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:

UK-bred

Aeonium ‘Du Rozzen’ (Trewidden Nursery)

Begonia FRAGRANT FALLS (T&M)

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)

Overseas-bred

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 ).


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