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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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  • Hosta ‘Sara’s Sensation’: New from Bali-Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 21 May 2010 at 07:56 PM

    Hosta,Sara's Sensation,Bali-Hai,Paul and Linda Hofer. Image: Bali-Hai Nursery.‘Frances Williams’ is one of our most popular hostas. Basically it’s like Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ but with a gold edge to the leaf and indeed it is thought to be a sport of ‘Elegans’. ‘Frances Williams’ itself has produced a number of sports and this new introduction, ‘Sara’s Sensation’, looks to be one of the best.

    ‘Sara’s Sensation’ is an altogether brighter plant with a much broader gold border and smaller blue-green centre – in effect each leaf is gold with a central blue-green flash. Its rounded leaves are very thick and corrugated indeed it’s thought to be a tetraploid – that is, with twice the normal number of chromosomes – which helps create this extra substance. With such thick leaves it’s likely to be slug resistant. It will slowly but steadily make a plant about 50cm/20in high and 1.2m/4ft across and make a fine specimen in shady borders. In early summer almost pure white flowers appear on short stems.

    ‘Sara’s Sensation’ has been around for some time, it was registered with the American Hosta Society back in 1998, but is only now available here in Britain for the first time. It was found as sport of ‘Frances Williams’ by Paul and Linda Hofer from Ohio, Paul also discovered one of the finest hostas of all, the gold-centred ‘Paul’s Glory’ which was Hosta of the Year in 1999.

    You can order Hosta ‘Sara’s Sensation’ from Bali-Hai Nursery.


  • Improved trials and awards coverage

    Graham Rice on 18 May 2010 at 01:46 PM

    Verbena trial at Wisley. Image: Ali Cundy, RHS Trials OfficeWell, I’m pleased to say that the RHS has been upgrading its coverage of plant trials and plant awards here on the website. Naturally, this means change and one of the changes is that this blog is disappearing – this is my last post. But I’m glad to say that it’s being replaced by two new features.

    So starting today, every month I’ll be bringing you news of one of the plants which has recently been given an Award of Garden Merit. I start with the lovely fragrant pink Dianthus Candy Floss ('Devon Flavia’) (below right, click to enlarge) which gained its award after last year’s trial at Wisley. Look for my piece on the Latest AGM Plants around this time every month.Dianthus Candy Floss ('Devon Flavia’). Image: Caroline Beck, RHS.

    I’m also starting a second new series, featuring a seasonal choice of ten Award of Garden Merit plants. Every month I’ll pick a seasonal theme – the first will be a choice of plants for containers – and select ten appropriate plants which have received an Award of Garden Merit. Look for this around the beginning of each month.

    And there’s plenty more happening on the new upgraded Plant Trials and Awards pages.
    Find out how plants qualify for an AGM
    Download lists of AGM plants
    Search for AGM plants
    Find out about the plant trials which help decide which plants receive an AGM
    Check out which plants are currently being trialed
    Download free full colour bulletins on important plant trials
    Look over all my previous posts about trials and awards
    And start here for news of events - like next month’s Pink and Carnations Open Day - awards and everything else about plant trials and awards.

    So thanks for following this blog, and for your comments here and also your many comments by email. My RHS New Plants blog continues. Be sure to hop over to the enhanced Plant Trials and Awards pages where my coverage starts today.


  • Irises with colourful new foliage

    Graham Rice on 05 May 2010 at 08:01 PM

    Iris pseudata ‘Kinshizen’ Image: © All rights reserved.Down on the Wisley trials field is a small trial of water irises, plants derived from Iris ensata, I. pseudacorus, I. sibirica, I. versicolor and I. virginica. When I looked them over a couple of weeks ago they were a long way from flowering but some revealed a totally different feature, one that could bring colour to a moist and sunny border long before the flowers open: the new foliage. These new leaves are coloured in one of two ways, they emerge yellow and fade to green or are boldly stained purple at the base.

    A hybrid of I. ensata and I. pseudacorus, I. x pseudata ‘Kinshizen’ (above, click to enlarge) was the best of those with yellow in the young leaves; it was very bright. The plants are clearly vigorous, and the colour appears to last well. The flowers look to be pale apricot shading to magenta purple around a yellow throat.

    An unnamed seedling, number 32 in the trial, was more brightly coloured at first but turned to green more quickly and its impact was lost. The colour of ‘Holden’s Child’ was closer to pale green and dark green rather than yellow and green. The flowers will be purple-blue with a gold throat.

    I. x
 robusta ‘Dark Aura’ Image: © All rights reserved.Amongst those with purple staining at the base of the leaves, I. x robusta ‘Dark Aura’ (left, click to enlarge) stood out. A hybrid between I. versicolor and I. virginica it’s vigorous, and the new shoots are a vivid plum shade with almost no green; its flowers will be purple-blue and held on unusually black stems. ‘Tango Music’ was similar but significantly less vigorous. ‘Mainstream Tempest’ was also good, though the foliage was noticeably shorter and the colouring more red than purple. The flowers of both will be two-tone purple. Both are hybrids between I. sibirica and I. versicolor.

    So the pick for early foliage colour were I. x pseudata ‘Kinshizen’ for yellow colouring and I. x robusta ‘Dark Aura’, which already has an AGM, for purple colouring. Both add new accents of colour to early season damp gardens. Be sure to take a look at them later in the season when they're in bloom.