve this accolade.

Looking back over 100 years, the most significant improvements to plants have surely come with F1 hybrid breeding and clonal multiplication by micro-propagation. Where would our most popular houseplant, the moth orchid, be without micro-prop?

Even so, picking out ten plants, let alone one, is no mean task. Rose 'Susan Hampshire' has been suggested for the 1970s, no longer a significant garden cultivar but one that caused quite a stir on its introduction.

Robert Wharton used the sprung bud method of producing container plants in 15 months, rather than the traditional 24, so there were Susan Hampshire roses in bud and flower in garden centres to coincide with their Chelsea launch.

Alan Meilland, the breeder, visited centres in Stockton on Tees, Knaresborough, Leeds and Birmingham on one day. Susan Hampshire herself was a real trouper and wowed the customers.

Personally, I feel 'Fragrant Cloud' a more appropriate rose - still available and sold in the first instance by the great, late Harry Wheatcroft with no more than a few petals in a brandy glass under a black cloth. He took orders on the strength of fragrance alone - what a showman and what a salesman.

Is there one hosta that deserves the title or a primula or shrub, say Choisya 'Sundance' or dianthus, for example, 'Doris' or sweet pea Princess Elizabeth or rhododendron? It needs to be a plant of which the trade has plenty and will give gardeners value for money.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster


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