Sweet pea trial loss sparks upset

RHS says sweet pea representatives will need to make the case for trials against other genera.

Society: forced to broaden its remit to trial new sweet pea varieties
Society: forced to broaden its remit to trial new sweet pea varieties

A decision to bring the RHS sweet pea advisory group under the parent RHS herbaceous committee, ending the annual joint National Sweet Pea Society/RHS trial, has upset members of the sweet pea society committee.

Speaking at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, National Sweet Pea Society committee member Tom Atherton said: "We're at odds with the RHS because trials have come to an end. They said we've had it too good for too long and need to trial other people's plants because they have limited capacity, so they've terminated sweet peas after nearly 100 years."

He said the society has been forced to broaden its remit to trial new varieties of Britain's most popular flower at Askham Bryan and Sparsholt colleges and it wants a seed company to sponsor them. He is also worried that successful new plants would not have the quality mark of an RHS Award of Garden Merit any more.

An RHS representative said: "The RHS hasn't ended sweet pea trials. If there are varieties worth trialling by the National Sweet Pea Society and other breeders that will make an impact through sales and are different to what is already available, we will have trials for them.

"The difference is that following RHS Governance the Sweet Pea Advisory Group was brought into the 'parent' Herbaceous Committee.

This resulted in the end of sweet pea trials run through the Sweet Pea Advisory Group. In future the sweet pea representatives on the Herbaceous Committee will need to make the case to the committee for sweet pea trials set against other herbaceous genera. If successful there will be opportunities for sweet pea trials in the future."

- Meanwhile, in response to a complaint from another plant society member that their stand seemed to have been "nudged out the back to give all the commercial people more prominence", RHS horticulture director Tim Upson said the RHS is planning to give individual societies space at RHS Wisley in Surrey to exhibit, lecture, sell and recruit, and will expand to having six societies exhibit at Wisley in June 2015, a move that could roll out to other gardens.

Carried over RHS trials and assessments

RHS trials carried over to 2015

Allium, blackberries, apples, iris, thalictrum, dahlia, digitalis, euphorbia, sweet pea, stipa, penstemon, berine, colchicum, erythronium, hippeastrum, sarracenia, clematis, ribes, hamamelis, viburnum.

New assessments 2015

Beetroot, sweet peppers, cauliflower, leeks, Brussels sprouts, kale, rosemary, echinaceae, pinks, peony, agapanthus, aster, hydrangea, physocarpus, hibiscus, sunflower.

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