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Graham Rice on Trials

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

Dazzling celosias

Posted by Graham Rice on 16 Sep 2009 at 10:48 AM

Celosia trial at the RHS Garden at Wisley. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comCelosias used to thought of mainly as pot plants, and they were also favourites for decorating events at town halls and other municipal venues.

But I grew celosias as summer annuals in mixed borders a few years ago and they were superb. As the summer climate improves and as more adaptable varieties are introduced, growing a trial out in the open on the trials field has provided one of the most colourful of the summer's trials. They come in two types, the feathery plumes of the Prince of Wales Feather type, and the Cockscomb type with congested flower spikes that, some people say, look like the inside of your brain!

Forty eight entries were grown, all started from seed in March and treated as half-hardy annuals. Most were of the feathery type and come in vibrant red, orange, gold and yellow shades and their dazzling colours catch the eye as soon as the trials come into view. There are a few softer colours, though these seem less effective, and one lovely tall pink and white form.

Looking them over yesterday, we had an eye for both flower and foliage colour, long flowering season and an effective display of plumes. Uniformity is also important, in two ways: there should not be too much variation in colour of the single colour types and if the flowers were supposed to be feathery plumes there should be no cockscomb types creeping in to spoil the impact.Celosia 'Flamingo Feather' in the Celosia trial at the RHS Garden at Wisley. Image: ©

There were five which especially caught the eye of the assessment panel. ‘Smart Look Red' featured long lasting bright red flowers set against rich burgundy foliage to create an unforgettable combination. The vivid slightly pinkish red spikes of ‘Glow Red' were much admired while ‘Century Red' was neat enough for small containers or small sunny beds around the patio with bronze foliage setting off the bright red flowers. The vivid marmalade coloured plumes of ‘Fresh Look Orange' were very striking set against fresh green leaves.

‘Flamingo Feather' (above, click to enlarge) was rather different, taller than most of the others and with masses of slender spikes, the carmine buds open to pink flowers fading to white. Good for cutting, it also integrates especially well with perennials in mixed borders.

The assessors rated those five especially highly, but you can vote for your own favourites. Pick up a voting form in the new logia at the bottom of the trials field, make your choice, add your comments and leave it in the box alongside the celosia trial itself.



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