AGM container plants
Words: Graham Rice
Stylish summer container plants are making a splash in garden centres at this time of year, here are ten of the most impressive. All have received the accolade of the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Begonia 'Illumination Salmon Pink'
This semi-trailing begonia was one of the stars of last year’s Wisley trial. “Very floriferous,” said the judges. Although it trails effectively, it’s never thin around the crown and the mass of soft salmon pink, double and single flowers (on the same plant) are well balanced by dark green foliage. Trails to 60cm.
Calibrachoa Million Bells Trailing Pink ('Sunbelkupi')
These small-flowered, petunia relations have proved their value in recent years, trailing prolifically from baskets and tubs. The vivid magenta pink flowers, enhanced by a dark veins and a yellow throat, sit just above its slender leaves as the stems trail down in sheets. Also makes colourful groundcover. “One of the most vivid,” said the trial judges. Trails to 75cm.
A delightful, twiggy, well branched, little bush with neat, glossy, fresh green leaves, its slender deep red flowers each have a white band just behind the blue-black tip and spark out from the leaf joints over a very long season. Lovely as a demure but intriguing potted specimen, also integrates well towards the front of a mixed border. Height 60cm.
Dahlia 'Gallery Art Nouveau'
Gallery dahlias are perfect for containers, with double flowers large enough to have real impact but not out of proportion on short, bushy plants. ‘Gallery Art Nouveau’ is dark purple as the buds open, then paling on the tops of the petals. “Consistent free flowerer,” said the trial judges. Twelve of the series have AGMs. Height 70cm.
A bold, upright fuchsia with dark leaves which are tinted in olive green and flushed purple underneath. Slender, nodding, vivid scarlet orange flowers which flare at the tip are gathered in elegant clusters at the tips of the shoots. This is a perfect centrepiece for a container, with bushier plants around it. Pinch out for extra bushiness. Height 60cm.
Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight'
For foliage, this is outstanding. It’s vigorous, making a loose, semi-trailing mound of long shoots developing into a plant with real impact in large container – and the colour of those leaves: a vivid bright lime green with lemony hints. Superb in a large container with orange-flowered, purple-leaved cannas. Pinch out for a bushier look. Trails to 45cm.
Pelargonium 'Lady Plymouth'
This irresistible combination of foliage and fragrance makes a big and bushy plant, each dramatically lobed, grey green leaf finely edged in cream or white. The small lavender flowers are less remarkable but the lemony rose scent is superb. Just rub a leaf or, on a hot day, sit alongside and enjoy the fragrance. Height 45cm.
Petunia Surfinia Sky Blue ('Keilavbu')
One of the most delightful of these pioneering trailing petunias, and described as “astonishing” by the judges at the Wisley trial, the flowers open violet blue and fade harmoniously to lavender blue. It’s weather resistant, the new flowers overtop the old ones so it never needs dead heading – it’s even slightly scented. Trails to 80cm.
With extraordinary metallic purple, almost iridescent, long pointed foliage netted in deep green, almost black, veins - this is a stand out. There’s no foliage plant like it. Superb in a large container with cannas, purple penstemons or Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ (above). Pinch to reduce legginess. Sometimes called Persian Shield. Height 90cm.
Verbena Aztec Silver Magic ('Balazsilma')
Exquisitely soft silver lilac flowers over prettily divided, mildew resistant foliage. “Good flower cover with lots of upward facing flowers,” said the judges at the Wisley trial. The plants trail dramatically, yet they flower on the top of the container as well as all along the branches. Good with silver foliage. Trails to 70cm.