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Graham Rice on Trials

Updates on trials and awards from the Royal Horticultural Society by Graham Rice

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  • Huge crops from climbing French beans

    Graham Rice on 26 Feb 2009 at 05:50 PM

    Climbing French bean trial. Image: Ali Cundy/RHS Trials OfficeClimbing French beans must be one of the top crops for yielding the most food, and the tastiest food, from the smallest space. But of course, it's not just about kilos on the scales - it's about flavour, table quality and how easy the plants are to grow. The recent trial revealed those that combined the best of all these qualities to gain the Award of Garden Merit.

    One important feature of this trial was that not only were the plants grown on the trials field at Wisley but, thanks to the generosity of Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, the whole trial was replicated at their garden at East Ruston in Norfolk. The results from both trials were collated to arrive at the final award winners. Nine varieties were given awards. 

    Climbing French bean 'Musica'. Image: Ali Cundy/RHS Trials OfficeThirty one different varieties were grown, round podded and flat podded, and all were sown in the open ground on 16 May, the above view of the trial was taken on the 8 July - less than two months later.

    Two flat podded types yielded the heaviest crop - ‘Musica' (976g per plant) and ‘Pantheon' (965g per plant).Two plants were grown up each leg of a four-legged wigwam so for each wigwam that gives 7.8kg/17lb 3oz for ‘Musica' and 7.7kg/17lb for ‘Pantheon'. That's a lot of beans from one wigwam. At that rate of production, how many wigwams does your family actually need? You see what I mean about impressive productivity for the area the plants actually occupy. The judges said that ‘Musica' was "flavoursome" and that ‘Pantheon' had a "sweet flavour".

    ‘Cobra' was the only round bean to gain an AGM while ‘Eva', with its oval pods, also gained an award


  • Bergenias after the snow

    Graham Rice on 25 Feb 2009 at 02:03 PM

    The icy and snowy weather earlier this month revealed one way in which the Wisley trials are so useful. One of the most valuable features of bergenias is their winter foliage colour and the recent weather has put them to the test - some retained their foliage and were revealed in glorious colour when the now melted. The foliage of others was reduced to pulp.

    Here's the bergenia trial under the snow...
    Bergenia trial under the snow. Image: RHS Trials Office/Alison Cundy

    Here it is a few days after the snow had melted. You can see that some are a fantastic bright red. Others are more dowdy, while there seem to be some gaps.
    Bergenia trial after the snow. Image: RHS Trials Office/Alison Cundy

    So here's Bergenia ‘Glasnevin' on the left, one of the most colourful - and on the right, Bergenia ciliata ‘Patricia Furness' with its foliage ruined. The judges will continue to assess them as they come into flower.
    Bergenia 'Glasnevin'. Image: RHS Trials Office/Alison Cundy Bergenia ciliata ‘Patricia Furness’. Image: RHS Trials Office/Alison Cundy