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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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  • Irises with colourful new foliage

    Graham Rice on 05 May 2010 at 08:01 PM

    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... Read More...

  • New flowering currant trial

    Graham Rice on 28 Apr 2010 at 01:28 PM

    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... Read More...

  • 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. One of... 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... Read More...

  • AGM Narcissus at Wisley

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2010 at 03:54 PM

    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... Read More...

  • AGM for 'Scrumptious' apple

    Graham Rice on 31 Mar 2010 at 01:28 PM

    For 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... Read More...

  • Award winning raspberries

    Graham Rice on 27 Mar 2010 at 02:12 PM

    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... Read More...

  • AGMs for endive

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2010 at 12:15 PM

    With 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... Read More...

  • 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. However, the display was good two weeks ago and, weather permitting, the assessors will be... Read More...

  • Gold Medal winners in Wisley/Fleuroselect trial

    Graham Rice on 25 Feb 2010 at 11:42 AM

    The vast array of trials held at the RHS Garden at Wisley is impressive in itself. But the RHS also participates in another trial, a pan-European trial to find the best new annual flowers. Fleuroselect has trial gardens in about thirty places across Europe in a wide range of climates and soil conditions... Read More...

  • Smaller melons score well in a cloudy summer

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Some gardeners are wary of growing melons. But last year’s trial of small-fruited varieties, grown outside, proved that they are not difficult – even in a relatively sunless summer. And these “single portion” melons are great for most households as each fruit is eaten fairly quickly so never gets the... Read More...

  • AGMs for hardy chrysanths

    Graham Rice on 10 Feb 2010 at 01:59 PM

    In recent years, the Chrysanthemum trial at Wisley has been updated. And the way in which it’s been updated may seem surprising: more older varieties are being included. The reason for this is that the trial tended to focus on the latest varieties, but many older varieties of hardy garden chrysanths... Read More...

  • Sweet pea AGMs

    Graham Rice on 05 Feb 2010 at 09:27 AM

    The sweet pea trial at Wisley is always a big attraction to visitors – and the fragrance is often as powerful as the colour is enticing. But it’s not just an attractive display, it’s a serious trial with the expert sweet pea judges assessing the entries for both use in the garden and for exhibition.... Read More...

  • Abelias for flower and foliage

    Graham Rice on 29 Jan 2010 at 01:54 PM

    For the last three years, there’s been a trial of Abelia varieties at Wisley’s Deer’s Farm. This is a valuable location in Wisley village which provides vital extra space for trials, and a number of important shrub trials have been grown there in recent years. The abelias have been grown there for the... Read More...

  • Weigelas, a mid term assessment

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2010 at 11:07 AM

    At the far end of the Wisley Pinetum (come out of the restaurant, turn right, keep going) is the trials area where the spectacular buddleja trial has been such a treat. And in the same area, this year will be the last year for the trial of weigela with coloured or variegated foliage. In recent years... Read More...

  • Autumn cabbage: awards and techniques

    Graham Rice on 13 Jan 2010 at 01:48 PM

    Autumn cabbage is a valuable crop at a time of year when the season of many summer vegetables is over. So almost fifty different cabbages intended to crop during September, October and November were trialled at Wisley last autumn. Both green and red cabbages were included. As is often the case with the... Read More...

  • Visitor voting: Amaranthus, Celosia and Dahlia

    Graham Rice on 06 Jan 2010 at 03:32 PM

    A most valuable recent innovation at the Wisley trials has been the opportunity for visitors to vote for their favourites. I reported on the results of the buddleja voting back in December, now let's take a look at the voting for Amaranthus, Celosia and Dahlia. First off, I have to say that while... Read More...

  • Dark-leaved dahlias

    Graham Rice on 30 Dec 2009 at 03:04 PM

    For so long it was the flamboyance of the flowers that was the attraction of dahlias and no one paid any attention to the leaves. These days we take it for granted that many of the best garden dahlias don't have boring green leaves - they have luscious bronze or purplish foliage which is a feature... Read More...

  • Award winning parsnips

    Graham Rice on 23 Dec 2009 at 12:02 PM

    As a staple of Christmas Dinner, this seemed a good moment to take a look at the awards that came out of this year's parsnip trial at Wisley. Twenty one different varieties were grown, from old and familiar names like ‘Tender and True' to the very latest F1 hybrids. Ten were given Awards of Garden... Read More...

  • Superb spuria irises

    Graham Rice on 16 Dec 2009 at 02:24 PM

    Amongst the many thousands of summer Iris cultivars, it's usually the flamboyant bearded irises that get most of the attention. But the recent trial of Spuria irises again proved what valuable perennials they are. Spuria irises are tall, up to around 1.5m/5ft, and while the flowers lack the rainbow... Read More...

  • Buddleja – visitor voting and butterfly count

    Graham Rice on 10 Dec 2009 at 04:39 PM

    The figures have just become available for both the visitor voting and the butterfly count for the big buddleja trial at Wisley. Visitors were again asked to nominate their favourites and a count was also made of the number and type of butterflies visiting each variety. The visitor voting results were... Read More...

  • The sweetest sweet corn

    Graham Rice on 02 Dec 2009 at 01:14 PM

    Around the world sweet corn is such an important crop that plant breeders are constantly introducing new varieties. Many were on show in this summer's Wisley trial and an interesting feature was how existing AGM winners frtom previous trials have been outclassed by recent introductions. One of the... Read More...

  • First season stars in the Wisley clematis trial

    Graham Rice on 25 Nov 2009 at 02:52 PM

    Now that the assessment panel - which includes some of the country's leading experts in shrubs and climbers - has finished this year's sessions on the trial of Clematis viticella varieties, it's a good time to pick out those which they think have done best this year. I gave an early personal... Read More...

  • Last days of the pampas grass trial

    Graham Rice on 18 Nov 2009 at 02:34 PM

    The trial of Cortaderia , pampas grass, has been both dramatic and intriguing. As it comes to a close, with some entries still looking good very late in the year, there was one that stood out above all the others - ‘Evita' (click the picture to enlarge). Except part of the point is that it didn't... Read More...

  • Two fine late flowering kniphofias

    Graham Rice on 11 Nov 2009 at 12:31 PM

    A week or two back I wrote about delphiniums which came back for a second burst of flowers long after their main flush in June. The last couple of times I was taking a look at the Wisley flower trials I also noticed some other perennials looking good late in the season. The Kniphofia trial has been a... Read More...

  • Awards for irises

    Graham Rice on 06 Nov 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Tall Bearded Irises are amongst the most dramatic and colourful of perennials so the very best of them must be really impressive. And they are. The RHS Iris Sub Committee - yes, there's a sub committee just for irises - has recently had its latest awards ratified and three Tall Bearded Irises performed... Read More...

  • Dahlias in containers

    Graham Rice on 28 Oct 2009 at 11:29 AM

    This year's dahlia trial at Wisley has been unusually fascinating and I'll be reporting on a number of its features over the next few weeks. Picking up on recent trends, this year twenty one of the entries were grown as individual plants in pots to assess their value as container plants. Immediately... Read More...

  • Double display from delphiniums

    Graham Rice on 21 Oct 2009 at 01:57 PM

    One of the glories of the Wisley trials field in early summer are the delphiniums. Tall and magnificent - taller than they ever get in most people's gardens, I have to say, what with all that manure - they're a real spectacle. But then after a few weeks of glory, they're gone. Or are they... Read More...

  • New (free!) dahlia bulletin

    Graham Rice on 12 Oct 2009 at 04:52 PM

    Dahlias are becoming increasingly fashionable. In particular, single-flowered and collarette dahlias are catching everyone's eye so after trialling many of them in recent years the RHS has produced a twelve page full colour bulletin entitled Open-centred Dahlias . Written by Wisley's Sue Drew... Read More...

  • Intriguing ipomoeas

    Graham Rice on 07 Oct 2009 at 03:54 PM

    The trial of annual climbers at Wisley has thrown up some stars and some disappointments. Both extremes are to be found amongst the ipomoeas. In recent years botanists have decided that, although superficially it looks very different, Mina lobata is so closely related to Ipomoea that it should be moved... Read More...

  • Amaranthus - bold and beautiful

    Graham Rice on 30 Sep 2009 at 10:34 AM

    We all know the old cottage garden annual Love Lies Bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus . But down on the Wisley trials field right now is a trial of these impressive and easy-to-grow annuals - with almost thirty other entries alongside that familiar favourite. They come in an amazing variety. As well as the... Read More...

  • Late flowering pinks

    Graham Rice on 23 Sep 2009 at 08:39 AM

    One of the benefits of looking over the trials regularly through the season is that it's possible to pick up points that would be missed by simply checking the trials while they're at their most colourful. So the other day I cast my eye over the trials of pinks, three months after their peak... Read More...

  • Dazzling celosias

    Graham Rice on 16 Sep 2009 at 10:48 AM

    Celosias 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... Read More...

  • Kniphofia (red hot poker) Open Days

    Graham Rice on 07 Sep 2009 at 10:39 PM

    Alongside a new look Wisley Flower Show , starting this coming Friday morning and closing on Sunday afternoon, the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee is running a series of three Kniphofia Open Days. Kniphofias are dramatic, colourful, sometimes statuesque perennials which are currently enjoying a revival... Read More...

  • Annual climbers

    Graham Rice on 02 Sep 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Most trials concentrate on a particular type of plant - usually one genus like Dahlia or Dianthus . But occasionally a whole group of similar plants from a wide variety of genera is trialled together because they have useful similarity - and this year it's the annual climbers. These are invaluable... Read More...

  • Vote for your favourite

    Graham Rice on 28 Aug 2009 at 04:52 PM

    One of the most exciting developments on the Wisley trials in recent years has been the new opportunity for visitors to vote on their favourite plants. For a number of selected trials, voting papers and a voting box are set up alongside the trial. Just tell us your favourite, add a quick comments to... Read More...

  • Early favourites in the veg trials

    Graham Rice on 14 Aug 2009 at 03:03 PM

    Lots going on amongst the vegetable trials at the moment. The all-female cucumber trial is being grown in a polythene tunnel in the way that most keen home veg gardeners will grow them. This is not a sophisticated commercial poly tunnel with heat for chilly early summer night, and fans to keep the air... Read More...

  • Trials reveal plants to avoid (as well as AGM winners)

    Graham Rice on 31 Jul 2009 at 12:11 PM

    One of the interesting things about the Wisley trials is that not only do they highlight plants which are deserving of an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) but they also highlight plants which are unusually poor and so serve as a warning to gardeners not to grow them. The Kniphofia trial, one of the season's... Read More...

  • Clematis trial is impressive

    Graham Rice on 27 Jul 2009 at 03:35 PM

    Growing a trial of climbers can be difficult, especially if there are a lot to include, but the staff looking after the trial have come up with good solution for the more than sixty varieties of Clematis viticella and its hybrids. Each variety is grown on a tall narrow wire mesh column, guided up to... Read More...

  • Buddlejas in bloom

    Graham Rice on 20 Jul 2009 at 01:19 PM

    The trial of buddlejas at Wisley is located about as far from most of the other trials as it's possible to be. While almost all the other trials are on the trials field, beyond the double herbaceous border and Battleston Hill, the buddlejas and some other shrubs are through the Pinetum at the opposite... Read More...

  • Brilliant begonia

    Graham Rice on 07 Jul 2009 at 11:10 PM

    Been a busy week... I've been covering all the new plants on show at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show over on my RHS New Plants blog. But today, after three early hours dodging the showers at the Show, I headed off to Wisley to dodge the torrential showers rather less successfully judging some... Read More...

  • Sparkling berberis

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2009 at 04:09 PM

    Plenty of shrubs and climbers on trial have been at their peak recently and the trial of Berberis thunbergii has been consistently colourful. These may not be the most fashionable of plants, but whenever I've looked at the trial I've been impressed by the variety of forms and the wonderful foliage... Read More...

  • Pinks Open Day and more...

    Graham Rice on 16 Jun 2009 at 01:44 PM

    The forecast looks just right for the Pinks and Carnations Open Day at Wisley tomorrow. It can be uncomfortably scorching down on the trials field in the summer sun so tomorrow's forecast of cool conditions is ideal. The day starts at 11.30am when you can visit the trials of pinks - that's both... Read More...

  • Dwarf pinks trial - and Pinks and Carnations Open Day

    Graham Rice on 10 Jun 2009 at 05:06 PM

    The dwarf pinks are coming into their peak now and the scent and colour is just captivating. But it was intriguing seeing the dwarf pinks a week or so back as they were getting into their stride. We expect pinks to flower all summer these days but exactly how they go about it makes a big difference to... Read More...

  • The season's first sweet peas

    Graham Rice on 05 Jun 2009 at 08:39 PM

    I love sweet peas, in fact I like them so much I wrote a whole book about them , and I'm always eager for the first ones to come into flower. Picking the first few stems for the house is always a sign that summer is really here. So I was pleased to be able to look over the sweet pea trial at Wisley... Read More...

  • Ornamental rhubarb - send us your pictures

    Graham Rice on 01 Jun 2009 at 10:01 PM

    The ornamental rhubarbs, Rheum , are dramatic flowering and foliage plants making bold specimens with, at their best, a very long season of interest. You can help the Herbaceous Plant Committee of RHS with our research on these plants. After the trial of ornamental rhubarbs ended in 2006 the plants were... Read More...

  • Alpines, clematis and peas on the trials this week

    Graham Rice on 29 May 2009 at 08:57 PM

    Lots to see on the trials field at the RHS Garden at Wisley at the moment. I was judging perennials on Tuesday and took the opportunity to take a look at all the other trials on the Portsmouth Field at Wisley. Alongside the bergenias at the bottom of the Portsmouth Field is the trial of Roscoea . Recently... Read More...

  • After the downpour at Wisley - Iris and Kniphofia

    Graham Rice on 26 May 2009 at 10:28 PM

    Arrived at Wisley for today's trials assessment session soon after the thunderous downpour - and just look these irises! This is the Tall Bearded Iris trial just an hour or two after the torrential rain early this morning. Every flower was still beaded with rain drops and yet - they look spectacular... Read More...

  • AGM update – and sempervivums

    Graham Rice on 16 May 2009 at 01:13 PM

    Here we bring you lots of early news of the plants which have been awarded the much prized RHS Award of Garden Merit or done well in the trials. Six months ago a full list of the plants awarded the AGM in the previous year was published, new on the scene is a l ist of plants which have received an AGM... Read More...

  • Bergenias - flowers and foliage

    Graham Rice on 12 May 2009 at 12:16 PM

    I've mentioned the bergenia trial a few times here, it's been one of the most interesting perennial trials of recent years. And at a recent assessment session plantsman and retired nurseryman Chris Sanders suggested that however good its flowers might be, no bergenia should be given an Award... Read More...

  • Carnation growing - up to date

    Graham Rice on 06 May 2009 at 10:26 PM

    The Wisley trials not only bring awards to the best plants, they also test new ways of growing them. In recent years only dedicated specialists (and mass market cut flower growers) have grown perpetual flowering carnations but a new approach has recently been investigated at Wisley, a way in which more... Read More...

  • Dazzling delphinium from seed

    Graham Rice on 24 Apr 2009 at 09:32 PM

    Thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, near the shores of North Island New Zealand, Terry Dowdeswell who runs New Millennium Delphiniums is working away producing superb new varieties. He's the finest delphinium breeder in the world and we saw some of his plants in last year's... Read More...

  • Bergenias in a frost pocket

    Graham Rice on 15 Apr 2009 at 05:49 PM

    Looking over the Wisley bergenia trial two or three times recently, an unfortunate conundrum emerges. If the flowers stand up well above the foliage so they show themselves off to the full, with a chance to really enliven the spring garden - they get frosted. If they open on shorter stems, down amongst... Read More...

  • Leeks to fill a hungry gap

    Graham Rice on 09 Apr 2009 at 10:13 PM

    As winter gives way to spring, fresh vegetables are in short supply. But leeks can fill that hungry gap. The current trial of leeks, now coming to a close, focuses on varieties that stand the winter and are still in great shape for cutting in March and April. The assessment panel have been looking them... Read More...

  • Last year’s marvellous marigolds

    Graham Rice on 03 Apr 2009 at 06:16 PM

    Last summer was not really an ideal one for French marigolds so those that did well in the Wisley trial really must be good. There were 132 in the trial altogether - both French marigolds and Afro-French hybrid marigolds and this week the eight that were especially outstanding had their Awards of Garden... Read More...

  • Daffodils at their peak

    Graham Rice on 29 Mar 2009 at 04:29 PM

    Many of the trials at Wisley are composed of two parts: the trial of all the varieties in contention for an Award of Garden Merit and, alongside, a demonstration and those which already hold the award. So visitors not only get to see all the newcomers but also those whose standard they have to reach... Read More...

  • Late cauliflowers

    Graham Rice on 22 Mar 2009 at 02:17 PM

    Cauliflowers are not the easiest vegetable to grow but they are amongst the relatively few vegetables that can be grown to cut in late autumn and winter. And fresh food from the garden at that time of year is always a treat so this cauliflower trial, recently ended, was especially useful. Twenty eight... Read More...

  • Crocus vote

    Graham Rice on 14 Mar 2009 at 01:53 PM

    As the mild weather brings the crocus season to a close, I can bring you the results of the visitors' vote for their favourite in the Wisley crocus trial. For a couple of years the trial was grown in the Alpine Department where there is, unfortunately, limited access for visitors. So, for its final... Read More...

  • Carnation and garden chrysanths awarded AGM

    Graham Rice on 06 Mar 2009 at 12:18 PM

    Trials of outdoor carnations and chrysanthemums take place every year at Wisley. It's a long standing tradition and even after so many years fine new varieties are still being recognised and receiving the Award of Garden Merit . The latest awards have just been confirmed. Although attracting a fervent... Read More...

  • Huge crops from climbing French beans

    Graham Rice on 26 Feb 2009 at 05:50 PM

    Climbing 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... Read More...

  • 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... Read More...

  • Top dahlias

    Graham Rice on 29 Jan 2009 at 03:08 PM

    Last year the Wisley dahlia trial was one of the most colourful - and interesting - of the season. It usually is. It's always worth seeing just to admire the dazzling display. But of course there's a purpose to it: finding the best. Out of a grand total of one hundred and forty nine different... Read More...

  • New trials blog

    admin on 27 Jan 2009 at 12:07 PM

    The current RHS Plant Finder lists over 70,000 different plants and there are vegetables and many more that never find their way into the book. But how do you know which are the best? Well, the RHS tests many of them at its garden at Wisley and gives the prestigious Award of Garden Merit to those few... Read More...