This thought was on my mind at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and especially with the awards for Plant of the Year and Product of the Year 2015.
The Plant of the Year is hamstrung by too many excluding rules and the small inner club voting for the winner. Not enough of those voting have grown the plants they favour or stop to consider all the commercial implications, as well as garden worthiness. Careful thought should be given to white-flowering subjects because pictures of some do not reproduce well on the printed page.
All plants put up for this award should have been introduced in the previous 12 months. If they have won other awards, all well and good, but they should be available in good numbers so commercial benefit can immediately be gained as a result of winning.
If it is a worthy winner, as I believe Digitalis ‘Illumination’ is proving to be, within two years hundreds of thousands of plants will have been sold. Their promotion and sale carry the Chelsea Flower Show name forward such that other breeders with good plants to introduce are tempted by the good sales to put their novelty forward — success breeding success for all concerned.
It is, of course, the general public who make the ultimate decision, so surely the winner should be decided by public vote. A winner could be announced each day to build interest over the course of the show, with the final announced on the last evening.
The voting would provide data on entrants’ popularity, the colours people like and the importance of scent. David Domoney’s hi-tech exercise, with facial expression-capturing cameras and computers measuring which plants make visitors happy, can help to select what customers really like.
Manufacturers winning Product of the Year should capitalise on their award by promoting it at every opportunity. Last year’s winner, the Bosch Isio powered sprayer, edger and hedge trimmer, is proving a worthy winner and Chelsea banner carrier.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster