History of the Spray Chrysanthemum

This page is a reproduction of the article written by Richard Patrick and included in The NCS Publication " Spray Chrysanthemums".

During the last decade the growth of both the early and late spray has been enormous. Prior to 1976 the National show called for vases of sprays with no real rules to assist the judging of them.

Early Sprays
The introduction in the early seventies of the Early Flowering Spray championship class at National level saw it progress from 9 vases (sponsored by the Elm House Nurseries) with as many stems as could be got in a vase, until 1976 when the class changed to 9 vases with 5 stems in a vase.

In 1979 it went down to 6 vases of 5 stems (terminal). 1979 also saw new rules specifically aimed at judging sprays.

1980 saw the introduction of a silver medal for the best vase of sprays.

1984 saw the re-introduction of 9 vases of 5 stems with the need to use more than one section of cultivars. The aim of this was to encourage exhibitors to grow singles and anemones, as at that time the doubles dominated the section. It also was the year of a new trophy, with the 9 vase class becoming the Harold Walker Trophy, and a new trophy for the six vase class The George Barker Trophy.

The growth of the early spray was encouraged with the release by Riley's of the wonderful Pennine Range. They continued to dominate the early spray classes until the early eighties when sprays raised by Don Horn became excellent exhibition subjects. With the introduction of the Enbee prefix varieties raised by Basil Masters the "single" moved up another division. The Wedding family are almost unbeatable and will be on the showbench for many years to come.

The Southway varieties raised by Rod Fox, and the Mancettas raised by George Freestone during the early-eighties, have given a constant supply of new and exciting cultivars together with some of the more recent being raised by amateurs. This in itself is an exciting prospect and a very welcome development.

The changes in 1984 resulted in an explosion of top class single cultivars, currently almost to the detriment of the doubles. The need for some new top class exhibition doubles is now very apparent at most shows.

1986 saw more changes to the rules for judging and exhibiting with these changes lasting until 1994 when once again changes were made.

1994 also saw another major bench mark with the introduction of two best vases - one for the best double and one for the best single or anemone.

Late Sprays
The late spray introduced at National level in 1979 has made steady progress. 1980 saw the introduction of a championship class for the Frank Rowe Trophy for six vases of 3 stems; also this year a silver medal was awarded for the best vase of sprays.

Most of the cultivars were introduced by Philip Rowe and cultivars like Rynoon and Robeam along with Barrie Machin's Pink Gin family are still amongst the top exhibition cultivars today some 15 years further on. In fact, apart from Pink Gin, all the best in shows since 1980 have been Rowe varieties.

We owe many, many thanks to the Rowe family for developing late sprays and especially to Philip Rowe who took a very personal interest in both exhibition and garden sprays. We have in the early 1990s seen Riley's nursery introduce some new cultivars but there is a desperate need for new cultivars in this section of our beloved flower. As yet the amateur has made no impact on the breeding of late sprays so why not have a go. The challenge is exciting and there is an excellent article on breeding from Rod Fox later in the book.