Our annual plant trials are now an established treat for the Richard Jacksons Gardening Club members. This year, 145 of them put their gardening skills to the test to grow some brand new plants, not currently available elsewhere from some of our regular plant suppliers on QVC: Kerley & Co, Montrose of Guernsey, Plants2Gardens and Thompson & Morgan. It was a tricky season, due to the testing conditions that the hot, dry summer weather threw at them.
Here are their unbiased and independent conclusions on the best varieties on test.
Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy Pink Halo’ (Plants2Garden)
This is a lovely summer bedding marguerite that is covered in large (6cm/2½in) bright pink flowers with a central yellow halo.
Most of our triallists loved this, mainly thanks to the huge number of flowers that each compact plant produced for months on end. Most plants started flowering during the first week of June, although one triallist had their first flowers on 12 May, and they were still blooming prolifically in late September when the trial report forms were returned to us. As Wendy Shaw said: “Masses of flowers and the plants seemed slug and snail proof! Nothing at all not to like.”
Dianthus ‘Devine Neon Purple’ (Plants2Garden)
One of a new breed of carnations, this variety produces luminous purple-pink flowers on compact, but spreading plants.
Several triallists reported that the plants started flowering one or two weeks after planting in April and, while there was some variation, most reported that the plants continued to flower until the end of August. The comments included “tonnes of flowers”, “I loved the masses of purple-pink flowers”, “So easy; tons of flowers” and “Pretty colour, compact, no problems”. Nick Howell, who planted some in a hanging basket said: “I can’t believe how many flowers are on show. Just three plants completely filled a 30cm/12in basket.” The only drawback, as pointed out by some triallists is that it isn’t scented! As Caroline Bowman commented: “I liked it, but it would have been even nicer if it was fragrant.”
Lilium ‘Madelaine’ (Montrose of Guernsey)
This is an Oriental lily producing flowers with a delicate, cream-coloured heart fanning out to a pink flame surrounded by a beautiful explosion of burgundy/purple freckles. They are lightly scented with a soft, sweet aroma.
This had mixed reviews with our triallists. Some had petals that burnt/browned in strong sunlight. The large flower buds made the stems very top heavy, bend over and they needed staking. Others reported that theirs had lovely large – even “massive” 23cm/9in across – flowers on sturdy stems. Flowering length ranged from two to six weeks. The scent was very much enjoyed and regarded as being lovely and not overpowering like some lilies can be. Some triallists reported that these lilies weren’t, unlike other lilies in their garden, attacked by lily beetle.
Lilium ‘Pink Romance’ (Montrose of Guernsey)
An Oriental lily that produces large, cup-shaped, fuchsia pink flowers with a delicate sweet scent.
All the triallists remarked on how compact and bushy the plants were and the number of big, bold flowers – up to seven per stem, but averaging five. Brian Johnson said: “The best lily I have ever grown.” They also loved the fragrance, with comments from “fab and heady”, “beautiful” and “wonderful”. But some triallists did say that the plants didn’t flower for long, some as short as two weeks, which may have been due to the hot summer weather.
Lilium ‘Bright Joy’ (Montrose of Guernsey)
This Asiatic lily produces large flowers in a shade of warm orange with yellow spotted centres with a delicious scent.
Our triallists loved the compact, sturdy plants and the unusual two-toned colouring of the flowers. While some made reference to and loved the scent, most didn’t mention it. Most of the plants on trial, like ‘Pink Romance’, flowered for two weeks.
Nemesia ‘Honey Dark Yellow’ (Plants2Garden)
This new colour in the Honey series produces compact, upright plants that have bright yellow flowers with a darker centre and paler yellow edges.
The majority of the triallists adored the colour and the continuous, constant, abundant flowering with little maintenance. Most noted that plants started flowering in mid-June, but some started even earlier. While the plants at some locations tolerated this summer’s hot, dry conditions well and still had flowers in late September, others had plants that had literally burnt out by the middle or end of August.
Petunia ‘Surfinia Coral Morn’ (Plants2Garden)
‘Surfinia Coral Morn’ adds a new colour combination to the popular Surfinia range, with plants covered in coral pink edged flowers all summer long until the first severe autumn frosts.
This variety was even very popular with some triallists who weren’t normally fans of petunias! As Amanda Davies said: “This has converted me.” Most triallists had plants continuously in flower from May to the end of September, they loved the vibrant colours, the masses of flowers produced and the delicate evening scent.
Petunia ‘Designer Buzz Purple’ (Plants2Garden)
This new semi-trailing petunia is perfect for hanging baskets, containers as well as beds and borders. It produces large, rain-resistant, purple flowers with a contrasting lime green edge.
This one wasn’t so popular. Although some liked the flower colour combo, others weren’t so keen. Malcolm Rowntree thought it didn’t look very summery and Terry Cullum said the green merged into the foliage and was lost. But most agreed it had lots of flowers. Jason Hodges commented: “I didn’t deadhead, but this didn’t stop it flowering.”
Petunia ‘TEA Light Violet’ (Kerley & Co)
This petunia is very free flowering, producing large flowers. They are rain resistant and very mildew disease tolerant, the main scourge of petunias.
All the triallists loved how easy it was to grow, how bushy and healthy the plants were and the numerous flowers that were produced continuously for many weeks – from late May/early June to still being in flower when the trial ended at the beginning of October. Anne Bosworth said: “It has spread the length of the planter and over the sides, and had upwards of 100 flowers.” Alison Custance and Joanne Shelley both commented on how easy it was to grow and loved the colour. Alison added that it was robust – and survived the summer drought!
We would like to say a big thank you to all the Gardening Club members who took part. We were delighted with your responses and appreciate the time, effort and enthusiastic participation. And, of course, to the nurseries who supplied the plants free of charge.
If you’re feeling left out, make sure you put your name forward for the 2019 trials when we launch them in January. Full details will be available on the Richard Jackson’s Garden website and Gardening Club members will find out on the monthly newsletter sent via email in January, you can sign up for FREE here.