Growers greet new plant award by RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Growers have warmly welcomed the introduction of the very first new plant award in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show's recent history, with some hoping it could help refocus attention recently given more to "personalities" back to plants.

The award went to Dibleys Nurseries for Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue', a new variety featuring yellow lower lobes, blue upper lobes and deep purple lines defining the contrast between the two. It was selected after a vote taken by RHS plant committee members on a shortlist of 20 plants picked by the Plant Advisory Committee.

Around 35 new plants were entered for the award, which was the brainchild of key RHS committee, council and staff members including Raymond Evison, Leigh Hunt, Simon Thornton Wood and Nigel Colborn.

The final vote took place at a specially convened Plantsman's Conference on Monday afternoon. Speaking to HW before the conference, growers gave their endorsement to the award and its potential to raise the profile of plants.

Michael Marriott, technical manager of shortlisted David Austin Roses, said: "Chelsea is brilliant, but the tented area has become less plant-oriented in recent years. The gardens are great but plants are important."

He added that the award would highlight "plants that nurserymen think are of particular interest".

Ralph Dibley of award-winner Dibleys Nurseries said: "Anything that raises the profile of the plants as opposed to personalities has to be a good thing. If it gets lots of publicity then it will take off."

Philip Harkness of Harkness Roses, which also had a plant short-listed for the award, added: "I endorse this with a tick because visitors will see 20 new plants representing a wide range of species. Plants have not been given adequate attention (in recent years) at the Chelsea Flower show, but it is the core business."

The final vote took place during a Plantsman's Conference attended by RHS plant committee members and introducers of the shortlisted new varieties. Each shortlisted entrant spoke for 90 seconds on their variety during the conference.

Nigel Colborn who chaired the event said the new award was a way to "deliver attention to new plants so visitors have a chance to see what the committees see as good plants."

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