More focus needed on plant breeding in UK, says breeders' agent

After overseas bred plants take the top three slots in Chelsea's plant of the year contest, agent Graham Spencer says UK plant breeding needs more focused programmes.

Miss Saori-Japanese-bred Chelsea plant of the year
Miss Saori-Japanese-bred Chelsea plant of the year

Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer says the top three plants in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show all being overseas bred could be a wake-up call for British plant breeding.

Spencer says while there is lots of good plant breeding going on in the UK, and that many of the plants on the RHS shortlist were British-bred, he would like to see more British breeders put up product and give the UK more chance to win.

Javado's Japanese-bred hydrangea was first, Florist Holland's gerbera was second and French grower Cayeux Iris was third. About half the 20 finalists were overseas-bred.

Spencer said that UK breeders should not work in isolation, that Chelsea is a global show, attracting horticulturists from round the world, and that the judges, from RHS committees, had been rigorous in selecting the best plants as winners.

But he added that UK breeding should be more focussed: "For lots of people, UK breeding is a sideline to their principle business. Only a few have really focussed programmes, Thompson & Morgan being one notable example with Charles Valin doing a customer-led breeding programme.

"But you can count the number on two hands. British growers should be looking at product innovation and trying to breed in-house. The rewards are potentially massive."

He said PVR has helped more people get into plant breeding in the last 10-15 years but few run organised "thought-through" programmes.

He said: "They are not doing ‘what do our customers, or customers’ customers want, and how can we produce that."

Chelsea Plant of the Year Finalists:


Aeonium ‘Du Rozzen’ (Trewidden Nursery)


Eryngium 'Neptune's Gold' (Neil Alcock).

Gaura 'Freefolk Rosy’ (Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants)

Lavandula × intermedia 'Heavenly Scent' (Downderry Nursery)

Lilium martagon 'Jennifer Evans' (Ieuan Evans)

Petunia BLACK NIGHT (Thompson & Morgan)

Streptocarpus 'Supernova' (Dibleys)

Trollius 'Dancing Flame' ( Fairweathers)


Hydrangea macrophylla MISS SAORI (Ryoji Irie)

Alstroemeria INCA SMILE (Könst )

Clematis 'Maria Sklodowska Curie' ( Szczepan Marczynski).

Gerbera GARVINEA SWEET GLOW (Florist Holland).

Helianthus annuus ‘Ms Mars’ (Burpee Europe).

Iris 'Domino Noir' (Cayeux)

Tomato 'Indigo Rose' (Jim Myers – Oregon State University).

Zantedeschia 'Memories' (Sande Group ).

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next



Myrtle is a tender shrub so it is a plant for milder gardens, but with our changing climate the limits are being pushed, says Miranda Kimberley.



These robust plants can repeat flower from April to October and nice foliage adds interest, says Miranda Kimberley.

Grower sundries - Options for nurseries

Grower sundries - Options for nurseries

Environmental factors are key for growers choosing the latest pots, growing media, fertilisers and labels, writes Sally Drury.

Opinion... Why no-deal Brexit should worry you

Opinion... Why no-deal Brexit should worry you

Whether you voted leave or remain all those years ago, a "no-deal" Brexit should worry you.

I will not be importing oaks this season. Will you?

I will not be importing oaks this season. Will you?

I find myself in a difficult situation. A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be present to hear details of imminent changes to regulations concerning Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) and oak trees. I heard details, asked questions and probed the implications of these changes. That may not sound like a difficult position to be in, yet I am uneasy.

Opinion... Better targets to tackle pollution

Opinion... Better targets to tackle pollution

Lobby groups jumping onto fashionable campaigns, often to promote their own interests, can do much more harm than good. Take, for example, the move against black polythene plant pots and containers.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +


The Horticulture Week Business Awards is now open for entries

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 60 Ornamentals nurseries

See our exclusive RANKING of ornamentals nurseries by annual turnover plus the FULL REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles