Sadly, the rest of this page must be regarded as merely recent history. None of the
sites linked at the bottom of the page carry up-
Harlow Carr never resumed trials after 2004, while the RHS has high-
One almost certain outcome will be that any English trials will avoid the compromises enforced by fitting into the RHS scheme of things, such as the absurdity of awarding a Preliminary Commendation where there is no provision for review leading to a subsequent award. Cooltonagh welcomes the prospect of a good new design that takes account of current realities.
Trials in the 2000s
The Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley in Surrey was one of the trial locations. Seed was sown in the Autumn and the plants were grown cordon fashion up bamboo canes, as keen exhibitors would grow them, and also in bush style on cylindrical wire supports to show how the candidate varieties would look in the average garden.
At the Harlow Carr garden near Harrogate, in Yorkshire, similar trials were held.
In both places the National Sweet Pea Society and the horticultural society formed
joint judging panels. Harlow Carr was managed by the Northern Horticultural Society
until its merger with the RHS in 2001, and RHS members have free entry to both gardens.
The admission fees to these two wonderful gardens provided access to all their trials,
including the joint Sweet Pea trials, which were normally at their best in mid-
Before the merger, the NHS had a commendably simple scheme for awards: a variety could win Gold, Silver, or Bronze awards for exhibition qualities, and the same three award levels were available for garden effect. After the merger, both the English trials operated the RHS system, giving the AGM (Award for Garden Merit) for garden effect and the First Class Certificate (FCC), Award of Merit (AM), and Preliminary Commendation (PC) for exhibition qualities.
In England, the highest award for exhibition qualities, the FCC, was hardly ever awarded. In principle, the NSPS can still award Silver and even Gold medals to deserving varieties, but has not had occasion to do so for many years. However, an award established to commemorate an outstanding amateur hybridist, F C Harriss, was given annually for the best seedling of the year at the Wisley trials: the F C Harriss award was won by our Dave Thomas in 1997, Florencecourt in 1999, Chris Harrod in 2005, and Karen Harrod in 2006. A comparable new award was established in 2004 to commemorate Mr George Priestley. He was one of the founders of the Harlow Carr trials, and the award was originally for the best seedling there. Our cerise flushed Olympic Flame was the first seedling to win this distinction. Unfortunately all trials at Harlow Carr ceased after 2004, and will not be resumed until other priorities have been attended to.
The Scottish National Sweet Pea, Rose and Carnation Society (SNSPS for short) holds its trials in Glasgow, sowing seed in late winter and growing the plants on the cordon system only. In Scotland it is held that a pea that has good exhibition qualities will also give a good garden effect. The Scottish display is held in the beautiful walled garden at Bellahouston Park, worth a visit at any time of year but most colourful when the Sweet Pea come into flower in July each year.
The Scottish award system is quite different from the RHS system: Gold Medals are very rare indeed, Silver Medals are as rare as the English FCC, while one or two Scottish FCCs are awarded in good years, and a few Scottish Certificates of Merit (CoM) are awarded in most years, perhaps a little more liberally than the English PC.
There is more detailed information about the Wisley trials on the RHS web-