Maverick Life


SA flower wins Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show

SA flower wins Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show
Agapanthus Black Jack wins Plant of the Year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. (Image: Andy de Wet / Supplied)

A variety of the herbaceous perennial from Hartbeespoort has landed the Plant of the Year award at the UK’s premier gardening event.

With its striking blooms in vibrant purple, the Agapanthus Black Jack stands tall at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show in London, and it has every reason to. This week the plant was named the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Plant of the Year, a prestigious award for the creation out of the heart of North West.

Developed at De Wet Breeders in Hartbeespoort by Andy de Wet and Quinton Bean, the Agapanthus Black Jack boasts up to 10 times more florets per flowerhead than other varieties, according to the RHS. Each stem is packed full of bloom and colour, with eye-catching striped florets in deep purple shades. 

Agapanthus BLACK JACK (‘Dwaghyb02’) at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Image: Andy De Wet / Supplied

Agapanthus Black Jack at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. (Photo: Andy De Wet / Supplied)

According to the breeders, the Black Jack is perfect for gardens, with a longer flowering season than the traditional agapanthus.

“We are overwhelmed,” De Wet told Daily Maverick. 

“Quinton [Bean] and I are both just regular plant nerds, you know. To be able to get this achievement, it’s really something special.”

De Wet may be a regular plant nerd, but this perhaps discounts the immense amount of work that went into developing this plant. Black Jack has been in development for more than 18 years, refined by patience, learning and trial and error.

“It is a scientifically intense, extensive breeding programme, done at the highest standards, to achieve plants that are better than what’s out there in the marketplace,” De Wet explained.

The breeders hand pollinate all their plants, carefully evaluating the progeny of each result. De Wet and Bean handle about 12,000 seeds every year and they have to know the parentage of each one.

“We keep tags and a spreadsheet of the names of all the combinations that we do,” De Wet explained. 

From there, the best results are selected, based on a variety of criteria, including growth pattern, leaf structure, health of the plant and stylistic features.

Each iteration will, hopefully, get the breeders closer to what they want, but it is a time-consuming and painstaking process that requires dedication and persistence.

“From there, we do a sub-selection. So, out of the 12,000, we will pick about 500 – that will be our first sub-selection, which we will then grow up to become mature plants.

“Then, when they flower as mature plants, we will pick maybe one in 10, or one in 20 to have a look at. From this batch, we end up with about 10 plants out of the 12,000.” 

The result is a South African agapanthus that is shining on an international stage.

“What makes it special is that it’s a unique colour; it just speaks to you. And it’s got very big, full flowerheads,” said De Wet. 

“Black Jack sets a new benchmark for dark-flowered agapanthus,” said Patrick Fairweather of Fairweather’s Nursery in Hampshire in the UK, where the plant was trialled.

“The umbels are huge, rounded and densely packed, with up to 100 florets for an extended blooming season. Requiring some frost protection, it’s perfect for terraces, balconies and small gardens, and is low maintenance and drought-tolerant,” added Fairweather. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Brent Record says:

    Congratulations to these botanical scientists for adding some new colour to our natural environment.
    Ex Afrika semper aliquid novi.
    from Oom Louw Bettrie

  • Bryan Shepstone says:

    Yay! Well done Andy and Quinton 👍😁

  • Mario Cremonte says:

    Andy is truly a wonderful man who provided so much help to my wife Pat in bringing her Linbro Park garden alive in Sandton!
    Well done Dr Andy De Wet and Quinton on your momentous achievement!! Complete plant nerds indeed, haha.
    All love Pat and Mario

  • Ansie du Toit says:

    Fantastic, congratulations!

  • Keith Mackie says:

    That really is a great cultivar and an impressive amount ot work. I will definitely be looking to get one for my garden
    Mention of Chelsea, however, brings to mind my late wife’s two friends now also passed: Careen Roux and David Davidson and a question: Does South Africa still command gold at Chelsea?

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