Seabrook on... appraising plants

Founders of the RHS took unusual, new and well-grown plants to their meetings over Hatchard's for fellow members to inspect, appraise and record. This practice has continued for more than two centuries to the present day, where whole plants and cut samples are submitted to committees at RHS shows for society awards.

Reducing the number of London shows has reduced the plant submissions appreciably and if something is not done this useful tradition could be lost. At the last Royal Horticultural Halls show, I counted far more judges than there were commercial stands for them to judge.

If the judges brought and put up plants for consideration, it would help to build the interest for ticket-buying visitors. The exhibits would also keep judges, management staff and society officers updated.

It is not easy to take plants into London. I took three for submission to the October show - a 20-litre Cortaderia 'Silver Feather', a superb autumn container plant that received no comment; a 12-inch pot of Begonia x benariensis 'Big Pink' (new from Benary), which received an RHS preliminary commendation; and a 7.5-litre Sunpatiens 'Sunsplash White' (Sakata), which got an RHS award of merit and certificate of cultural commendation.

The last two made the £60 in taxi fares across London worthwhile, although I felt guilty taking the plants away on the Tuesday evening when they would have served the show better left for the second day.

National and local shows provide a platform for good plants and we should support them more. There are two pleasures to be gained growing plants - first, the joy of seeing something that you have grown well and second, sharing either that beauty or the edible crop with others.

Vista is the name of a group meeting for discussions at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, London, led by Noel Kingsbury and Tim Richardson on the first Tuesday of the month. These meetings would be given another dimension if some of the distinguished members took interesting plant samples along.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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