Breeders at Chelsea Flower Show focus on availability

Commercial value of Plant of the Year contest at Chelsea highlighted by this year's winner.

Winner: ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ - image: HW
Winner: ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ - image: HW

The need to have new plants ready for commercial sale figured strongly in this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year contest, won by Dutch-bred Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Kilimanjaro Sunrise'.

Many of the breeders and growers presenting their new plants at the final judging session chose to flag up their plans for making their plant available during their 90-second speaking slots - a contrast with previous years.

Breeder Neil Alcock, whose Blechnum brasiliense Eruption ('Alcero') was shortlisted and is in production at a specialist fern propagator for worldwide circulation this year, told the judges: "This new Blechnum will be available in commercial quantities this year, which is important."

Alcock, who had suggested prior to the event that the RHS could add availability to the criteria for the award, noted after the judging session that most entrants had acknowledged the issues this year. "In previous years there were no volumes behind some of the entries," he added. "Most people appear to have addressed this."

William Dyson of Dyson Nurseries, which exhibited Salvia 'Love and Wishes', the third in the Wish Series of hybrids raised in Australia and the plant voted third in this year's Plant of the Year contest, told judges: "Masses of stock is being propagated."

Meanwhile, Liz Dibley of Dibleys Nurseries, whose Streptocarpus 'Polka-Dot Purple' was voted into second place, told judges a PVR has been applied for in Europe and also in the USA to coincide with the plant's launch there. The plant already has "proven high commercial demand worldwide", the plant entry notes stated.

Vicky Fox of Plantagogo, presenting shortlisted plant Tiarella 'Angel Wings' (Fox Series), said there will be "plenty to sell this year", while Carolyn Bourne of Whetman Pinks noted that Dianthus (Allwoodii Group) Tequila Sunrise, which also made it to the shortlist, has "commercial quantities available".

Chris Campbell of Javado, who introduced the winning Viburnum to judges, said there needs to be a balance between plants in the competition being new as well as being available in commercial numbers.

"The commercial value of this for growers is very, very useful," stressed Campbell, who noted that his two previous winners - Mahonia macrophylla 'Soft Caress' and Hydrangea 'Miss Saori'

- have performed consistently in sales.

The Viburnum will have "good availability from September" through agent Javado's UK garden centre clients, said Campbell.

Plant of the Year

1st Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Kilimanjaro Sunrise'

2nd Streptocarpus 'Polka-Dot Purple'

3rd Salvia 'Love and Wishes'.

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