Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and apologies for the lack of recent updates! However, 2014 is here now, and as I write this, snowdrops and hellebore are making their presence felt in the garden, and while January and February may be the harshest months, the days are ever so slightly increasing in length and it won’t be long before Spring arrives.

The 2014 meetings started with “Now where Do I start? Tips for altering your garden” and as I was the speaker, all I am going to say about the evening is that it was wonderful that so many of our members turned out on a dreary January evening to hear my talk. So big thank you to you all.

I would like to take this opportunity to write about the very interesting evening that we had last November, this was a fascinating glimpse into the world of Plant Trials at the RHS garden Wisley. The talk was given by Chris Sanders, who is a member of the hardy plant society and Chairman of the RHS Woody Plant committee.

The RHS “Award of Garden Merit” (AGM) helps gardeners make informed choices about the plants they choose for their gardens. There are currently 13 specialist plant committees and sub-committees covering such things as pinks and carnations, Delphinium, orchids, and of course the Woody Plant Committee.

These panels, who from 2014 will be made up of 10 people have a wide and varied background and experience of horticulture.

As well as the main trials held at RHS Wisley, there are also “off site” assessments, either in other RHS gardens, or in gardens where the panel know there is a particularly good collection of a genus.

Another area that the plant trials sort out is the correct identification and naming of plants. Which has recently taken place with Argyranthemum (Thank goodness!)

The trials can take up to 4 years, and at the end of the year that the trial finishes, the panel meet and review all the information, in the case of perennials this would include characteristics such as;- Floriferousness, continuity, habit, flower colour, foliage how the flower dies. It is only after this observation and discussion period that the recommendations are put forward and the AGM’s are ratified.

Alongside the information about plant trials Chris showed us some stunning images of plants that “made the cut” and have achieved AGM status. By the end of the evening I had about 10 new plants on my “wish list” (Although shoehorning them into the garden might be a problem) My wish list includes Clematis “Roko Kolla”, a delightful white clematis with a greenish tinge and interesting seed heads along with another clematis;- C. Golden Tiara “Kugotia”.

I have long wanted a Wisteria, I had them in my first garden, and should I ever find space to grow one in this garden then W. floribunda “Kimono” will be at the top of my list.

However the plants that I have allready tracked down, but not (as yet) bought are Salvia Cerro Potosi and Salvia Jezebel and I look forward to adding these to my growing collection of Salvia at some point. Salvias that are slightly tender in this country can still get an AGM, albeit at a lower hardiness rating, thus warning the prospective purchaser that it will need winter protection.

All in all Chris gave us an informative and fascinating glimpse into the workings of the RHS plant trials and the Award to Garden Merit and I enjoyed the evening very much indeed.