New plant lines previewed at Fairweather's open day

Growers, retailers, mail-order companies and journalists attended Fairweather's open day earlier this month.

Visitors were given a preview of the Hampshire-based nursery's new lines for 2008/2009, including two new Agapanthus varieties.

Patrick Fairweather said the company was interested in producing several new varieties of Agapanthus in the next few years, aiming to produce compact plants that flower in their first season. One already available is the white variety, A. 'Arctic Star' (see New Plants, left).

Visitors were asked to score a variety of genera and a range of Heuchera - many bred by guest speaker Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries, US - currently being trialled by Fairweather's.

Drawing attention in the trial fields were Echinops 'Real Stone', a compact dwarf variety, and Agapanthus 'Northern Star', bearing a mass of dark blue buds, which open to show light blue flowers striped with dark blue. This short-stemmed variety will be launched next year at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and liners will be available to growers at that time.

North Hill Plants manager John Gubbins thought a Francoa seedling on display "a nice, choice plant for the specialist".

After receiving high marks, the Echinops and Francoa varieties will be put into production. The former will be available next year in late spring and the latter could appear on the market in three to four years.

The Heuchera trial featured 65 three-litre potted plants supplied by Fairweather's, Kernock Park Plants, Seiont Nurseries, Terra Nova, Vitro Westland and Gootjes-Allplant. Attendees were asked to rate their top three in each colour category and first choices were varieties Heuchera 'Marmalade', H. 'Lime Rickey', H.'Green Spice', H. 'Chocolate Ruffles', H. 'Silver Scrolls', H. 'Prince' and Heucherella 'Tapestry'.

Kernock Park Plants president Richard Harnett said: "It's important with this trial to note that we might overlook some of the varieties today that flower in spring."

Fairweather agreed: "We recognise that the scores were given on the basis of seeing them on one day in one season and the plants were all grown under polythene. The plants are now outside and we will look at them again in the autumn and next spring."

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