The Award of Garden Merit is one of the highest accolades a plant can officially acquire under the jurisdiction of the Royal Horticultural Society. I always smile at the British understatement in the official explanation:
AGM plants are:
- Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions
- Of good constitution
- Essentially stable in form & colour
- Reasonably resistant to pests & diseases
Though the wording is restrained (I often wonder how ‘excellent’ crept in there), it’s probably fair to say that AGM is the plant world’s equivalent of an impressive LinkedIn profile. It shows that influential people are willing to vouch for the variety.
Sadly, the runner-up award (RG) didn’t really catch on. RG plants are:
- Possible for ordinary use in appropriate conditions
- Quite hard to find
- Temperamentally unsound
- You’re unlikely to end up with what’s shown in the picture
- Afflicted by critters and/or host to at least one debilitating disease
Ok, I confess, I was only teasing about the Rather Grotty Plant award. How many bullet points did you have to read before you caught me out?
Though I’m not entirely convinced by the methodology behind the AGM (why would a list that numbers 34 penstemons not include a single hellebore?), many of my favourite cultivars are listed – the iridescent Penstemon ‘Stapleford Gem’, for example. I imagine some plantspeople lobby for their favourites and specialities more heavily than others.
The AGM may be cautiously worded, but it gives British gardeners over 7,500 tried and tested plants with good reputations that they can consider when thinking about planting schemes. That’s not to be sniffed at.