Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame wins at Chelsea Flower Show

    Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame was crowned Plant of the Year 2021 at the Chelsea Flower Show. What makes this American Judas tree extra special is the changing colours of the leaves from red to orange and golden yellow. “It brings an autumnal feel to the garden all year round.”

    Hugh Povey met Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame
    Hugh Povey with the winning Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame (Photograph: Miranda Vrolijk

    Whether it’s April or October, the Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame brings an autumnal feel to the garden all year round. That’s why Hugh Povey, holder of the national Cercis canadensis collection in England, had been looking forward to exhibiting the tree at the Chelsea Flower Show on the original date in May. “The contrast with the other plants would have been even stronger at that time of year.” Nonetheless, even at the postponed edition in September, the Cercis still managed to impress the jury.

    Seven months of autumn

    With the Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame, breeder Dennis Werner of North Carolina State University in the US managed to combine both red and gold leaves in one shrub. A unique characteristic, that no other Judas tree has. Over the course of seven months, the leaves change colour from red to orange and eventually, golden yellow. Incidentally, the yellow leaves on the tree exhibited in the Chelsea Flower Show’s Great Pavilion were turning green. According to Povey, that was because of the tent. Outdoors, the leaves stay yellow. See photograph below.

    Photo Hugh Povey.

    Dutch dimension

    There was great interest in the new Cercis variety. More than twelve nurseries are growing the Eternal Flame by now across the United Kingdom, Germany, USA, France and the Netherlands, among other places. The Judas trees at the Chelsea Flower Show, for example, were supplied by nursery Wm. J. Hooftman from Boskoop.

    Breeder Walter Gardens’ allium Lavender Bubbles came second, and Daniel Michael’s X semponium Sienna was awarded third place. The semponium is a cross between sempervivum and aeonium.

    Allium ‘Lavender Bubbles’. (Photo Miranda Vrolijk).
    x Semponium ‘Sienna’. (Photo Miranda Vrolijk).
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