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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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  • AGM for 'Scrumptious' apple

    Graham Rice on 31 Mar 2010 at 01:28 PM

    Apple,Scrumptious,Hugh Ermen,AGM,Award of Garden Merit,RHS,Wisley. Image ©Orange PippinFor the first time in over ten years an apple has been given the Award of Garden Merit. Not since 1998 has an apple received the award, and it’s gone to the very aptly named ‘Scrumptious’.

    ‘Scrumptious’ is an early apple, for eating straight from the tree in mid August and September. Introduced back in 1980, it has been grown and sampled at Wisley for many years – evidence of the rigorous assessment that apples undergo.

    With its bright red skin it looks gorgeous and its crisp flesh has a lovely flavour - aromatic, sweet but not sugary, with a few hints of strawberry. It also has a number of other valuable features.

    * It’s self fertile. So although it will produce the heaviest crop if pollinated by another variety it will also bring a very respectable crop if grown without. It is, however, a good pollinator of other apples.
    * It’s relatively thin-skinned so great for kids.
    * It fruits well on young treesApple,Scrumptious,Hugh Ermen,AGM,Award of Garden Merit,RHS,Wisley. Image ©Orange Pippin
    * The flowers are more resistant to frost than those of many varieties, so it’s good for cold areas.
    * The fruit hangs on the tree, even after it’s passed its best.
    * ‘Scrumptious’ is a relatively disease-free variety.

    ‘Scrumptious’ is a cross between two favourites, ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Discovery’, raised by Hugh Ermen an apple enthusiast and apple breeder who raised a number of excellent eating and ornamental apples but who sadly passed away last autumn.

    You can find out more about the ‘Scrumptious’ apple on the Orange Pippin apple and orchards website.


  • Award winning raspberries

    Graham Rice on 27 Mar 2010 at 02:12 PM

    Raspberry,'Tulameen',AGM,Award of Garden Merit.  title=The number of gardeners growing fruit has rocketed in recent years and soft fruit, in particular, has become very popular. So the completion of a three year raspberry trial comes at a very timely moment. Coupled with the fact that raspberries are no longer only sold as bar root canes by mail order in the autumn but also now in spring as plants in large pots in garden centres, it’s time to take a look at the results of the trial.

    Sixteen summer varieties and eleven autumn fruiting varieties were grown. Just ten canes of each variety were planted so it was easy to see how a modest, garden-size planting would perform. Ten varieties were given an Award of Garden Merit – five for summer and five for autumn cropping. Six of the ten gained awards for the first time. It was also recommended that two varieties with existing AGMs have them removed.

    Raspberry,'Glen Ample',AGM,Award of Garden Merit.  title=The star of the whole trial, and a new award-winner, was 'Tulameen' (above, click to enlarge). Even early in the trials the judges said: “'Tulameen' has performed very well and appears to be much better than the rest. A good variety, with good flavour, pickability and weight of fruit.” The other new award went to ‘Glen Magna’ while ‘Glen Ample’ (left, click to enlarge), 'Malling Admiral' and 'Malling Jewel' were still up to AGM quality had their earlier awards re-confirmed.

    ‘Glen Ample’ was notable for producing 2kg of fruit per cane – in its first year, with 'Tulameen' close behind.

    Amongst the autumn-fruiting varieties ‘Autumn Bliss’ retained the AGM it’s had since 1993 and four new awards were made, to 'All Gold', 'Caroline', 'Joan J' and 'Polka'. With varieties from the summer group and from the autumn group, you can now look forward to a long season of top class, AGM raspberries. But not 'Glen Moy' and 'Glen Prosen', the judging panel decided that those two had had their day and others are now better.


  • What a plant needs to get an AGM

    Graham Rice on 23 Mar 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Hosta 'Sum and Substance',AGM,RHS,Award of Garden Merit, Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.What is it that makes a good enough to deserve an AGM (Award of Garden Merit) from the Royal Horticultural Society? Well, with the busy Easter plant buying weekend approaching this seems like a good time to run a reminder of the features that a plant needs in order to be worthy of this high accolade. And, as you’ll see, a plant really must be good to qualify. And those that do qualify carry the AGM cup symbol (below). So let’s look at what the RHS requires.

    “It must be of outstanding excellence for ordinary garden decoration or use” The key phrase is “outstanding excellence”: whatever a plant’s ornamental or edible qualities may be, they must be of the highest standard.

    “It must be available” That is, if you can’t actually buy the plant it can’t receive the award. The RHS PlantFinder is often the best guide to availability, although the sources covered do not include seed companies. Awards to new plants may be held back until they appear in catalogues or garden centres but that’s the rule: if you can’t buy it can’t get an award.

    “It must be of good constitution” Plants must be fairly robust and resilient in normal growing conditions. Those which are weak do not qualify for the award.RHS AGM cup symbol,AGM,RHS,Award of Garden Merit, Image: ©RHS.

    “It must not require highly specialist growing conditions or care” The point here is that weekend gardeners with no special horticultural skills should be able to grow the plants in their own gardens without spending a huge amount of time and effort creating special conditions. Of course, plants have preferences - some like sun, some prefer shade; some require acid soil, some don’t. But other than these basic preferences, plants should not require special treatment.

    “It must not be particularly susceptible to any pest or disease” Speaks for
    itself, plants which are especially prone to pests and disease problems are not good garden plants and so do not qualify for the award.

    “It must not be subject to an unreasonable degree of reversion in its vegetative or floral characteristics” So, for example, variegated plants which repeatedly throw plain green shoots and double-flowered forms that regularly produce single flowers are not considered for an award.

    If all six of these requirements are met, then a plant deserves an Award of Garden Merit. At present 7,426 plants have received the award – so there’s plenty to choose from. Look out for the AGM cup symbol (above) on plant labels, in catalogues, in books and online.

    You can find out more about how plants are awarded the AGM on the AGM page on the RHS website.

    The RHS website also features lists of AGM plants.

    You can also search for AGM plants in different categories.


  • AGMs for endive

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Endive trial,judges,AGM,Wisley. Image: ©RHSWith sowing season approaching, it’s time to take a look at last year’s Wisley trial of endive. This trial was also grown at the RHS gardens at Hyde Hall in Essex and Rosemoor in Devon.

    Endives may not be top of the list of salad crops or stir fry crops, but their texture and flavour make them invaluable. There are two types: curly or frisée endive has slender curly outer leaves, while escarole has broad leaves and is less bitter. Both types are traditionally blanched to reduce their bitterness.

    Both types were grown in the trial, sixteen varieties in all, and they were all sown both in April to crop in July, and again in June to crop in September. The first sowing received a ferocious battering from hail in early June but recovered promptly. Many of the plants from the April sowing ran to seed quite quickly, at all three sites, but while this would be a problem for commercial growers home gardeners could still harvest individual leaves. The other cultural issue was how to cover them for blanching.Endive 'Frenzy',AGM,Wisley,trial. Image: ©RHS

    The plants became too hot under black fleece, the easiest option, and tended to rot. Upturned plastic pots, secured by a cane through a drainage hole, were more successful. Upturned clay pots were better still but few home gardeners have access to enough sufficiently large clay pots. It was suggested that the plants could also be blanched simply by tying the leaves loosely together with twine. Visiting Joy Larkcom’s garden some years ago, I noticed that she blanched her endive using large upturned white dinner plates. It seemed to work well.

    Six varieties were given an Award of Garden Merit. The five frisée types to receive AGMs, with comments from the panel, were:
    ‘Despa’: “Heads are dense, but not hearting… Very little bolting.”
    ‘Frenzy’ (above, click to enlarge): “Heads are dense, but not hearting… grown for the high class restaurant trade.”
    ‘Kentucky’: “Intermediate frisée. Very productive, large heads. Blanches well.”
    ‘Plantation’: “Large frame, frisée type with broad leaves and very thin petioles (leaf stems). Very little tip-burn.”
    ‘Wallone’: “Vigorous, large-framed frisée type. Stands well.”

    The one escarole type to receive the AGM was ‘Natacha’: “Heads are quite loose and non-hearting. Attractive escarole type. Not bolting. Strong flavour. Not prone to tip-burn.”

    It’s also worth noting that it was voted to remove the AGM given to ‘Glory’ in 2002 as it suffered badly from tip-burn and had been superseded.

    Sources of seed vary from season, check the Royal Horticultural Society's leaflet Award of Garden Merit Vegetables, currently being updated, for stockists.
    This leaflet is available online.


  • Crocus trial flowering at last

    Graham Rice on 02 Mar 2010 at 01:15 PM

    This winter’s weather has delayed flowering of the Crocus trial down on the Portsmouth Field. The first two visits by the assessment panel were cancelled because after all that snow there were so few in flower.

    Crocus 'Snow Bunting',RHS,Wisley,trial. Image: ©Meneerke bloom, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Read More...