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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 2012: The Winners

Posted by Graham Rice on 22 May 2012 at 07:27 PM

Digitalis Illumination, Chelsea New Plant of The Year, with Dianthus Memories and Hyacinth 'Royal Navy'. Images © Plant Novelties,, and RHSThe winner of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award is Digitalis Illumination. In second place came Dianthus Memories and in third place came Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'.

I have to say that I’ve been enthusing about Thompson & Morgan’s Digitalis Illumination ('Tmdgfp001') for quite a while (above left, click to enlarge). It’s a hybrid between the familiar foxglove and what used to be called Isoplexis canariensis, a slightly shrubby relation from the Canary Islands.

I wrote it up here on this blog back in January when T&M’s plant breeder Charles Valin said this: “I started in 2006. I had a feeling that although Ispolexis was classified as separate from Digitalis, they are so similar that Isoplexis should probably be called Digitalis. I kind of wanted to prove botanists wrong! And I wanted to combine the exotic looking bird pollinated flowers of Isoplexis with the hardiness of Digitalis.”

He was right, not only did he create this beautiful new plant but in the latest edition of the RHS Plantfinder, the botanists have reclassified Isoplexis canariensis as a Digitalis.

Chelsea Plant of The year Award presented to Thompson & Morgan by Elizabeth Banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS . Image ©Fiona GilsenanThe trophy was presented (left, click to enlarge) by Elizabeth banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS, to Paul Hansord (centre) and Michael Perry, both of Thompson & Morgan.

Dianthus Memories ('WP11 Gwe04'), from Whetman Pinks (above centre, click to enlarge), was voted into second place. I first came across this fragrant double white garden pink when it won the Best New Plant award at The National Plant Show in the summer of last year. The National Plant Show is a trade show and plants that do well there often make their mark with gardeners the following year. I wrote about it at the time.

In third place in the Chelsea New Plant of the Year awards was Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy' from JS Pennings De Bilt (above right, click to enlarge). This double-flowered dark blue hyacinth is beautifully fragrant and the colour is a deep and dark sultry blue.


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