Choosing the best of the best

August 13th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Trials of Cosmos and Zantedeschia at the RHS Garden at Wisley. - Different varieties
Which cosmos should you grow? Which geranium? Looking for an agapathus or penstemon? There are literally hundreds of different varieties of all these plants, so how do you choose? Of course, you could simply choose the ones in the Mr Fothergill’s range, the team do great job at sourcing the very best varieties. But when you can see them all, growing together, side by side, in a formal trial, it’s easy to decide which ones you prefer because it’s easy to compare.

And that’s exactly what happens at the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley, just off Junction 10 on the M25. I was there yesterday, making notes of my own for what to grow. There are also ornamental grassess and zantedeschias  plus hibiscus and viburnums. And it’s not just flowers. There’s a large trial of sweet corn plus kales, Brussels sprouts and leeks and and a newly planted trial of a hundred rosemary varieties as well. You can also see a display of all the latest patio plant introductions (below, click to enlarge).

Cosmos 'Rosetta', outstanding in the RHS trial of cosmos.And just to make the point that good people at Mr F know what they’re doing, one of the stars of the eighty six cosmos on display is the unique ‘Rosetta’, with unique semi-double, delicately bicoloured flowers (right, click to enlarge), which Mr F’s sister company Johnsons are introducing for 2017.

Experts in each of these different groups of plants look them over regularly during the season and, in the case of shrubs and perennials, over two or three seasons or more. Then, at the end, the very best are awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit and the familiar cup symbol can be displayed on their labels.

By contrast, it’s also worth knowing which cosmos, sown direct in the soil, are so late to flower that they’re not worth growing (that would be ‘All Sorts Mixed’ and ‘Dazzler’). And it’s worth seeing which echinaceas fall over if they’re not staked (‘Papaya’ and ‘Sunset Glow’). You can easily assess the good and bad features of them all.

So if you’re passing round the south side of London on the M25 over the next few weeks, or making a special trip to the gardens at Wisley – definitely worth doing – be sure to stroll along the superb double herbaceous border, keep going up the hill and then down the other side where the you’ll see the whole trials field stretched out in front of you.

You can find out more about all this on the RHS trials and awards webpages, and download lists of all the award-winning varieties. And, of course, look out for the cup symbol in Mr Fothergill’s varieties  and on seed packets in the garden centre.

New Patio Plants at RHS Garden at Wisley - Different varieties

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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