Tuesday 24 May 2011

RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2011

RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2011: Anemone 'Wild Swan'
 Members of RHS committees assembled yesterday afternoon to vote for the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year, from a shortlist of 20 plants selected from 30+ original submissions by a team of RHS staff on Sunday. Short presentations were made about each plant by its originator, and a vote was taken by a show of hands. It was a mark of the lack of distinction of many of the entries - the award is for a plant that combines features of novelty, originality, impact and appeal - that there were no votes at all for many of them, and others received only one or two. The first round ended with one vote between the front-runner, Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope', from Stella and David Rankin of Kevock Plants, a fine silver sax with red flower stems, and the runner-up, Anemone 'Wild Swan', bred by Elizabeth McGregor and shown by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. Rather oddly, the chairman decided to have a run-off between the two contenders, and on this vote the Anemone won, with three votes clear. It was my choice but one does wonder why it was felt a run-off was desirable.

Anemone 'Wild Swan' appears to be a hybrid between Anemone rupicola and A. hupehensis, showing characters of both species, but it is said to form a compact clump and not run around, unlike A. hupehensis. Flowering from the end of May and with another flush later in the year it obviously has potential for adding lovely cool flowers to a semi-shady site at a time of year when there are no other large anemones in bloom. What charmed many people was the elegance of the grey-mauve reverse of the tepals, which is a really lovely feature. Plants will be available from Elizabeth McGregor and Hardys' later in the year.

Elegantly dapper: the outer side of the flowers of Anemone 'Wild Swan'.

The runner-up: Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope'

Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'

All the shortlisted plants are displayed on a stand in the Grand Marquee for all to see, and while the presentation is better than last year's, it lacks any sort of flair or attractiveness: this really needs some creative design input! Among them is the remarkable blue-flowered clone of Verbascum armeniacum, 'Blue Lagoon', selected by Charles Valin of Thompson & Morgan. It is an extraordinary colour break in the genus (the colour in this picture does not do it justice, I'm afraid), and in fact it was by far the most distinct new plant on display, but the plant looks short-lived and  my experience with other clones of V. armeniacum suggests that this will not be a generally good garden plant. I suspect that others thought likewise, as it came third in the voting.


  1. Thank you very much for this post, John, it's interesting.

  2. A great loss indeed. A wonderful garden. I live just 10 minutes from the garden and have visited for the past 30 years, a local gem and an international treasure. You really must visit.

    Paddy Tobin, Waterford, Ireland.


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