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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Chelsea Plant of The Year finalists: Three container plants

Posted by Graham Rice on 15 Jun 2011 at 01:18 PM

Chelsea,Plant of The Year,Begonia,Lobelia,Petunia. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHS.Some creative plant breeding went into the development of the three container plants (above, click to enlarge) chosen as finalists for his year's Chelsea Plant of The Year.

Begonia 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' was developed by Charles Valin at Thompson & Morgan, who also produced the third placed Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. His aim was to add fragrance to the very popular trailing 'Illumination Apricot Shades' and he achieved this using a plant selected from the well-scented 'Aromatics' with salmon pink flowers and a plant chosen from the less widely grown 'Niagara Yellow Red'. After four years and growing almost 4,000 seedlings 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' is the result.

The flowers are fully double, and can be quartered almost like an old-fashioned rose. The petals are light apricot with an orange reverse, and the fragrance is a sweet rose and honey scent with notes of citrus.

Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' is probably the most dramatic of the recent basket lobelias intended to be raised from cuttings rather than seed. These cuttings-raised types tend to be more resilient in dry conditions, more intensely bushy and have larger flowers than the familiar seed-raised types.

'Waterfall Blue Ice' features brilliant blue flowers, each with a large bright mark at the centre. The contrast is bolder and brighter than in other bicoloured lobelias. The plants have a very bushy, semi-trailing habit.

Finally, a genuine innovation – the world's first black petunia. I wrote it up on my RHS New Plant blog in October of last year.

From Ball Horticultural in the USA, who also developed Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice',  Black Velvet ('Balpevac') is a semi-trailing petunia with flowers which really are absolutely black – not purple or crimson – although the backs of the petals do show some purple tints.

Derived in part from a lime-green flowered petunia found on a small nursery in Minnesota – yes, really – this is a neat and compact plant for pots and window boxes rather than hanging baskets.

Look out for Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' and Petunia Black Velvet ('Balpevac') in garden centres now. All three will be available from mail order suppliers for next season.

You can find details of the winner, the two runners up, and two other batches of other shortlisted plants here on my RHS New Plants blog. And look out for a more detailed account of every shortlisted plant in the September issue of The Plantsman.


Thank you to Carol Shppard of the RHS for the images.

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