Chelsea Plant of the Year 2012, ‘Illumination Pink’, has been renamed to recognise the work of its creator, Thompson & Morgan plant breeder Charles Valin.
Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ has taken the gardening world by storm since its launch in 2012. Unusual blooms, repeat flowering and multiple stems keep this unusual cross-breed high on the Thompson & Morgan best seller list. But it has left the experts scratching their heads when it comes to classification.
In recognition of the work carried out by Charles Valin in creating this unique cross as part of Thompson & Morgan’s breeding programme, James Armitage, Principal Scientist of Horticultural Taxonomy at RHS Garden Wisley, has announced Digitalis x valinii as the correct botanical naming convention for all existing and future crosses of D. purpurea and D. canariensis. He said: “The clever use of island species in the creation of D. x valinii has paid rich dividends.”
Lauded as a revolutionary hybrid by RHS taxonomists, it was felt that a reclassification was needed to distinguish all present and future crosses of the UK native Digitalis purpurea and the exotic D. canariensis, while smoothing out confusion over previous naming conventions for its Canary Island parent. 19th Century taxonomists named the Canary Island foxglove Isoplexis canariensis in 1829, recognising its morphological and behavioural differences compared to others in the Digitalis genus, namely a shrubby and candelabra habit and differences in petal shape and flower positioning on the stem.
Modern studies have since indicated that the two genera should not be treated separately, and in 2012 the RHS recognised all Isoplexis as Digitalis, just as the first commercial cross was launched to the public by Thompson & Morgan. This reclassification outdated early naming suggestions for ‘Illumination Pink’ and its sister lines, such as Digiplexis, while Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ just didn’t do justice to the work involved in creating it. It’s common for new cultivars to be named after people, but to have a species named in your honour doesn’t happen very often and was more common in the era of the great plant hunters. Charles said: “I am humbled and grateful to receive such recognition for my work on Digitalis. Having a plant named after you certainly doesn’t happen every day!”
During his time with Thompson & Morgan, Charles has developed over 40 unique creations across a wide range of genera, while overseeing the seed and plant mail order specialist’s unique breeding programme. View a full list of Charles’ currently available introductions, but key lines alongside ‘Illumination Pink’ include the dwarf Buddleja ‘Buzz’ Series, the world’s first black double petunia ‘ Black Night’ and Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’. Several of Charles’ latest creations are being launched in the Thompson & Morgan 2016 Spring Catalogue. Watch this space!