How Floral Fantasia's displays are reviving bedding plants - with PODCAST

Peter Seabrook and RHS gardener Molly Christman
Peter Seabrook and RHS gardener Molly Christman

Floral Fantasia is set to flower into November as garden writer Peter Seabrook seeks to extend the season for the bedding plant display at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex.

The Fleuroselect rudbeckia trial is set to yield several RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants. Among the 12 judges was Great Dixter's Fergus Garrett, who says the public have been drawn to the colour of the "joyous" plants. He adds that new and exciting plants will be on garden centre shelves. 

WD Smith director Michael Smith says the new micropropped varieties are "stunning", while retired horticultural figure Anthony Andrews notes that the trial has "remarkable" cutting-raised material. 

The 84-variety Fleuroselect year trial stars, among others, Sunbeckia Paulina, Ophelia and Juliana from Bull Gartenbau, AB Cultivar's SmileyZ and Flamenco series, Thompson & Morgan's Enchanted series and HM Clause's 'Cappuccino' rudbeckias (see full list below) at Floral Fantasia, started by garden writer and broadcaster Peter Seabrook in 2018 on a former T&M trial site at Hyde Hall.

RHS herbaceous committee member Ben Pope likes 'Ophelia', former Sissinghurst head gardener Sarah Cook likes 'Viviani' (Hem Zaden) and Toto, while Phil Johnson of Seedlings prefers 'Autumn Colors' and 'Viviani'.

Seabrook says he will "eat his hat" if 'Viviani' does not get an AGM. He adds that the vegetatively propagated rudbeckia have much more energy than seed-raised varieties but will be more expensive, so their benefits need to be explained. A Fleuroselect video has recently been filmed at the trial. It is planned to be broadcast at the postponed (from 2-3 September 2020) UK Fleuroselect summit in 2021.

Also next year, 200 pansy and viola varieties from WD Smith's trials will be at Floral Fantasia. Other features for 2021 include a sweet pea focus (being sown in October 2020), 1.5 tonnes of spring bulbs (donated by Hayloft Plants), a rose festival, dahlia display and chrysanthemum showcase.

Garden stars

Seabrook highlights other stars of the garden as Helianthus Sunblast, the Precious series of roses from Whartons, Nepeta 'Purrsian Blue', 'Kitten Around' and 'Whispurr Blue', Florist's Timeless rose series, ProVeg's floriferous sunflower 'Eos', Kerley's Poppins chrysanthemums, Whetman's Dianthus 'Bridal Star', 'Pink Ruffles' and 'Red Carpet, Granvia Gold (MNP) and Power Daisy Sunny (Kerley).

Hyde Hall has attracted 30,000 visitors a month since reopening in June, with a capacity of 1,800 a day. There are hopes to reach 500,000 visitors in 2021, if the gardens can open unrestricted.

Floral Fantasia: Rudbeckia trial species

From seed:

  • Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' — Benary
  • Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' — Sahin Takii
  • Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa — DT Brown
  • Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' — PanAmerican Seed
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Autumn Colors' — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Autumn Forest' — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Cappuccino' — HM Clause
  • Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy' — Thompson & Morgan/Mr Fothergill’s
  • Rudbeckia hirta Cheyenne Gold — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Chim Chiminee — Thompson & Morgan/Mr Fothergill’s
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Chocolate Orange' — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Denver Daisy' — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Double Gloriosa Daisies — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta DT Brown Cutting Mixture — DT Brown
  • Rudbeckia hirta Gloriosa Daisies — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Goldilocks' — Johnsons
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Green Eyes' — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer' — FSH Flecke-Saaten-Handel
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Spring' — FSH Flecke-Saaten-Handel/Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Marmalade' — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Maya' — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Monteverdi — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta Moroccan Sun — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'My Joy' — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta Orange Fudge — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' — Benary/Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Ruby Gold' — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Solar Eclipse' — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Sonora' — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Sputnik' — Sahin (a brand of Takii)
  • Rudbeckia hirta Toto — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta Toto Gold — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Toto Lemon — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Toto Rustic — Benary/DT Brown
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Viviani' — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia hirta wild form — Hem Zaden
  • Rudbeckia occidentalis 'Green Wizard' — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia triloba 'Blackjack Gold' — Jelitto
  • Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow' — Jelitto

From cuttings:

  • Rudbeckia Enchanted Embers — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Enchanted Flame — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Enchanted Forest — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Enchanted Glow — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Enchanted Sun — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Flamenco Apricot — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Flamenco Dark Orange — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Flamenco True Red — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Flamenco Vanilla — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia grandiflora 'Sundance' — Jelitto
  • Rudbeckia hirta Amarillo Gold — Benary
  • Rudbeckia hirta Aries — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Ruby Ruby' — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia hirta 'Rustic Dwarfs' mixed — Mr Fothergill's
  • Rudbeckia hirta Sahara — Thompson & Morgan
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Alicia — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Emelia — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Juliana — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Olivia — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Ophelia — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Paulina — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Sophia — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia Sunbeckia Sophia Yellow — Bull Gartenbau/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Joy — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Kiss — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Love — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Luck — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Shine — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Smile — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Big Sun — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Brilliant — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Chocolate — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Giggling — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Happy — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Kissing — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Laughing — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Lemon — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Loving — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Passion — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Tiger — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Party — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora
  • Rudbeckia SmileyZ Star of Life — AB Cultivars/Vitroflora

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