Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer says a combination of half a dozen or more companies will lead to one of the most hyped plants of recent years, Eryngium 'Neptune's Gold', being a success whether it wins Chelsea Flower Show plant of the year on 19 May or not.
Spencer is behind the marketing of the golden sea holly, bred by Seiont’s Neil Alcock, grown by Lovania Nurseries and Garden Centre Plants, and sold by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants (an exhibitor at Chelsea), The Garden Centre Group and Coblands (to landscapers and designers).
As well as the new plant display and Hardy’s stand, Paul Hervey-Brookes Brand Alley show garden will also feature the plant at Chelsea so it has multiple chances to get noticed.
Meanwhile an actor dressed as Neptune will hand out gold chocolate money on 19 May press day, when the winner of the prize is announced. Spencer says the "global" nature of the flower show is behind the early success of the plant and that Chelsea is now "extremely important" since the launch of the plant of the year event in 2010, as the showcase for launches.
Spencer says he is the "plate spinner", who gets all the elements together, including tissue culture breeders, to make the plant a success, whether it wins or loses.
"We’ve really gone to town with the Eryngium. It’s a great story, a very distinctive plant."
He says the first golden-leaved sea holly will be a success whether it wins or loses the plant of the year prize at the show. But winning is "absolutely important, though there are other strong plants in the competition. A couple of people think it’s a dead cert because it’s had so much positive feedback but that feedback means whether we win or not is less important."
He says Chelsea's high profile has led to positive publicity and early enquiries from Australia, Canada, US and the continent, "and not just from the media, but from growers too".
The Garden Centre Group has 10,000 of the plant, launching next week. Retail price will be around £14.
Spencer is working with an unnamed British grower and breeder on a 2017 Chelsea launch where is says 20,000 plants is a "minimum" for it to be a success.
By contrast, Anemone 'Wild Swan' won the competition in 2011 with just 200 plants available.