The RHS has selected 10 plants, one from each decade of the past century, which will vie for the title ‘Plant of the Centenary’ at the Chelsea Flower Show 2013. At the show there will be 10 ‘Plant Champions’, amateur gardeners representing each decade, who will drum up support for their plant. The shortlist of plants is…
1913-1922: Saxifraga ‘Tumbling Waters’
Rosettes of silvery foliage topped with magnificent arching spikes of frothy white flowers. Raised in 1913 by renowned rock garden specialist Captain Symons-Jeune, it won the Award of Merit in 1920.
Plant Champion: Sergeant Stan Pepper age 92 – London
Ex-paratrooper Sergeant Stan Pepper joined the armed forces at the age of 17 and remained in service for the next 24 years. Stan is a keen gardener, former allotment holder and finds Saxifraga ‘Tumbling Waters’ easy to grow at his age because it can be planted on a rockery or wall and doesn’t require too much bending over.
1923-1932: Pieris formosa var. forrestii
Introduced by Victorian plant hunter George Forrest, this elegant evergreen shrub made its debut at Chelsea in 1924. It has brilliant red young growth and large, slightly fragrant flower panicles.
Plant Champion: John Burwell age 82 – Southampton, Hampshire
Retired GP John has been an enthusiastic gardener for over fifty years. He really enjoys growing Pieris and has a small collection of them in his garden, two of which are now over eight feet high. John has fond memories of driving up to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on his days off as a GP, parking on a bomb site in the King’s Road and paying at the door.
1933-1942: Lupinus Russell hybrids
Decades of work by plant breeders trying to increase the colour range of lupins were rendered superfluous by George Russell, who in 1938 revealed the rainbow palette of lupin cultivars he had bred. Chelsea visitors were dazzled by the Baker’s Nursery display of these plants in 1939.
Plant Champion: Iris Chapman age 78 – Wrotham, Kent
With a name like Iris Marguerite and sisters called Violet, Rose and Lily, it’s not surprising to hear that Iris got her love of gardening from her parents. Iris’s first encounter with lupins was in the early years of the Second World War when hers family moved to Cheltenham. She made friends with another girl on her new road whose father always grew lupins. Amazed by the display of colour they created she has been growing them ever since. Iris and her husband Alan now volunteer at Tom Hart Dyke’s garden at Lullingstone
1943-1952: Rhododendron yakushimanum
An evergreen species with bell-shaped white flowers, this plant was discovered on the Japanese island of Yakushima. The plants were first exhibited at Chelsea in 1947 to great acclaim. This species has been hugely influential in the development of rhododendrons for smaller gardens.
Plant Champion: Rodney Tucker age 70 – Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Retired environmental scientist Rodney spent a lot of my time working in Western China and was fascinated by the number of plants we now have in our gardens that grow profusely in the wild there. Asian rhododendrons were a particular favourite, he has lots of pictures of them growing wild in their natural habitat and particularly enjoys growing dwarf varieties like Rhododendron yakushimanum that are more manageable for gardens.
Plant Champion: Dorothy Wood age 59 – Hornchurch, Essex (originally Glasgow)
Dorothy grew up in Glasgow and inherited her love of roses from her father, a passionate rose-fancier. Rosa Iceberg was a particular favourite of his and Dorothy still grows it in her garden today. It has become a family joke that Dorothy is always “popping into the garden for ten minutes” only to emerge three hours later.
Plant Champion: Gareth Manning age 47 – Reading, Berkshire
A keen plantsman, Eddie lifelong passion for all trees and shrubby plants started in the mid-80s when a nurseryman (who was actually called Eddie) introduced him to Eddie’s White Wonder. It comepletely changed his mind about Cornus and he remembers it as the first plant he had that was truly out of the ordinary.
1973-1982: Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
This perennial grows up to 75cm high, has mauve flowers and glaucous leaves and can flower for almost the whole year. An Award of Garden Merit plant, it was named in honour of the plantsman E A Bowles and was first shown at Chelsea in 1982.
Plant Champion: Michaela Worthington age 37 – Bradford, West Yorkshire
Michaela only has a small garden so mainly tends to grow plants in pots. She loves Erysiums because of their beautiful colours but also because, despite being an unfussy and unpretentious sort of flower, they are always buzzing with life and are a great for bees, butterflies and lacewings. She works as a Forest School Practitioner and Teaching Assistant at a primary school and loves pottering about outside with the children and seeing how enthusiastic and excited they are about gardening and searching for bugs and insects.
1983-1992: Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’
Shown first at Chelsea in 1983, this plant was raised and selected from seed sent from America. It was the first heuchera to become widely popular as a flowering foliage plant, starting one of the major plant fashions of the last quarter century.
Plant Champion: Felicity Crabb age 26 – Christchurch, Dorset
Felicity is a Youth Arts Development Manager and runs a ‘creative allotment’ project in her local community. She thinks Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’ is a plant for everyone with its wonderful deep colours and hardy nature. She particularly likes it when they flower and produce stems topped with tiny white flowers creating a contrast to the robust & dense leaves at the base.
1993-2002: Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’)
Exhibited first in 2000, this geranium is tall and fast-growing, with violet-blue flowers streaked with red. It is probably the bestknown hardy geranium cultivar.
Plant Champion: Henry Grub age 15 – East Grinstead, West Sussex
Henry is a former finalist for RHS Young School Gardener of the Year where his passion, wealth of knowledge and flair for presenting impressed the judges for his category so much they dubbed him ‘a future Gardener’s World presenter’ and ‘a mini David Attenborough’. Henry has a soft spot for geraniums as they are his mother’s favourite and they have plenty in their garden.
2003-2012: Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’
Raised by Lynne Dibley of Dibleys Nurseries and making its debut at Chelsea in 2010, ‘Harlequin Blue’ has short flower stems and compact leaves. This plant won the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award in 2010.
Plant Champion: Rosie Ghuman age 8 – London
Rosie is one of the keenest young gardeners at Charlton Manor Primary School. She is part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and is always out in the school garden at playtime. Rosie lives in a flat and doesn’t have a garden at home so loves houseplants like Streptocarpus that are easy to keep. She loves ‘Harlequin Blue’ for it’s pretty blue and yellow flowers and has noticed that it’s good for forgetful people as it doesn’t need too much watering.
To hear each plant champion promote his/her plant, and to vote for your choice, visit the RHS Plant of the Centenary voting page.