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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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  • New flowering currant trial

    Graham Rice on 28 Apr 2010 at 01:28 PM

    Ribes sanguinem,'Tydeman's White',flowering currant, Wisley, RHS. Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.On one of my visits to the Wisley trials field last week I noticed that the new trial of flowering currants, Ribes sanguineum, had been planted. And, it being spring, they were all in flower. And some of them were already impressive. This ability to look good so soon after planting is a great virtue in small gardens; when you put in a new plant it’s a great bonus if it makes an impact straight away.

    The three that were most impressive, at this very early stage of the trial, were three of the less familiar varieties – and they covered the full spectrum of colour. So often we see only ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ or ‘King Edward VII’ and it was refreshing to see so many others.

    Perhaps the most striking on this occasion was ‘Tydeman’s White’. A lovely pure white, with just a little pink in the calyces, the flower clusters are well packed, they’re carried at every leaf joint, and arch downward elegantly to make a very attractive plant.

    In a vivid pink shade was R. sanguineum ‘Koja’. One of the striking features of ‘Koja’, apart from the slightly cerise pink flower colour, was the fact that rather than arching fully downward the flower clusters tended to be held at a higher angle, farther away from the stems. So there was little chance of the foliage masking the display.

    And finally the most strongly coloured of all, in a deep bright red, was ‘Red Pimpernel’. Rather upright in habit and with dark stems and a white eye to the flowers, ‘Red Pimpernel’ was also very prolific.

    You’ll notice in the background of the picture that the soil is completely covered with landscape fabric. This serves two main purposes. It keeps weeds under control; weeding can be a huge task on such a large area so it saves time and allows the staff to give their attention to tasks which really need their skills. And secondly it helps conserve moisture.

    Of course, it’s early days. Check back next April; after a year of growth it should be quite a spectacle.


  • Flowering bergenias

    Graham Rice on 26 Apr 2010 at 06:21 PM

    When I was at the RHS Garden at Wisley the other day, most of the bergenias from the recent trial were still in place and were flowering away merrily. It was good to see how prolific some of them are. Three in particular caught my eye, all very different and all with less common species blood.

    Bergenia stracheyi, Alba Group,winter perennial,winter flowers, Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission. Read More...

  • Daffodils on trial at Wisley

    Graham Rice on 18 Apr 2010 at 10:30 AM

    In my last post I looked at the display of daffodils which already have the Award of Garden Merit. But there are also some superb plants in the Wisley trial itself. Planted last autumn, this is their first year in flower.

    The first one I noticed was ‘Rip van Winkle’. This a very old double flowered daffodil whose flower is made up of a mass of slender petals. The problem is – the heads are too heavy for the stems. The stems arch over so the flowers almost touch the ground. In soil that was less rich the stems may be shorter and less weak but they did not look tempting.Narcissus 'Stann Creek',daffodil,AGM Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.

    But the ones I especially liked were ‘Stann Creek’ and ‘Saint Victor’, not least because in their first year they both produced two flowers from each bulb.

    ‘Stann Creek’ (above, click to enlarge) is both stylish and dramatic. This lemon-and-lime variety has very large flowers, in the traditional trumpet style but in a very unusual and effective colouring. Most of the trumpet and the base of the petals is white, the tip of the trumpet and much of the petal colouring is lemon-and-lime yellow. There were one or two off-types in the planting but the overall effect was delightful.

    The other one I especially liked was ‘Saint Victor’ (below, click to  enlarge). This is a traditional yellow daffodil, so what makes this more impressive than good old ‘Golden Harvest’? First of all the flowers are enormous, and they’re held on stout stems so the Narcissus 'Saint Victor',daffodil,AGM Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.stems don’t collapse under their weight. Secondly the deep yellow flowers are a wonderful rich colour with the flared trumpet slightly darker than the petals. Finally, the flowers face outward so we get the best of the display.

    The display of these candidates for the Award of Garden Merit continues on the trials field at Wisley through this lovely sunny weather so make the most of them and note those that would look good in your own garden. There’s nothing to compare with seeing so many all growing side by side.


  • AGM Narcissus at Wisley

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2010 at 03:54 PM

    Narcissus 'Intrigue',daffodil,AGM Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.All over the country the daffodils are at their peak – and Wisley is no exception. You’ll see the displays almost as soon as you get there. But make your way to the trials field and you’ll find a rather special display. Every one of the daffodils which have been given an Award of Garden Merit after being trialed at Wisley. It’s a great opportunity to choose your favourites from amongst those already chosen as the best of the best. So that’s what I did yesterday. Three stood out. Two of those that I especially liked were more subtle types, and one was more bold and traditional.

    ‘Intrigue’ (above, click to enlarge) is very unusual. It’s a yellow and white bicolour in a unique pattern, both cup and petals are bicoloured. The cup of each flower is white at the tip and lemon yellow at the base, while the petals are the reverse – white at the centre and yellow at the tips. It’s gorgeous. And with three flowers on each stem the display is both stylish and colourful.Narcissus 'Reggae',daffodil,AGM Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.

    Another that I especially liked was ‘Reggae’ (left, click to enlarge). I’m not sure quite how the name relates to the flower, but this is a very neat, and short, cyclamineus hybrid. The cup is pale salmon, the petals are slightly swept back and white. The result is a very appealing group.

    Finally, I was also struck by a more traditional daffodil. ‘Goldfinger’ was the traditional yellow trumpet daffodil (a ‘King Alfred’ type, if you like) with a very dramatic impact. Both trumpet and petals are vivid yellow but, unlike the flowers of the similar ‘Arkle’, the flowers aged well; in ‘Arkle’, the tips of the trumpets turned papery as they aged. ‘Goldfinger’ aged more gracefully.

    There are masses more AGM daffodils to see. Although some are over, some are only just starting to open. Well worth a look. And you can see the whole list on the RHS website.