RHS names 7,000 of the best-performing plants

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Charity's new AGM list will help gardeners make more-informed choices

Some 7,000 plants from around the world have been named by the country’s leading gardening organisation, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), as the best performing for ordinary use. The revised list of plants, which will receive the charity’s coveted Award of Garden Merit (AGM), will be launched in London during the RHS Plant and Design Show on 19 February.

Ranging from herbs and house plants to trees and shrubs, the plants have been selected from the huge range available in the UK. The list is designed to help inform gardeners about those that will perform for them.

The AGM plants have all been recognised for their ability to meet the following criteria:
• Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions
• Of good constitution
• Essentially stable in form and colour
• Reasonably resistant to pests and diseases
• Available to buy in the UK

Potential AGM plants are nominated through two main routes – either by recommendations from RHS Plant Committees and specialists, or as a result of an RHS Plant Trial. All plants are subject to ratification by the relevant RHS Plant Committee, resulting in a robust selection process carried out by gardeners with a broad range of experience.

Originally instituted in 1992, the list has been completely reviewed by RHS Plant Committees, whose members include nurserymen and leading horticulturists, with assistance from plant societies and plant-group specialists. The review, which took place during 2012, was led by Dr John Grimshaw, Director of the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust.

As part of the overhaul, all existing AGM plants were reconsidered to ensure that they still met the stringent AGM criteria. Those that fell short were removed from the list, while new awards were made after round-table assessment by relevant committees or during RHS trials. Nearly 1,900 plants have had their AGM rescinded, and more than 1,400 additional plants have secured the award. Rescindments may have been made because the plant is no longer available, has been superseded by an even better plant, or has become prone to pests or disease.

Plants new to the 2013 list include tender orchids, the first time since 2002 that plants in this group have received the AGM. The crab apple Malus ‘Comtessa de Paris’, which has good shape, is healthy and has prolific crops of persistent yellow fruits, also makes an appearance, replacing Malus × zumi ‘Golden Hornet’, which is subject to scab, has poor shape and fruits that quickly turn brown.

Hybrid Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus), although praised by the RHS for general excellent qualities, did not make the list because they are mostly seed-raised, and are therefore subject to variability.

As part of its commitment to continually increase the robustness of the Award of Garden Merit, and to ensure it is a recommendation on which gardeners at every level can rely, the RHS will work with its seven main Plant Committees to review the AGM list on an annual basis.

The trialling of plant groups under-represented on the revised list and plant groups that have undergone extensive breeding programmes in recent years will be made a priority.

These include: Agapanthus, Digitalis, Erica, Euphorbia, Hamamelis, Helleborus, Heuchera, Hippeastrum, Solenostemon and strawberries.

On February 19 the RHS will also launch its new hardiness ratings. The ratings have been used to reassess all AGM plants by using data on the plant’s ability to tolerate a range of weather conditions.

The new hardiness ratings rank from H1 for growing in a heated glasshouse to H7 for the very hardiest of plants, giving gardeners a more useful guide than the former H1–H4 system.

RHS Director of Horticulture Jim Gardiner said: “The creation of the new hardiness ratings and the revised AGM list underline just why the RHS exists, to share the best in gardening.

“The knowledge and expertise of our trials forums and Plant Committees, and their dedication to share that knowledge with all gardeners, has resulted in systems that will help ensure we can all make the very best decisions about the plants we purchase.

“On seeing the RHS AGM logo gardeners should be confident that the plants they are purchasing have been objectively assessed to ensure they will perform as described.”



Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Garfield Myrie in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3060 or email garfieldmyrie@rhs.org.uk

For the RHS AGM list visit rhs.org.uk/agmplants

For the RHS trials programme 2013 and 2014 visit rhs.org.uk/plants

Photographs are available to download at www.picselect.com (register online free of charge)

RHS London Plant and Design Show

Venue: RHS Horticultural Halls (Lawrence & Lindley Hall)
Greycoat Street, Westminster, London SW1P 2PE

Date/Time: Tuesday 19 February 10am – 7pm
Wednesday 20 February 10am – 5pm

Tickets: Book tickets online at www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events  
RHS members FREE (with Membership Card)
Non-members tickets £8

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 200 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join  

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262