The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a hotbed of new plants and innovations, but it’s not just flowers and gardens that are on display. The showground is also liberally seasoned with a range of new fruit and veg varieties to tantalise your taste buds. These five plants were entered into Chelsea Plant of the Year and one of them actually won. To be botanically correct they are all fruits, but unless you want to add sugar to your peppers and chillies, some are more savoury and veg-like.
Mulberry CHARLOTTE RUSSE (‘Matsunaga’): RHS Chelsea Plant of the year 2017
This neat little mulberry tree has won the 2017 RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year award. Mulberry trees are traditionally large and slow to reach fruiting maturity; this one breaks all the rules. It’s the result of a lifetime of breeding by 89 year-old Hajime Matsunaga. This compact dwarf mulberry tree is perfect for small gardens and patios as it reaches a height of just 1.5m. It is self-pollinating and produces flavoursome berries from June to September, even on plants that are just a year old. This easy to grow variety will be happy in a large container on the patio or planted in the garden in a sunny position.
Malus × purpurea ‘Crimson Cascade’
Crab apples are a very underrated crop. They make fabulous jelly for winter preserves and add a little chilli to the mix and you’ve got a high value jar rich in vitamins too. This one is the result of some breeding by Dr Alan Warwick. He had enjoyed growing Malus × purpurea ‘Aldenhamensis’ in his garden and grew some seedlings from its fruit. One of the seedlings exhibited a weeping habit and, after growing it for 10 years, it maintained this form. It turned out to be a brand new cultivar of Malus. Malus × purpurea ‘Crimson Cascade’ and is proving to be a handsome small tree with a floral charm matching that of ornamental cherries. It’s fantastic choice, either as a standalone feature tree or incorporated into a mixed border. It is shade tolerant, although the flowers and following fruit truly come alive in the sunshine. The gracefully arching, weeping habit gives rise to purplish foliage in spring together with vibrant crimson single or semi-double flowers that develop p into deep red purple fruits. In later summer to autumn, the foliage turns a bronze.
Strawberry JUST ADD CREAM (‘Tmstr14pnk’)
This is the result of a breeding programme designed to combine the flavour of old fashioned varieties with modern ever bearers and ornamental pink- flowered strawberries. After 8 years of breeding, Thompson & Morgan introduced Fragaria x ananassa JUST ADD CREAM ‘Tmstr14pnk’, an ever bearer with an intense alpine taste, displaying masses of pink flowers and delicious fruits from May until the first frost. The fruits are very sweet with a strong wild strawberry aroma. The flavour is stronger than varieties with a similar aroma note, like ‘Mara des Bois’ and ‘Charlotte’. Few runners are produced, resulting in yields of up to 1kg per plant.
Chilli pepper ‘Dragon’s Breath’
Some like it hot and if you do then this fiery chilli is one for you. Developed in collaboration of Nottingham Trent University it has a staggering heat rating of 2.48 Million SHU (Scoville Heat Units), which breaks the current record by some margin. The chilli has been registered with the Guinness World Records. The plant will last for many years giving an abundance of fruit every year and has many medical uses, including numbing the skin for those having an allergic reaction to anaesthetic. The plant would live happily on a windowsill, conservatory or glasshouse but is not suitable to grow outside in the UK due to fluctuations in temperature. Available from Tom Smith Plants.
Sweet pepper ‘Popti’
If you prefer to have the flavour of sweet peppers without the fiery explosion then Pepper ‘Popti’ is a good new variety. It’s a compact-growing sweet bell pepper that is very well branched and suitable for container growing in a cold greenhouse or outside in a sheltered south- facing location. The fruit are mid-sized, being 5-6cm in length, weigh 70-80g and ripen from light green to bright red. The plants are resistant to several diseases but more importantly these peppers are early to ripen and produce a very prolific crop, ideal for the UK climate. One relatively compact plant can produce more than 20 fruits in a season. From Pennard Plants.