Floral trials win out over veg

The RHS has unveiled its complete range of plant trials for 2011 that will see the number of vegetable trials cut to just three, down from nine in 2009 and six this year.

Although floral trials received a major boost, vegetable trials assessment panel chairman Colin Randel, who spoke out about trials cuts earlier this year (HW, 29 January), said he was "seriously concerned".

"The committee have been unanimously disappointed since January and it doesn't look like our views have been taken into consideration," said Randel. "The RHS hasn't listened to the advice."

The 2011 trials list includes 14 new and 21 current plant groups, boosting floral trials from four this year to 18 in 2011. But only celeriac and spring cabbage were added to the vegetable trials, which include the ongoing asparagus trial.

Randel also reiterated his views that last year's round of redundancies, which cost half a full-time equivalent trials officer, were responsible.

Vegetable trials committee member Ian Gillott added: "The disappointment is that everyone wants to grow their own veg so while there is huge interest we have seen a reduction in trials. They have the best expertise in the country looking at those trials and it seems a waste of resources to not maximise the number of trials."

RHS head of horticultural trials and relations Kylie Balmain defended the announcement, saying the RHS was trying to balance its commitments across a "huge range of genera".

She said: "The trials programme in a way is a very small subset of all the horticultural work we do - though it is an important one." Balmain pointed out that it was a different story when all of the RHS work on vegetables was considered including projects such as the demonstration garden at Wisley.

She said the fact that Wisley was hosting the first international trials conference - oriented towards ornamentals - next year (5-7 July) meant the RHS had chosen to boost floral trial numbers.

Plants on show in 2011
Clematis viticella group
Daffodil mini and large
Garden Dianthus
Iris - sibirica, ensata and Pacific Coast
Lobelia in containers
Ribes sanguineum
Spring cabbage
Sweet pea

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