Seabrook on ... the importance of visiting trials

There are some pretty - and pretty impressive - trials grown this summer by our seed companies and young plant wholesalers. Thompson & Morgan has its best-ever show in my 40-odd years of visiting the firm in Ipswich.

Trial ground managers have changed regularly at Ball Colegrave yet the company has managed to keep setting the standards at West Adderbury. Young Plants has a new set-up at Whitehill Gardens, Stratford, that provides plenty to see, including seed- and cuttings-raised novelties from smaller independent breeders. And Suttons' new satellite trial and model vegetable garden at Hadlow College is off to a flying start.

Seeing is believing and there is no substitute for inspecting novelties and established strains growing outside, exposed to our unpredictable weather. Attending press events at four of these companies, it was disappointing to see so few of our national newspaper correspondents and broadcasters among the visitors. How can they give sound, up-to-date advice on things they have neither seen nor discussed with the introducer?

My visit to Ball Colegrave was on Wyevale Garden Centre's open day with over 120 Wyevale plant area staff in attendance. I learned as much from them on plastic-pot recycling, this year's sales trends, current popular plants and future promotions as I did on the amazing range of top-quality plants on display. These trips cost time and money, but in today's fast-changing world, keeping in touch with the changes becomes ever more important.

New ways to use plants in gardens, which steadily shrink in size, must be found. The Delamore-grown pyramid of Friolinas, which was transferred to the Sandringham Flower Show, and the wall-plaque self-watering system at Ball Colegrave both demonstrated examples of vertical gardening.

Visiting trials not only shows us what is going on but, equally important, allows us to discuss any possible weaknesses and benefits of new introductions.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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