The plant that became a global superstar
Published 7 June 2013
The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013 and, to mark the occasion, asked the public to vote for their Plant of the Centenary. In acknowledgement of 100 glorious years of amateur gardeners, the RHS convened a panel of horticultural experts to select their top 10 plants launched at the show since it was first held in 1913; one for each of its 10 decades.
These ten candidates, each now bearing the accolade Plant of the Decade, were thereby competing for a title combining the endorsement of expert opinion and public popularity.
And the winner is...
The plant which came out on top was a Hardy Geranium called Rozanne®. This powerhouse of a perennial won its stripes through offering a continuous stream of white-centred violet-blue flowers over an exceptionally long blooming period – late spring right through till first hard autumn frosts – and robust constitution that makes it as foolproof as a Geranium can be. It’s also more versatile than most people would expect, being as good trailing alone out of a hanging basket or patio containiner as it is in the mixed border or even in large-scale landscape plantings. Its densely sprawling nature keeps weeds at bay while its flowers give bees the nectar they need. What’s not to like?
Unsurprisingly, these credentials had already earned Rozanne® the highly regarded RHS Award of Garden Merit and much sought-after (USA) Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year (2008).
So where does a plant like this come from? How can we all get to see these claims in action? And what if we want to have a go at breeding plants ourselves? The answers to these questions weave into a neat little circle.
From village life to the global stage
Geranium Rozanne® ('Gerwat'), to give it its full name, started life in a sleepy Somerset village in the garden of Donald and Rozanne Waterer. No prizes now for guessing where the name comes from! Rozanne Waterer was a keen amateur gardener who grew seeds collected from the Geraniums in her garden. When she noticed one of her seedlings outperforming anything her, and her ex-professional nurseryman husband, had ever known, the couple set about bringing it to the attention of Geranium experts.
This trail of enquiry soon led to world-renowned plantsman and pioneering designer Adrian Bloom, who agreed this was indeed an exeptional plant which deserved the exceptional efforts, which it later emerged were needed, to put it into mass production. He trialled Rozanne® at his world-famous Bressingham Gardens and arranged for other trials to be done around the world to test for climate adaptability. Whatever the weather threw at Rozanne®, she handled it.
Challenges along the way
But despite her unrelenting strength in the garden, Rozanne® proved stubborn when it came to large-scale propagation. Determined that the gardening public would not be deprived of the opportunity to grow Rozanne® Adrian got a team of world-leading experts on-board to ‘crack the code’ which enabled accurate and reliable reproduction.
The plant was introduced to the global marketplace with patent protection via the Plant Breeders’ Rights scheme which secured royalty payments to The Waterers, and now their descendents, in recognition of their contribution to the gardening world.
Adrian Bloom went on to introduce Geranium Rozanne® to the public in a blaze of magificence at the Chelsea Flower Show 2000, where his garden design had it spilling out of a Norfolk flint well.
Since then, Adrian went on to create his now iconic River of Rozanne® at the Bressingham Gardens, where it can be seen flowing through The Summer Garden (one of several themed gardens at Bressingham), providing a beautiful bond between various other perennials and ornamental grasses - including the National Collection of Miscanthus for the British Isles.
This river concept, demonstrated in a number of Adrian’s gardens around the world, provides a continuous stream of colour that binds together the various plants around it as they fade in and out of bloom. Generally, this task falls to colourful foliage plants such as Heuchera ‘Prince’, Hakonechloa macra and Ophiopogon planiscapus. But with her exceptionally long blooming period, Geranium Rozanne® is one of only a few flowering perennials to put on such a magnificent show, her violet-blue flowers giving the river the colour it really ought to be!
See Geranium Rozanne® at The Bressingham Gardens
The Bressingham Gardens, which also incorporates the Bressingham Steam Museum and Dad’s Army Museum is open to the public from March till October. If you want to check out Geranium Rozanne’s credentials, this is undoubtedly the place to do it! But of course that’s not all, as this 17 acre site comprising a number of themed gardens representing different plant types and design concepts is a paradise for all, from the casual observer to the dedicated gardener or gardening professional. Hundreds of conifers, shrubs and perennials, including a host of award-winning varieties can be seen doing what they do best here.
Representing the pinnacle of garden design innovation through several decades The Bressingham Gardens showcase inspirational design concepts that can easily be applied to smaller gardens. A visit here is as relevant to the owner of a modest garden as it is to those studying horticulture and design or working professionally in the gardening industry. More information on the Bressingham Gardens website TheBressinghamGardens.com.
Want to have a go yourself?
The perennial plants offered to today’s gardeners originate in a wide range of ways. Some are the result of professional breeding programs. Many others, such as Geranium Rozanne®, come about through the endeavours of members of the public who either collect and grow seeds (as Rozanne Waterer did) or simply discover a naturally occurring mutation or seedling in their garden.
Thanks to the Plant Breeders’ Rights scheme and the assistance provided by companies such as Must Have Perennials™, who brought Geranium Rozanne® and hundreds of other plants to the global marketplace, anybody who believes they have a unique and desirable new variety on their hands has the opportunity to submit it for possible introduction. Successful varieties – those which are adjudged to be both genuinely different and offer exceptional garden performance – have the potential to be sold in their millions, giving the breeder immense satisfaction of contributing to other gardeners’ enjoyment while earning then royalty fees. To find out more about plants brought to market by Must Have Perennials™ and how to submit your potential new varieties go to BloomsofBressinghamPlants.com.
A message from Adrian Bloom
"It was great news to hear that the hardy Geranium Rozanne has been voted the Royal Horticulture Society’s Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Centenary. Whilst there were nine other great plants shortlisted for each decade since the first Chelsea Flower Show in 1913, I feel Geranium Rozanne, nominated for the decade 1993-2002, to have been a worthy winner by popular vote. I have had this perennial growing within sight of our kitchen window for the past 20 years in our garden Foggy Bottom at Bressingham Gardens, and know how good a plant it is.
“We introduced Geranium Rozanne at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2000 showing it overflowing a well made of Norfolk flint which created a dramatic effect. Since then it has a track record second to none and has sold millions of plants across the world, giving great success to gardeners in many different climates. It has seldom disappointed, and more to the point, anyone who has so far not grown a plant in the garden or on their patio should do so, as it is almost certain to give success and enjoyment for years to come".
Notes to editors
Click for further reading about Geranium Rozanne's attributes and history (NOTE: this opens a page located in the consumer part of this website)
If you would like to visit the Bressingham Gardens to create your own unique story, interview Adrian Bloom, or request unwatermarked and high resolution images (see link below), contact Miriam Young Miriam@plantingstories.com.
A selection of images showing Geranium Rozanne® in use at The Bressingham Gardens, other public gardens and as an individual plant are availavle to illustrate this story. View photographs.