A Great Pavilion exhibit without a single decorative bloom on show has again charmed judges into awarding a Chelsea Gold Medal to Scots potato aficionados Morrice and Ann Innes.
The exhibit, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, acts as a simple showcase, highlighting more than 140 varieties, and traces the origins of the potato while drawing attention to its diversity and versatility in the garden and kitchen. Morrice of Old Town, Aberdeen, claims to have the largest private collection of potato varieties, built up over 20 years, and has long championed his favourite vegetable.
In 2015 Morrice and Ann took the first ever Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history. Having followed judges recommendations for 2016 by giving the tubers more breathing space on a bigger stand, they have done it again.
Many of the potatoes on display this year come from Morrice’s unofficial national collection of over 300 varieties, and include original South American species as well as historical European heritage varieties such as Karaparea, which was taken to New Zealand by Captain James Cook in the 1770s. The exhibit is completed with some 50 modern varieties grown from Thompson & Morgan seed potatoes including blight resistant main crop Sarpo Axona and high-yielding salad potato Jazzy, currently the mail order supplier’s best seller.
The modest, yet impactful display also includes several plants of wild potato species which were the starting point of many of today’s cultivated varieties. Seeds of these species varieties were supplied by The James Hutton Institute and grown in containers by Thompson & Morgan’s horticultural team in Ipswich. Visitors to the show have commented on the surprisingly pretty flowers of these wild forms.
Morrice said: “We’ve tried to tell the tale of the potato by highlighting a vast array of skin colours, shapes and sizes, while suggesting the best uses of each variety and the places where they come from. You won’t find many of the varieties for sale at the supermarket. Hopefully we’ll help inspire more people to grow potatoes and to try some of the more unusual forms while they are at it.”
Thompson & Morgan has worked with Morrice and Ann in the past, scooping silver and bronze medals at previous RHS shows, and is delighted to see a second Gold Medal awarded to the nation’s favourite vegetable. Thompson & Morgan Vegetable Product Manager, Colin Randel, worked with Morrice to set a world record for the largest display of potato varieties at the 2004 Shrewsbury Flower Show. He said: “Amongst all the glitz, glamour and colour of the world’s most prestigious flower show, it’s great to see a homage to the humble potato stand out from the crowd to scoop another Gold Medal. Morrice and Ann have put on a fantastic display again this year. There’s pretty much every potato colour under the sun on show, from very old varieties right up to our latest hot potato, Jazzy.”