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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Recent Comments

  • Coreopsis ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’: New from Mr Fothergill’s

    Graham Rice on 22 Apr 2014 at 02:05 PM
    Coreopsis 'Solanna Golden Sphere' is a tough and prolific new perennial. Image ©DanzigerI know there are gardeners who see perennial coreopsis more as workhorses of the summer garden than plants with character and style but perhaps ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’ (left, click to enlarge) will spark some affection as well as admiration for being dependable and tough.

    Developed in Israel, and propagated by division rather than seed so plants are always of a reliably high quality, the dark green foliage makes a neat mound. The bright, sunny yellow flowers open from May to October, each is fully double, with a slightly darker centre. Held one per stem, they are good for cutting and last well in water.

    It’s worth noting that this is a plant that rewards gardeners who nip off the fading flowers with secateurs or the kitchen scissors as this encourages more buds to develop. Plants should still flower right through until autumn without dead heading but they will look more attractive and less messy – and there will be more flowers open at any given time – if the dead blooms are snipped of at the base of their stems.

    This is a very hardy perennial which can be planted in a container for its first summer then moved into the border before winter, or can be planted direct into any reasonable soil in a sunny place.

    You can order plants of Coreopsis ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’ from Mr Fothergill’s (last orders for this season 30 April).


  • Veronica 'Blue Bomb': New from Parkers

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2014 at 04:21 PM
    Veronica 'Blue Bomb' is compact and long flowering. Image © Jan VershoorVeronicas, long lost in the second or third division of hardy perennials, have been making a name for themselves as cut flowers in recent years. Their long spikes and their lasting quality have encouraged florists to take them up.

    But while plant breeders have been developing new varieties for cutting, they’ve not forgotten gardeners and the latest addition to the gardener’s range is Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’.

    Developed in Holland by Jan Vershoor, well known for his phlox and other perennials, this is a very distinctive plant with tall straight stems which branch repeatedly at their tips to create a cluster of short blue spikes.

    Plants reach about 45-60cm in height, with fresh green foliage which makes a good background to show off the flower heads, and they have a very long flowering season - May to September - which is exactly what so many gardeners need now that gardens are getting smaller: every plant must give its best for as long as possible. So a long flowering plant like Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’ with an extended season of colour is ideal in a small space. And the clumps fatten up steadily without ever becoming a nuisance.

    You can order Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’ from J. Parkers.



  • Colourful new fragrant antirrhinums

    Graham Rice on 20 Mar 2014 at 04:38 PM

    Antirinca Antirrhinums are both colourful and fragrant.Most gardeners enjoy antirrhinums but the familiar traditional types have been joined by a number of colourful and interesting new varieties, such as the Antirinca Series (above, click to enlarge). At once it’s clear that they’re different.

    Upright in growth and reaching about 30-40cm, the rich, dark green foliage is tightly packed on the stems and is the ideal background to show off the flowers – which are unique. We’ve seen antirrhinums with flared flowers before, but nothing as colourful and striking as these. And one thing that’s often forgotten is that bees, familiar with the traditional snapdragon flower, find it very difficult to pollinate these flared flowers and the result is that each individual flower lasts much longer before fading and so significantly extending the display.

    Each flower is in fact bicoloured, with a patch of dark contrasting colour in the throat. There are four colours in the series: Bronze Apricot (above centre, click to enlarge) has apricot-and-peach flowers with deep orange centres; Peachy has pink and pale apricot flowers; Rose (above left) has pale pink flowers with a deep pink centre; Yellow Maroon (above right) has yellow flowers with contrasting red centres. In addition to the lovely colouring they’re all scented.

    These are ideal plants for sunny containers, nip off the individual flowers as they fade and when each spike is over cut it off just above the leaves to encourage more to develop. These plants are raised from cuttings so there will be no annoying off-types.

    You can order plants of Antirrhinum ‘Antirinca’ from Dobies (order by 11 April), from Suttons (order by 11 April) and from Thompson and Morgan (order by 31 March) and you well also find them in good garden centres.


  • Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2014 at 12:35 PM
    Agastache 'Arcado Pink' flowers in its first year from a spring sowing. Image ©FleuroselectIn recent years, more and more agastaches have appeared in catalogues and many of them are very good plants - but few seem have really taken off and become widely popular. Perhaps this one will prove to be the exception.

    This is a first year flowering perennial - if seed is sown early in spring it will flower from summer into autumn – and, as can be seen in the picture (above, click to enlarge), it’s extraordinarily productive. The following year it will start to come into flower earlier.

    The spikes of vivid purple-pink flowers open over a long season above fresh green aromatic foliage and are unusually attractive to butterflies, bees and many other beneficial insects. Plants reach about 2ft/60cm and branch well from the base to create a mass of flowers. They’re good for cutting, too; cut when the spikes are about half open and be sure to add flower food to the water. They should last about ten days.

    ‘Arcado Pink’ is best in full sun and in a site that where the soil is fairly well drained. Good drainage will help ensure that plants overwinter well and start into growth early to begin a long summer and autumn display. Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ has been awarded Fleuroselect Approved Novelty Status.

    You can order seed of Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ from Plants of Distinction.



  • Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2014 at 03:35 PM
    Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M. Imes ©Thompson & MorganScented trailing begonias for hanging baskets – doesn't that sound marvelous? Well, here they are, after almost ten years development – the latest from the breeding work at Thompson & Morgan.

    T&M introduced ‘Aromatics’, the work of a Belgian breeder, in 2005 but they felt that the scent needed to be stronger and the colours needed to be better. So in 2006 they began to develop their own range and introduced ‘Fragrant Falls Apricot’ at Chelsea in 2011. Unfortunately, it proved rather difficult to propagate as it produced so few cuttings. But, now, after more development, T&M are introducing ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’, in three colours (left, click to enlarge) – all scented, all with double flowers.

    Each flower of ‘Apricot Delight’ features a blend of apricot shades with a rose fragrance while the flowers of ‘Lemon Fizz’ come in shades of lemon with a sharp citrus scent. The rose-scented ‘Rose Syllabub’ is pale pink with a dark pink picotee edge.

    All are ideal for hanging baskets, with a compact semi-trailing habit. They will bloom through the summer until frosts and even put on a good show in wet summers and on shady parts of the patio.

    You can order a collection of ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’ begonias from Thompson & Morgan. Or you can order Begonia ‘Apricot Delight’ and Begonia ‘Lemon Fizz’ and Begonia ‘Rose Syllabub’ separately.




  • Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’: Colourful flowers, fragrant foliage

    Graham Rice on 14 Feb 2014 at 01:21 PM
    Pelargonium 'Angel's Perfume' is ideal for basketsDevelopments in what we all call geraniums – zonal pelargoniums – are fast and furious around the world with new colours and colour combinations, and continual refinements and improvements in habit and reliability. Ivy-leaved geraniums, too, are steadily being improved and in recent years we’ve also seen better Regal pelargoniums, especially for outdoor containers. Now Angel pelargoniums are also in focus.

    Many of us will remember the long series of fine exhibits at flower shows from Derek Lloyd Dean who did such an admirable job ensuring that so many Angel pelargoniums were preserved. Now PAC-Elsner, for many years the world’s top pelargonium breeders, have turned their attention to these small-flowered prettily patterned Angel types in the form of the Angel Eyes Series – the latest of which adds aromatic foliage to the colourful flowers.

    ‘Angel’s Perfume’ features a mass of flowers, over a long summer season, each bloom made up of two burgundy upper petals and three pink lower petals splashed in burgundy. The plants start to bloom in June, continue into the autumn, and if containers are brought into the conservatory they should flower into the winter. Reaching 30-38cm in height, plants develop a spreading, slightly arching habit making them ideal in containers, especially as specimens.

    The final flourish - the perfume - comes in the form of the lemon-scented foliage giving this plant the rare combination of an amazingly colourful floral display plus aromatic leaves. Ideal in a patio container.

    By the way, just to be clear, the correct name for this plant is Angel’s Perfume (‘Pacperfu’) but some nurseries are selling it as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’.

    You can order Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’ from Thompson & Morgan and also, as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’, from de Jaeger and from J. Parker’s.



  • Three new Barnhaven double primroses

    Graham Rice on 06 Feb 2014 at 02:03 PM
    Three new Barnhaven primroses. Images ©Barnhaven PrimrosesBarnhaven is a name known the world over for primroses of all kinds, but for double primroses in particular. From their early days in Oregon to their present home in Brittany, Barnhaven Primroses have maintained the quality of their wide range of beautiful hardy, seed-raised primroses and polyanthus in colours found nowhere else.

    For so long, only seed was sent out by mail order and with double primroses in particular the results can be unpredictable. But, in recent years, Barnhaven have also been sending out plants and, at the same time, selected choice individual double flowered primroses have been named and propagated by division or tissue culture so that every single plant is guaranteed true.

    They have three new Barnhaven double primroses this season. Lynne Dawson who, with her husband David, now runs Barnhaven told me about them.

    “Pink double primroses are in great demand and seem to be the most difficult to create. The percentage of doubles that appear is less and the plants are often weak. ‘Pink Star’ (top, click to enlarge) is an exception, being vigorous and it divides easily – so we’re dividing it by hand. It has come from a cross between a double pink and our (single-flowered) ‘Candy Pinks’.

    “The blue one is called ‘Blue Ice’. I have a weakness for the pale blue doubles and have been working on them extensively for a while. It originated from putting double pollen onto a (single-flowered) ‘Barnhaven Blue’ several years back.”

    ‘Guernsey Cream’ has genes from our (single-flowered) ‘Osiered Amber’ and one of our yellow doubles. One of a series of creamy, honey coloured doubles contrasting with very dark bronze foliage.”

    You can order these new double primroses ‘Pink Star’, ‘Blue Ice’ and ‘Guernsey Cream’ from Barnhaven Primroses where you can also check out their other doubles.



  • Skimmia japonica ‘Pabella’: Vigorous and prolific

    Graham Rice on 02 Feb 2014 at 02:24 PM
    Skimmia 'Pabella' is prolific and vigorous. Image ©Ronald van der WerfGardeners are often disappointed by skimmias. The foliage looks pale and sickly, the berries are scattered over the plant and never make a dramatic display. But this new variety from Holland looks as if it will restore our confidence. It has three special features.

    First of all, the foliage is a rich dark green and sets off the berries well. And secondly, instead of clusters of just a few berries scattered all over the plant, on ‘Pabella’ the berries come in more generous clusters. Finally, while some skimmias have berries in a thin, pale red the berries on ‘Pabella’ are a dark and intense in colour and often last into spring. The combination of dark foliage and dark berries looks very impressive. Plants will reach about 1m in height and are very tolerant of shade.

    Of course, skimmias do have their growing requirements and ‘Pabella’ is no different. Neutral and acid soils are definitely preferred, if your soil is limey either add composted bark or grow your skimmias in a container filled with ericaceous compost.

    Also, like most skimmias that produce berries, ‘Pabella’ is a female plant and so needs a male plant to provide pollen; S. japonica ‘Rubella’ is a good choice as it’s the most attractive of the male forms with lovely dark red buds. Both ‘Pabella’ and ‘Rubella’ have fragrant white flowers in April and May.

    Oddly, the female ‘Pabella’ arose on a Dutch nursery as a sport on a plant of the male ‘Rubella’.

    You can order plants of Skimmia japonica ‘Pabella’ from Johnstown Garden Centre and from Plants Galore.



  • Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’: A lovely new hellebore hybrid

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2014 at 01:37 PM

    Helleborus x sahinii 'Winterbells': A lovely new hellebore hybrid from Hayloft Plants. Image ©TakiiSome unexpected hellebore hybrids have come on the scene in recent years, hybrids between species that you’d just never expect to see. But this is probably the most surprising of all. Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’ is a cross between the stinking hellebore, H. foetidus, and the Christmas rose, H. niger. And that’s pretty much what it looks like.

    ‘Winterbells’ looks rather like a taller version of a Christmas rose, but with nodding flowers midway in size and shape between those of the two parents. The colour is especially pretty. The peachy pink buds open to good sized, flared, bell-shaped flowers that mature to pink on the outside and creamy white on the inside and then fade to green and remain on the plant for some time. The flowers are sterile and this helps prolong the display.

    In addition to this attractive colouring and the pretty pendulous flowers, ‘Winter Bells’ is unusual in other ways. Firstly, although flowers open mainly in winter and early spring, on my plants they also sometimes open in summer. Plants can also be rooted from cuttings in summer and may well flower the following winter.

    Many breeders have tried to cross these two species, but in 2004 breeders at the Dutch seed company K. Sahin Zaden BV, best known for developing unusual annuals, raised a single seedling from one pod of seeds and this is it - named in honour of the company’s founder, the late Kees Sahin.

    You can find more on this plant in John Grimshaw’s article on new hellebore hybrids in the December 2010 issue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, The Plantsman. Unfortunately, it’s not avalable online.

    You can order Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’): Compact and prolific

    Graham Rice on 06 Jan 2014 at 02:05 PM
    Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’): compact and prolififc. Image ©ProvenWinners.comGardeners tend to think that forsythias all look the same – and of course, it’s true, they’re all yellow. The shade of yellow varies a little, but look carefully and you notice that there are other differences. This new introduction from France is a case in point.

    Gold Mine (‘Mindor’) has a number of good qualities. Its upright and spreading habit is welcome as so many others, including the popular ‘Lynwood’, are more arching and untidy. Its bright flowers are also crowded tightly along the stems – which is especially striking when the stems are cut for the house – and the stems are covered with flowers right to the base.

    The leaves are an unusually dark shade of green so make a better summer background for flowers and climbers than that of other forsythias, especially as they’re flat rather than folded along the midrib as in some other varieties. The freely branching stems of Gold Mine are also unusually dark.

    Gold Mine is not the most dwarf of forsythias, it reaches about 75cm in three years but eventually makes a taller plant. But it’s more compact than most and, like all forsythias, is best pruned after flowering and this can be used to control the height.

    This plant was actually available for a couple of years about six or seven years ago under then name Show Off but only a very few plants were sold. Now it’s available much more widely. It arose as a sport on the variegated form ‘Fiesta’ (itself a sport of the old favourite ‘Lynwood’) on the Minier nursery in France in 1997.

    You can order plants of Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’) from The Garden Centre Group and from Notcutts.



  • ‘Gold Dust’ rosemary: New from Norfolk Herbs

    Graham Rice on 20 Dec 2013 at 01:33 PM
    'Gold Dust' rosemary - a new vigorous variegated form. Image ©Kernock Park PlantsA number of variegated forms of rosemary have appeared on the market in recent years, but none seem to have caught our imagination or proved especially fine garden plants. Perhaps 'Gold Dust' will be different. It certainly has some valuable features.

    Firstly, each narrow leaf is larger than the leaves of most varieties of rosemary, thicker too and with a noticeably heavier texture. Each leaf has a bold green stripe along the centre and is edged in rich yellow-gold creating a sparkling feature.

    Individual plants are unexpectedly vigorous – variegated shrubs are usually weaker than green-leaved types - upright in habit, densely branched and plants should mature to about 1m high and 90cm wide. The fragrance of the leaves is said to be unusually strong and the deep blue flowers are unusually large.

    ‘Gold Dust’ is derived from the rarely seen variety ‘Rex’, and was spotted by Stephen and Julie Head on their nursery, Fragroplants, in British Columbia in 2004. ‘Rex’ is noted for its, vigour and its bold upright look.

    Like other varieties of rosemary ‘Gold Dust’ appreciates plenty of sun and a rich but well-drained soil; it makes a substantial and upright plant, so siting out of strong winds is probably wise.

    You can order plants of Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Gold Dust’ from Norfolk Herbs


  • Carrot ‘Dara’: Lovely new cut flower

    Graham Rice on 09 Dec 2013 at 09:23 AM
    New coloured carrot for cutting. Image ©FloragranWe’ve all become accustomed to seeing carrots in unusual colours – purple, yellow, white – we see them in the supermarket. But what about carrot flowers in unusual colours, for cutting?

    More and more florists are using flowers of wild carrot, I’ve seen slightly pink-tinted wild carrot flowers growing by the roadside, and I came across seed of a very pale pink-flowered form a few years back. ‘Dara’ is altogether more dramatic – with pink flowers maturing to crimson purple.

    But why would I want to grow a carrot with purple flowers in the first place? Cut flower growers have been increasingly growing wild carrots for cutting as the white flowers, although similar to the popular Ammi majus, are much longer lasting. ‘Dara’ is different; the flower heads of ‘Dara’ open white, then become pink and finally mature to dark reddish purple. The individual plants vary a little in colour, but all move through this same progression of colour and should reach 60-120cm in height.

    It’s recommended that seed is sown in spring to cut the flowers in summer – but in North America carrot for cut flower is treated as a biennial and I suspect it would also be worth sowing seed here in Britain in late summer to flower the following year. Cut the stems when about three quarters of the individual florets are open.

    They should also look lovely amongst roses, and can be allowed to self sow.

    You can buy seed of Daucus carota ‘Dara’ from Plants of Distinction.



  • Scabious ‘Little Cracker’: New from Binny Plants

    Graham Rice on 25 Nov 2013 at 03:45 PM

    ScabiousScabious are well known as long flowering perennials, and for being fine valuable not only for their flowers but for the fact that they attract so many bees and butterflies. Until recently, those with cream flowers have tended to be much taller than those in the many other colours which have come on the market in recent years but now there’s a variety which is small enough for containers.

    ‘Little Cracker’ has flowers in the familiar scabious style but opening to white from cream buds. The first blooms appear in June and keep coming until the frosts and although the plants are a little taller than some other recent introductions, at 50cm they are small enough for containers and large enough to make an impact in the border.

    Developed by British plant breeder Peter Moore, better known for his shrubs which include Choisya ‘White Dazzler’, ‘Little Cracker’ enjoys full sun and a well-drained soil. It’s especially happy on the kind of chalky soil that so many perennials find hard to take. Stems can be cut for the house, cut them just as the first florets in the flower head are opening; the stems may need re-cutting after a few days to keep the flowers fresh. Regular dead-heading, or cutting, will increase the flower power of flowers on the plant all through summer.

    In containers, partner ‘Little Cracker’ with other flowers in pastel shades and with contrasting foliage of coleus or begonias in rich reds.

    You can order plants of Scabiosa ‘Little Cracker’ from Binny Plants.



  • Choisya ‘Royal Lace’: New for containers

    Graham Rice on 11 Nov 2013 at 01:10 PM

    Choisya 'Royal Lace': New for containers. Image ©ProvarSince the arrival on the scene of Choisya ternata Sundance (‘Lich’) back in the 1980s, there’s been a steady succession of new choisyas. In June 2009 I brought you news of White Dazzler (‘Londaz'), then in April last year there was Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’. Now, there’s another, ‘Royal Lace’ - and we’ve gone from two varieties to eleven different choisyas in just a few years.

    Basically, the development of new choisyas has sprung from the popularity of the old ones. And, as a result of the fact that they’re especially popular in Britain, where the climate suits them very well, all the new introductions from Sundance until now have been developed in Britain – in fact most have been developed by just two plant breeders.

    This latest, ‘Royal Lace’, was developed by Peter Moore, former propagator at the well known shrub specialist Hillier Nursery and now at Longstock Park Nursery in Hampshire.

    The features that set ‘Royal Lace’ apart are its uniquely neat and compact growth, it reaches only 75cm, combined with its slender golden evergreen foliage and its mass of fragrant white flowers in late spring. It’s similar to ‘Aztec Gold’, but noticeably more dense and compact and so ideal in a container – it would look especially good in a modern garden setting in a blue glazed pot.

    ‘Royal Lace’ enjoys any reasonable soil, plenty of sun but should not be allowed to dry out, especially in a container.

    You can order plants of Choisya ‘Royal Lace’ from these RHS Plant Finder Nurseries.


  • Viola ‘Teardrops’: New fragrant blend from You Garden

    Graham Rice on 25 Oct 2013 at 01:36 PM

    Viola 'Teardrops' is new fragrant blend from You Garden. Iamge © BallColegraveViolas have become staples of the winter garden, providing charming colour when little else is there to delight us. And their small flowers are so much more weather resistant than the large flowers of pansies. ‘Teardrops’ is a new variety that provides delightful winter and spring colour, but on neat semi-trailing plants that are ideal for hanging baskets.

    The plants trail but are not long and lank; they branch well creating a neat look and ensuring that there are no gaps in the display – who wants to see the basket through the flowers? And, although the flowers are small, each plant carries so many flowers over such a long season that the display is always colourful. Plus – they’re scented.

    There are eight colours in the mixture: some are almost pure colours, some have a few whiskers, and some have a bolder blotch.

    Plants should flower in mild spells in winter, and in favoured areas and sheltered situations, may start flowering at Christmas. They really get into their stride in February and continue right through spring until it’s time to preplace them with summer plants. They should not be allowed to dry out and although they may appreciate a little liquid feed in long mild spells it’s more important to feed them in spring as the weather becomes consistently warmer.

    You can order large plugs of Viola ‘Teardrops’ from You Garden.


  • Colourful new heleniums from Special Perennials

    Graham Rice on 09 Oct 2013 at 04:16 PM

    Helenium 'Hot Lava', new from Special Perennials. Image ©Darwin PlantsOnce seen as reliable workhorses of the autumn garden, heleniums are now being appreciated for the fine perennials they are and their value is increasingly appreciated not only in sunny borders but as cut flowers. Two new introductions, both developed in Holland, and available from Helenium specialists Special Perennials, continue the development od these easy-to-grow perennials.

    An important feature of Helenium 'Hot Lava' (left, click to enlarge) is the fact that the petals do not turn down, as they do in so many heleniums, and so greatly reduce the impact of the colour. In fact the tips of the petals are slightly upturned; it makes a huge difference. The petals open almost yellow, the develop orange and red streaks and mature to red.

    The plant is stout and upright, with unusually sturdy stems, and reaches about 90cm, with a constant succession of bloom from July to October, each individual flower lasting unusually well.

    Helenium 'Ruby Charm' (right, click to enlarge) also features slightly upturned petals and its other Helenium 'Ruby Charm', new from Special Perennials. Image ©Darwin Plantsstandout features are its consistently rich red colouring - this is probably the darkest red helenium around – maturing to a slightly fierier shade and its unusually compact habit, reaching just 60cm in height. And, like ‘Hot Lava’, its flowering season is unusually long.

    The flowers of these heleniums last well in a vase if not cut too soon; wait until most of the flowers on a stem are open before cutting.

    You can order plants of Helenium 'Hot Lava' from Special Perennials
    You can also order plants of Helenium 'Ruby Charm' from Special Perennials


  • Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’: new colour from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2013 at 03:28 PM

    Lavatera 'Dwarf Pink Blush': new colour from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & MorganAnnual lavateras (Lavatera trimestris) are amongst the easiest and most colourful hardy annuals to grow from seed and would be grown far more widely but for one thing: the colour range has been limited.

    So fare we’ve had a shining pure white, a carmine pink and a veined pink but now there’s a new colour. Not blue or yellow, no, but white with a crimson heart and pink veins. Lovely. Reaching about 70cm in height, in spite of its name ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ is not as short as the 50cm, bright pink ‘Novella’ but is a more attractive colour.

    This is a hardy annual to sow outside in a fertile but well-drained soil in a sunny position. Alternatively, for bushier and earlier flowering plants, seed can be started in a cool greenhouse and moved on into 7.5 or 9cm pots before hardening off and planting out about 30-38in apart. Plants grow quickly and are ideal in new gardens.

    Grow ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ in front of shrub roses, amongst perennials or in a mixed border and it also makes a lovely cut flower but, because it does not transport well, is rarely seen in florists. Pick stems for the vase just as the buds are starting unfurl but before they are fully open. Give a slightly wider spacing, 45cm if growing specifically for cutting and expect about ten stems per plant.

    You can order seed of Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ from Thompson & Morgan.


  • New sweet peas to sow this autumn

    Graham Rice on 11 Sep 2013 at 02:06 PM

    Sweet Pea 'Just Janet': New from Unwins for 2014. Image ©Unwins
    I’ve written a piece for the Daily Telegraph on why sweet pea seed should be sown in the autumn, and how to go about it. And I’ve added my selection of some of the most interesting new sweet pea varieties which are available this autumn for the first time.

    But there is only room for a selection, so here are all the season’s new sweet peas that I’ve come across so far.

    ‘Alexander Flett’
    Large, frilly, very well scented lavender flowers on strong stems. Raised by the Bobby Chisholm and awarded a First Class Certificate by the Scottish National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Kerton Sweet Peas.

    ‘Baby’s Blush’
    Standards blush pink with a lemon tint, fading paler blush. Wings white. Developed by Roger Parsons. Available from Roger Parsons.

    Mixture of modern Grandiflora types in pink and mauve shades developed by Keith Hammett. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Cherub Northern Lights’
    Strongly scented dwarf type in white with a red flash on the standards and blue on the wings. Developed by Mark Rowland. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    ‘Coronation Festival’
    Well scented mix of modern Grandiflora types in red, white and blue. Available from Suttons.

    ‘Dark Sprite’
    Maroon and violet bicolour dwarf type, opening at least two weeks earlier than other dwarf sweet peas. Developed by Mark Rowland. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    ‘Deborah Devonshire’
    Pink picotee Spencer developed by Andrew Beane, named for the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, patron of the National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Myers Sweet Peas.'Earl Grey', the first bicoloured flake variety. Image ©Keith Hammett

    ‘Earl Grey’ (left, click to enlarge)
    Unique bicoloured flake type developed by Keith Hammett, white with red streaks on standards, blue streaks on the wings. Available from Roger Parsons.

    ‘Fairy Tale’
    Mixture of modern Grandiflora types in blue and purple shades developed by Keith Hammett. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Father and Daughter’
    Mix of two heirloom Grandifloras: ‘Henry Eckford’ (salmon orange) and ‘Dorothy Eckford’ (pure white). Available from Mr Fothergill's.

    Strongly scented Spencer mix in blues, bright purples, and pastel pinks including bicolours. Available from Suttons.

    ‘Just Janet’ (top, click to enlarge)
    Soft salmon pink over a cream background. Named for the recently retired seed buyer at Unwins. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Lavender Sprite’
    Dwarf, rich lavender. Recently received an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    Vivid, bright, slightly orange-tinted scarlet flowers. Available from Unwins.

    ‘More Scent’ (below)
    Probably the sweet pea with the strongest scent, Keith Hammett’s mauve and white modern Grandiflora is even more strongly scented than his ‘High Scent’. Available from Somerset Sweet Peas.

    Winter-flowering, semi-multiflora soft pink bicolour for commercial cut flower production. Another from Keith Hammett. Available from Roger Parsons.

    ‘Pip’s Cornish Cream’
    A good cream Spencer, suitable for exhibition. A replacement for 'Jilly', which has deteriorated; developed by Roger Parsons Available from Roger Parsons.

    Beautifully formed long stemmed rosy-pink blooms on a white ground are carried on long strong stems. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Purple Pimpernel’
    Bicoloured Spencer in deep purple and paler purple, originated with a Thompson & Morgan customer. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

    ‘Ruby Charm’
    Sweetly scented rich crimson. Launched at the Chelsea Flower Show this year. Available from Matthewman's Sweet Peas.

    ‘Sgt Blott’
    Large, frilly, scarlet flowers on strong stems. Raised by the Bobby Chisholm and awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Scottish National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Kerton Sweet Peas.

    ‘Sir Henry Cecil’
    Strongly scented flake type, with white flowers streaked in shades of red through to almost chocolate. Another from Keith Hammett. Available from Mr Fothergill's. More on ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ here.
    Sweet Pea 'More Scent': Probably has the best scent of all. Image ©Keith Hammett


  • Sweet Pea 'Sir Henry Cecil': New from Mr Fothergill's Seeds

    Graham Rice on 09 Sep 2013 at 04:52 PM
    Sweet Pea 'Sir Henry Cecil': new from Mr Fothergill's Seeds. Image ©Mr Fothergill's seeds
    This new sweet pea is raised by the world’s most innovative sweet pea breeder, Dr Keith Hammett, and named to commemorate Newmarket’s great racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil.

    Formerly known as ‘Chocolate Flake’, this sweetly scented variety features white flowers streaked on both sides of the petals in shades from bright red through to milk chocolate. This type of sweet pea is inherently a little variable and the colour can also be affected by weather conditions, but the range of shades makes a very harmonies bouquet. It is now available from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.

    "We knew Sir Henry loved his flower garden as a form of relaxation from the pressure of training racehorses, and so we were honoured when Lady Cecil agreed to our request to name the new variety in his memory", said the company's joint managing director John Fothergill.
    Sweet Pea ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ was developed in New Zealand by RHS Cory Cup winner Dr Keith Hammett. Such is his reputation that Mr Fothergill’s now puts a special flash on the packets of all its sweet pea varieties bred by Dr Hammett to highlight their origin.
    In a training career based at Newmarket, close to Mr Fothergill’s offices and trial ground, Sir Henry Cecil won 3431 races worldwide including twenty five British Classic races.

    Sweet Pea ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ is available only from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.

    For more on Keith Hammett, take a look at this profile in the RHS magazine The Plantsman.


  • Rose Lady Marmalade: Rose Of The Year for 2014

    Graham Rice on 23 Aug 2013 at 01:31 PM
    Rose Lady Marmalade - Rose Of The Year 2014. Image ©Harkness RosesThe Rose Of The Year award began in 1982, when the yellow Floribunda Mountbatten (‘Harmantelle’) was the first winner. Ten years later Mountbatten received the RHS Award of Garden Merit and is still recognised as an excellent variety. Last month at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the 2014 Rose Of The Year award-winner was announced – Lady Marmalade (‘Hartiger’).

    Lady Marmalade is a neat Floribunda rose reaching about 90cm in height. The 10cm flowers are a gorgeous rich and bright tangerine with amber overtones, cupped in the old fashioned style with about fifty petals in each flower and with the outer petals reflexing attractively as the flowers mature. With up to eleven flowers in each cluster the impact is impressive and, especially with regular dead-heading, the flowers keep coming from June into the autumn.

    And then of course there’s the scent. Rated by the breeder as 6, the fragrance is not exceptionally outstanding – that would rate a 10 – but the spicy perfume is certainly impressive.

    Lady Marmalade (‘Hartiger’) was developed by Hertfordshire specialists Harkness Roses, who've developed a huge number of fine roses, including that first Rose Of The Year winner Mountbatten, since the nursery began creating new varieties in 1959. The name is sometimes seen spelled as Lady Marmelade (with an e) but this is incorrect.

    You can order the Lady Marmalade rose from Harkness Roses or from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries.



  • Clematis ‘Prince George’: Named for the Royal baby

    Graham Rice on 12 Aug 2013 at 03:02 PM
    Clematis 'Prince George': Named for the Royal baby. Image © New Leaf PlantsGardeners enjoying the wave of enthusiasm for the Royal baby can now buy the first plant named for the baby prince.

    This beautiful white clematis is named ‘Prince George’ and is not only prolific and long flowering but also one of those varieties which is especially easy to prune. And it will be in bloom every year on the prince's birthday.

    The flowers of ‘Prince George’ are large, pure white and very prettily ruffled along the edges of the petals and this is a variety in the same group as the old favourites ‘Jackmanii’ and ‘Perle d’Azur’(Group 3), flowering from July to the autumn. So every year it will be bursting with bloom around the time of the prince’s birthday. (The white clematis I featured last time flowers earlier.) It has the same tendency as ‘Jackmanii’ to carry flowers with either four, five or six petals and in some conditions may have a slight ice blue tint.

    The most familiar comparable variety is ‘John Huxtable’ and, while ‘Prince George’ has slightly smaller flowers, they are more open in form and have prettily frilled edges. ‘Prince George’ arose as a sport of the pale blue ‘Blue Angel’, it was found at the wholesale nursery New Leaf Plants by Peter Hoddinott.

    You can order Clematis ‘Prince George’ from Crocus.


  • New Plant Award winners at the National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 22 Jul 2013 at 07:51 PM
    Clematis 'Beautiful Bride': Winner of the Best New Plant Award at the National Plant Show.. Image ©John Hiorns
    The National Plant Show is rapidly establishing itself as the place to look for new varieties, but this is a trade show and we usually have to wait for the winners of the New Plant Awards to become available to gardeners like us. Not this year, this year three of the winners are already available, including the clematis that won both Best in Show and the Visitors’ Vote.

    Clematis ‘Beautiful Bride’
    Developed in Poland by Szczepan Marczyński, who’s created many of the best recently introduced clematis, the huge flowers of 'Beautiful Bride' (above, click to enalrge) are up to 25cm across and are pure white with a dark eye of stamens. There’s a first prolific flush of flowers on the 2-3m plants in May and June, then another good flush in August and September.

    Pruning is easy, just nip off the old dead shoot tips back to a fat bud in late winter or early spring.

    Clematis ‘Beautiful Bride’ is available from Crocus.

    Penstemon 'Riding Hood Blue' won the Best Herbaceous Plant Award at the National Plant Show. Image ©Hayloft PlantsPenstemon ‘Riding Hood Blue’
    This prolific dwarf penstemon (left, click to enlarge), with its mass of vivid blue flowers, also won two awards at the recent national Plant Show: the Show’s award for the Best Herbaceous Perennial, and also the Visitors’ Vote for the Best Herbaceous Perennial. Reaching about 60cm, its outstanding features are the intense colouring of the flowers, the long season through which they’re produced and the plants’ reliable winter hardiness.

    Thrives in any sunny place with reasonable drainage, and is also a valuable cut flower.

    Penstemon ‘Riding Hood Blue’ is available from Hayloft Plants

    Pear ‘Benita Rafzas’
    The last of this year’s National Plant Show winners that is already available is the new pear, ‘Benita Rafzas’ (below, click to enalrge), which won the Gold Award for Breeder Innovation. This is a hybrid between an Asian pear, and the recently introduced large fruited, and well flavoured, French traditional pear variety ‘General Leclerc’. The result is a crisp, juicy and very tasty pear which is ready to pick around the middle of August.

    You can order the pear ‘Benita Rafzas’ from Cool Temperate.
    Pear ‘Benita Rafzas’: Winner of the award for innovation at the National Plant Show. Image © Trees for Life Frank Matthews Ltd



  • Rose Dunham Massey: New shrub rose from Peter Beales

    Graham Rice on 08 Jul 2013 at 04:02 PM

    Dunham Massey: New shrub rose from Peter Beales. Image ©Peter Beales RosesOne of the prettiest entries in the Chelsea Plant Of The Year competition this year, and sure to be a star of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show which opens tomorrow, is a new shrub rose in the old style from Peter Beales Roses.

    Dunham Massey ('Beajelly') is a healthy and trouble-free, modern shrub rose reaching a very convenient 1.2m in height, ideal for small gardens or forward positions in large borders. Its lovely pink flowers are fully double, quartered in the classic style, lightly scented and held in clusters against pale green foliage – and like all the best modern shrub roses, it’s repeat-flowering. It is the result of crossing two earlier Peter Beales roses, introduced in 2002: ‘Yokohama’ and ‘Roseball’.

    This is the second in the Peter Beales Manor House Collection, and was chosen from a selection of new, unnamed seedlings by Damian Harris, Head Gardener of Dunham Massey Hall, Park and Gardens, a National Trust property situated in Cheshire, in 2011. The National Trust decided to name the seedling ‘Dunham Massey’ and coincide its launch with the official opening of their new rose gardens at Dunham Massey Hall last month.

    You can order rose Dunham Massey ('Beajelly') from Peter Beales Roses.


  • New echinaceas on the way

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2013 at 10:31 PM
    Double green echinacea - coming soon(ish).Image ©Luc KlinkhamerEvery so often, here on my RHS New Plants blog, I like to give you glimpse into the future. We haven’t done that for quite a while, so here goes.

    We've seen an unseemly rush of new echinaceas in recent years - some superb, some not so... These two unnamed echinaceas will be named later in the year and will be available to gardeners… well, probably another couple of years after that. It takes time, even using the latest tissue culture laboratory techniques, to propagate enough to sell.Gorgeous double echinacea - coming soon(ish. Image ©Luc Klinkamer

    Spotted at a show in France by Dutch perennials wizard Luc Klinkhamer (they’re his pictures – thank you, Luc), the all-green flowered plant with its multiple rows of petals is a double selection of ‘Green Jewel. It’s going to be an essential for cut flower growers. And the extraordinary colouring of the strawberry blonde double (left, click to enlarge) - it looks like Cornish ice cream drizzled in raspberry juice. And as long as it has good strong stems to support those fat double flowers that is going to be sought after too.

    I’ll let you now when they’re available…

    And next time, here on my RHS New Plants blog, I’ll be looking back over the last few years to see which new plants have captured the most attention.


  • Chelsea Plant Of The Year - Where to buy the contenders

    Graham Rice on 25 May 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Clematis 'Kaiser', shortlisted for the 2013 Chelsea Plant Of The Year Award. Image ©Julian Weigall/RHSLast time I told you about the winner and the two runners up for the  Chelsea Plant of The Year 2013. This time, I’m going to set out where you can buy all twenty of the shortlisted plants, or who will be selling them when they become available. These are twenty of the best new plants around, and all are well worth trying.

    Chelsea Plant of the Year 2013
    Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress'
    Gardening Express

    Chelsea Plant of the Year 2013 Runners-Up
    Clematis 'Lemon Dream'
    Thorncroft Clematis

    Tropaeolum 'Fruit Salad'
    Thompson & Morgan

    Chelsea Plant of the Year 2013 Shortlised Plants
    Aeonium 'Poldark'
    Trewidden Nursery (available to order in June 2013)

    Allium schoenoprasum (Chives) 'Cha Cha'

    Billbergia 'Hallelujah'
    Every Picture (not available to order at the time of writing)

    Clematis 'Kaiser' (top, click to enlarge)
    Thorncroft Clematis

    Diascia Sundiascia Rose Pink
    Hayloft Plants

    Heuchera 'Thomas' (Fox Series)
    Plantagogo (not available to order at the time of writing)

    Lathyrus odoratus 'Chelsea Centenary'
    Mr Fothergills

    Lavandula angustifolia Platinum Blonde ('Momparler')
    Gardening Express

    Nepeta grandiflora 'Summer Magic', shortlisted for the 2013 Chelsea Plant Of The Year Award. Image ©Julian Weigall/RHSLeucanthemum x superbum 'Real Neat'
    Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants
    Simply Seeds and Plants

    Lilium 'Sweet Desire'
    H W Hyde & Son (not available to order at the time of writing)

    Lilium 'Zirconia'
    H W Hyde & Son (not available to order at the time of writing)

    Lupinus nanus 'Snow Pixie'
    Not yet availabl


  • Chelsea Plant Of The Year – 2013 winners

    Graham Rice on 25 May 2013 at 08:09 PM

    Mahonia 'Soft Caress', winner of the Chelsea Plant Of The Year Award for 2013. Image©Julian Weigall/RHSOn the Monday afternoon of the Chelsea Flower Show, this year’s award for the best new plant at the show, the Chelsea Plant of The Year, was announced – Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ (above, click to enlarge). The runners-up were Clematis 'Lemon Dream' and Tropaeolum 'Fruit Salad'.

    I wrote about Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ here on the RHS New Plants blog back in September last year. It’s outstanding in combining the long attractive spikes of fragrant yellow flowers, and the blue-black berries that follow, with slender, soft and spine-free foliage. It also makes a more maneagable plant than many mahonias, and its slightly silvered evergreen foliage is attractive in a container or border all year round.

    You can order Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ from Crocus, and also from Gardening Express.

    Clematis 'Lemon Dream', runner-up in the Chelsea Plant Of The Year Award for 2013. Image ©Julian Weigall/RHSIn second place came Clematis 'Lemon Dream' (left, click to enlarge). Unique in having large, fragrant double flowers in pale lemon, the most prolific flush of bloom on this self-clinging alpine clematis is in late spring with a second flush later. Needing little or no pruning, and it’s easy to grow.

    You can order Clematis 'Lemon Dream' from Thorncroft Clematis.

    The plant voted into third place is very different, a nasturtium. Tropaeolum ‘Fruit Salad’ (below) took twelve years to develop after a customer passed a plant with serrated petals to Thompson & Morgan. The result is the first bicoloured nasturtum with serrated petals. And it’s also sterile so it flowers continuously for a long season on bushy, slightly trailing plants.

    You can order Tropaeolum ‘Fruit Salad’ from Thompson & Morgan.

    Demand for all three of these plants is high so, although orders can be placed now, delivery of some plants may be delayed while stock is built up.
    Tropaeolum 'Fruit Salad', runner-up in the Chelsea Plant Of The Year Award for 2013. Image ©Julian Weigall/RHS


  • Two brand new crocosmias

    Graham Rice on 20 May 2013 at 03:45 PM
    Crocosmia 'Twilight Fairy Crimson', a new dark-leaved crocosmia with bright red flowers. Image ©Terra Nova Nurseries)Back in 2008, I wrote a piece here about a flurry of new crocosmias - some of which turned out not to be new at all! Now, as a result of new breeding work carried out in Oregon, we have two genuinely new crocosmias added to the 2013 RHS Plant Finder, which came out in April.

    'Twilight Fairy Crimson' (above, click to enlarge) and 'Twilight Fairy Gold' (below left, click to enlarge) are both short, as crocosmias go, reaching only about 40cm, and both have the same smoky bronze foliage that makes the old favourite ‘Solfatare’ so much appreciated. So, like ‘Solfatare’, the leaves make a valuable contribution to the border tapestry long before the flowers open.Crocosmia 'Twilight Fairy Gold', a new coppery-leaved crocosmia with golden yellow flowers. Image ©Terra Nova Nirseries

    'Twilight Fairy Crimson' has rich red, flared flowers carried in branched  heads on dark stems and with that bronze tint to the foliage. The foliage of 'Twilight Fairy Gold' has more of a coppery colouring, and orange-yellow flowers open from orange buds.

    Both are good towards the front of sunny borders, in mixed containers, and even as neat cut flowers. Although drought tolerant, they’re best kept moist to keep them flowering well, to help the flowers last as long as possible, and to help prevent spider mite attack.

    You can order Crocosmia 'Twilight Fairy Crimson' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    You can order Crocosmia  'Twilight Fairy Gold' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Other crocosmias added to the RHS Plant Finder this year are: 'Butterball', 'Eggs and Bacon', 'Sherbert Orange' and 'Suzanna'.



  • New plants in the 2013 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 01 May 2013 at 09:20 PM

    2013 RHS Plant Finder: 77,160 plants, 555 nurseriesJust thought I’d let you have some more facts and figures about the new RHS Plant Finder, which came out last month. In particular, news of some of the new entries in the 2013 edition, new plants available for the first time.

    First of all, there are exactly 4,329 new entries. As last year, Hemerocallis show their surge in popularity with two hundred and fifty new entries, more than any other plant, with tulips following on at two hundred and eight. The next few are not surprising – Primula (178), Narcissus (148), Iris (128) and Dahlia (119).

    Next on the list, in seventh place, is Brugmansia (Datura as was) with an amazing ninety eight new additions, almost all from a nursery that is also new in the Plant Finder, Naieus Exotics. Then comes Fuchsia (88) followed by another surprise – Tillandsia with seventy seven new additions. In tenth place are hellebores with fifty three new additions.

    I discussed the ten new plants with the most suppliers in the 2013 Plant Finder in Rose 'Madame Boll': New in the 2013 RGHS Plant Finder but first seen in 1859. Image ©Kordes Rosesa recent post. But one was left out of the list because it is by some long way not a new introduction. Rose 'Madame Boll' (right, click to enlarge), listed by seven suppliers, is an old Damask Portland rose, pink and highly scented originally introduced in 1859 by the German breeder Kordes. Now it’s back.

    To follow on from my earlier post abut the new plants listed by six or more suppliers, here’s the list of new entries listed by five different suppliers.
    Allium 'Cameleon
    Clematis Giselle ('Evipo051')
    Clematis Samaritan Jo ('Evipo075)
    Cornus alternifolia Golden Shadows ('Wstackman')
    Crocosmia 'Twilight Fairy Crimson'
    Fragaria x ananassa (strawberry) 'Buddy'
    Helenium 'Hot Lava'
    Helenium 'Ruby Charm'
    Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress'
    Nandina domestica 'Seika'

    I’ll be looking some of these over the next few months, starting with Crocosmia 'Twilight Fairy Crimson and its new sister 'Twilight Fairy Gold' next time.

    You can order the 2013 RHS Plant Finder from the RHS Bookshop.


  • Digitalis ‘Illumination Raspberry’: Latest in the popular series

    Graham Rice on 21 Apr 2013 at 01:26 PM
    Digitalis ‘Illumination Raspberry’: Latest in the popular series Image © Thompson & MorganThe Illumination Series of foxgloves is an impressive addition to our range of hardy perennials and a fine example of the plant breeder’s art and science.

    Created by Thompson & Morgan plant breeder Charles Valin, who earlier this month was awarded the RHS Cory Cup, the Society’s award for excellence in plant breeding, the series combines our familiar purple-flowered biennial foxglove and its uncommon relative from the Canary Islands, Digitalis canariensis (formerly Isoplexis canariensis), with its orange flowers and rather woody habit.

    The first result of bringing these two unlikely relatives together was ‘Illumination Pink’. This was followed by ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’, which won the Plant of The Year award at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, and now the latest to appear is ‘Illumination Raspberry’.

    ‘Illumination Raspberry’ has the same upright habit, and the same long long season of flower spikes, this time in a rather purplish raspberry red with a pale speckled throat, And it has the same impressive attraction to bees as its predecessors in the series.

    Good in sunny borders that are well-drained, and also in containers, the plants are sterile, no seed is produced, so they flower continuously for many months.

    Digitalis ‘Illumination Raspberry’ will be available in a collection with ‘Illumination Pink’, on Richard Jackson’s Garden on QVC TV, on Saturday 26 April at 9am. You’ll find QVC on Sky Digital (channel 640), on Virgin TV (channel 740), on Freesat (channel 800) and on Freeview (channel 16). The same collection will then be available on the QVC website while stocks last.



  • 2013 RHS Plant Finder is out – with over 4,000 new plants

    Graham Rice on 09 Apr 2013 at 02:20 PM
    Geranium Azure Rush™ is the new plant listed by most RHS Plant Finder nurseries. Image ©Blooms of Bressingham.Yesterday saw the launch of the 2013 RHS Plant Finder, now with over 75,000 entries and over 4,300 new additions for this year. Of course, some of these additions are plants that are returning but the majority are new plants, first time entries.

    It’s always instructive to take a look at the new plants that are listed by the most nurseries, it’s a good gauge of their value, and top of the list this year, with ten stockists, is Geranium Azure Rush™. If this pale blue, white-eyed hardy geranium is as good as its parent, Geranium Rozanne™, then it’s going to be a popular success.

    Joint second on the list with eight stockists listed is, perhaps unexpectedly, a 1m high thistle. Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor's Blue Wonder’. “It's not blue but it is bluer (than 'Atropurpureum')…,” says Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Plants. He continues: “the stems are a mixture of white pubescence and purple staining with silvery-green basal foliage.”

    Also in the Top Ten most widely stocked newcomers is a plant I wrote up here last year, Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Gold', with white flowers and narrow golden evergreen leaves. More recently, just a few weeks ago, I wrote up another popular newcomer for 2013 Hydrangea aspera 'Hot Chocolate' with its dark foliage a large lacecap flowers. One of a number of new Shasta daisies, Leucanthemum x superbum FREAK! ('Leuz0001'), is also in the Top Ten.The Lark Ascending, and three other David Austin Roses, make the Top Ten newcomers for 2013. Image © David Austin Roses

    The other four places are all taken up with new roses from David Austin Roses: Boscobel (‘Auscousin'), Heathcliff (‘Ausnipper'), Tranquillity (‘Ausnoble') and The Lark Ascending (‘Ausursula').

    You can order Geranium Azure Rush™ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries

    You can order Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Gold' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries

    You can order Hydrangea aspera 'Hot Chocolate' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries

    You can order Leucanthemum x superbum FREAK! from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries

    You can check out all four new English Roses on the David Austin Roses website.

    Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor's Blue Wonder’ is listed in the RHS Plant Finder as available from these nurseries, but at the time of writing none actually list it on their websites as available to order.


    And you can order the 2013 RHS Plant Finder from RHS Bookshop.

  • Impatiens ‘Sun Harmony’: Mildew resistant sun lover

    Graham Rice on 08 Apr 2013 at 12:55 PM

    In the last couple of years, our Busy Lizzies have been devastated by disease so this year they will – and should be – hard to find in garden centres and largely unavailable by mail order. Frankly, there’s no point growing them.

    But what to grow instead? Well, how about a different kind of Impatiens?

    New Guinea impatiens have long been grown as indoor plants, and with their attractive foliage and large, bold and bright flowers have been much appreciated as pot plants. Developed from I. hawkeri, which grows wild in from Papua New Guinea, recent developments have adapted them to being grown outside in summer containers and even in sunny summer borders.

    It is the African species, I. walleriana, the species from which the familiar Accent, Super Elfin and other busy lizzies have been developed, that suffers from the devastating downy mildew which has made growing busy lizzies pointless.

    But the four colours of the Sun Harmony Series of New Guinea impatiens were outstanding last summer; their vigorous growth, tolerance of both full sun and partial shade, and their long flowering period really made them stand out. And, of course, no mildew.

    You can order Impatiens Sun Harmony Series from Gardening Direct.

    Also look out for…

    Impatiens Divine Series – nine colours, no mildew, tolerates cool conditions better. From Dobies.

    Chilli Pepper ‘Bhut Jolokia’ – one of the world’s hottest, and previous world record holder. From Simply Seeds and Plants.

    Petunia Eliza – bushy fragrant bicolour, new in the Tumbelina Series. From Mr Fothergill's.


  • Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’: New dark foliage form

    Graham Rice on 21 Mar 2013 at 11:59 AM
    Hydrangea 'Hot Chocolate' has richly coloured foliage as well as attractive flowers. Imagfes ©van Vliet New Plants BVHydrangea aspera is a lovely shrub with large and colourful summer lacecap flowers and interesting peeling winter bark. ‘Hot Chocolate’, with its chocolate brown foliage, adds another colourful feature.

    It’s the broad, 20-30cm, lacecap flowers which are the plant’s main appeal. The ring of large pink florets around the rim of the flower heads surrounds a broad mass of much smaller violet florets in the centre, and when the plant is covered with them in July the effect is dramatic. Flowering may continue into September.

    In ‘Hot Chocolate’ there is a valuable additional feature, the foliage. The leaves open in spring in dark chocolate brown, eventually becoming dark green and making an ideal background for the flowers. Then, in autumn, the foliage changes to amberish yellow with orange highlights. And all the way through, the underside of each leaf is wine red.

    ‘Hot Chocolate’ makes an impressive specimen up to about 3m high and 2m wide, if necessary it can be pruned thoughtfully in spring. It is happiest in light shade in well-drained soil, and is unusual amongst hydrangeas in growing well on chalk; wet soil should be avoided.

    You can order Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’ from Gardening Express and also from Hayloft Plants.

    Also look out for these new plants…

    Antirrhinum ‘Twinny’ - a new double flowered form from DT Brown, from Mr Fothergill’s and from Thompson & Morgan.

    Crocosmia ‘Twilight Fairy Gold’ – golden flowers and bronze foliage, from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

    Tomato rootstock ‘Estimo – if you’d like to try grafting your own tomatoes, from Kings Seeds.



  • Cosmos ‘Pink Popsocks’: New from Nicky’s Nursery

    Graham Rice on 07 Mar 2013 at 01:00 PM
    Cosmos 'Pink Popsocks': pink flowers in many forms. Image ©Thompson & MorganCosmos is one of the easiest annuals to grow. The seeds are relatively large, and easy to handle; seeds germinate quickly; young plants are strong and vigorous; flowering plants are prolific. And there are varieties in a wide range of colours and flower forms. They’re great in borders and good for cutting. Convinced? You know there’s a “but” coming, right? Right – well, kind of....

    The problem is that varieties tend to deteriorate over the years, as it’s expensive for the seed companies to keep them as good as they should be. In particular, season after season, they can get taller, and develop more leaves and fewer flowers. So cosmos varieties are often at their peak when they’re new, or soon after.

    ‘Pink Popsocks’ is new out this year and this is the time to grow it. With its intriguing range of flower forms including singles, doubles and anemone-centred forms as well as flowers in pure colours and two-tone flowers - and all in soft pink - not to put too fine a point on it, but in five years time it may not be quite so impressive.

    Reaching about 60cm in height, ‘Pink Popsocks’ integrates well into mixed borders in sunny sites, and can also be grown as a cut flower – what better way to liven up the allotment than a row of ‘Pink Popsocks’ between the cabbages? Sow indoors in March in gentle heat and keep the plants growing well, or sow outside in May.

    You can order seed of Cosmos ‘Pink Popsocks’ from Nicky’s Nursery.



  • Weigela Magical Rainbow: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2013 at 04:07 PM
    Weigela Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira'): good flowers and good foliage. Image ©Hayloft PlantsWe’ve seen quite a few new variegated weigelas in recent years, some have been very colourful while some have been disappointing. Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira') is different in that as well as the attractively cream-edged foliage there’s a strong pink or reddish tint in the summer growth.

    Reaching about 3-5ft/0.9-1.5m in height, and about the same in width, Magical Rainbow branches well to create a bushy plant. The leaves are wider than those of most weigelas and retain their variegation from when the leaves open in April till they fade and fall in October. The red colouring of the shoots harmonises with the red tinted summer leaves.

    In May and June, the flowers open. In the usual flared trumpet shape, each bloom is pale pink and a darker shade, almost red, on the backs – especially towards the base of the tube of the flower. This dark colouring shows through into the throat of the flower. The flowers are sterile, they produce no seed capsules or seeds, which helps encourage prolific flowering.

    Happiest in full sun, the foliage does not scorch, and in any reasonably fertile soil, trials at the RHS Garden at Wisley revealed that it does not thrive in shade. Prune after flowering, or not at all.

    Magical Rainbow was developed by Dutch plant breeder Peter Kloster in a breeding programme designed to develop attractive new variegated weigelas.

    Weigela Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira') has been available very occasionally in the past, but is now available more widely from Hayloft Plants.



  • ‘Candy Love’ hellebore: New from Cotswold Garden Flowers

    Graham Rice on 25 Feb 2013 at 01:22 PM
    Helleborus 'Candy Love': New from Cotswold Garden Flowers. Image © Het Wilgenbroek/Thierry Van PaemelSome of the best new hellebores of recent years have been hybrids involving the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, and this new one, ‘Candy Love’ is a fine newcomer.

    Described by Bob Brown who runs Cotswold Garden Flowers, and is also vice chair of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee ,as “better than any I've grown so far” - which considering he named an earlier plant of this type ‘Bob’s Best’ is quite an accolade.

    The leathery, boldly toothed, evergreen foliage is deep green overlaid in pewter with contrasting purple stems and veins. Then from late December well into April and May the clusters of creamy buds open to pale apricot flowers steadily darkening to pink then misty purple with red and pink tints.

    Flowering well as a young plant, ‘Candy Love’ is vigorous and soon develops into a specimen for a container or the front of a sunny border.

    Helleborus ‘Candy Love’ was created in Belgium by Thierry Van Paemel who crossed his own selections of H. niger and H. lividus. This plant was picked out from the resulting seedlings in 2005 for its prolific flowering, its long flowering period and for its vigorous growth as well as its exceptional flower colour. Considering that it has the relatively tender H. lividus in its background, it’s very heartening to see that ‘Candy Love’ has proved hardy down to -20C.

    Helleborus ‘Candy Love’ is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers (scroll down).



  • Alpine clematis in new colours and styles

    Graham Rice on 24 Feb 2013 at 02:15 AM

    Clematis 'Purple Dream' - new double flowered purple spring clematis. Image ©Szczepan MarczyńskiWe tend to think of those valuable spring flowering Alpine clematis (sometimes known as Atragene clematis) – C. alpina, C. macropetala and their hybrids – as, basically, blue. Or perhaps white, or maybe, occasionally pink. But this spring sees the arrival of two new large-flowered double pink forms, as well as a new double flowered purple, and single- and double-flowered varieties in pale yellow.

    All these new clematis are being introduced by Thorncroft Clematis, who in recent years have established a reputation for bringing fine new clematis from Europe to British gardeners. These new alpine clematis have all been developed in Poland by Szczepan Marczyński, a clematis breeder who’s introduced fine new varieties of all kinds.

    There are two new double pink flowered forms. The flowers of ‘Pink Dream’ (below, click to enlarge) are pink on the outside and a creamier pink shade on the inside, while in ‘Pink Swing’ Clematis 'Pink Dream' - new double flowered pink spring clematis. Image ©Szczepan Marczyńskithe flowers are lovely subtle blend of cream and pink. Both are have an attractive grapefruit scent. ‘Purple Dream’ (above, click to enlarge) is also double, and again it’s grapefruit scented, with a flush of creamy purple flowers in May, and then again in summer.

    In pale yellow there’s ‘Lemon Dream’ and ‘Lemon Beauty’. ‘Lemon Dream’ has exceptionally large flowers with lime green buds which open to pale lemon yellow, fading to white. ‘Lemon Beauty’ features very large double flowers, again with limey buds opening to lemon yellow.

    All these varieties reach about 6-8ft/1.8-2.4m in height, they enjoy full sun that is not too scorching or open positions without full sun. Little pruning is needed, simply tidy them up after flowering.

    All these new clematis are available from Thorncroft Clematis. Click on the names to order ‘Lemon Beauty’ or ‘Lemon Dream’ or ‘Pink Dream’ or ‘Pink Swing’ or ‘Purple Dream’.


  • Two new self fertile runner beans set pods in all weathers

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2013 at 01:26 PM
    'Snowstorm': new self fertile runner bean from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Tozer SeedsOne of the most irritating things about runner beans is when they flower – and then the flowers just drop off without the beans actually setting. It happens in dry weather, and it happens when there are no bees around to pollinate. And with our increasingly unpredictable weather, and with fewer bees, it seems to happen more and more often.

    A Surrey-based vegetable specialist has been working on solving this problem by crossing runner beans with climbing French beans. Climbing French beans are self fertile, they don’t need bees, and also happily set pods in a wide range of growing conditions. But runner beans have the flavour. Bring the two together and you have tasty stringless beans that reliably produce pods.

    White-flowered ‘Moonlight’ was the first. Then last year came red-flowered ‘Firestorm’. Now this year we have we have two more white-flowered varieties, ‘Snowstorm’ and ‘Stardust’. Both are improvements on ‘Moonlight’, both have an even greater ability to set pods in difficult conditions.'Stardust': new self fertile runner bean from Marsalls. Image ©Tozer Seeds

    ‘Snowstorm’ has better flavour than ‘Moonlight’, better texture, smoother skin and longer pods – and of course it’s stringless. ‘Stardust’ is similar to ‘Moonlight’ but has pods that are longer and although it’s a little later to start cropping once it gets going it’s much more prolific.

    Grow these new runner beans in just the same way as traditional runner beans, but you’ll probably need even fewer plants as there’s far less chance of flowers dropping off without producing any beans. And of course that long succession of white flowers brings a fresh and colourful look to the veg garden.

    You can order seed of runner bean ‘Snowstorm’ from Thompson & Morgan.

    You can order seed of runner bean ‘Stardust’ from Marshalls.



  • Gerbera Spider Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 16 Feb 2013 at 12:18 PM
    These new hardy spider gerberas have survived -20C in Worcetsershire. Images ©Florist Holland B.V.We’ve seen a lot of talk about hardy gerberas over the last few years, and quite a few new plants have appeared that claim to meet the description. And, though uou may be surprised to hear it, some really are hardy. These new spider types have survived -20C in two different Worcestershire trial sites.

    Developed in The Netherlands, like all gerberas they form a bold rosette of rich green leaves from which the stems arise, each carrying a single flower. Flowering from May to November on 12-18in/30-45cm stems, the long-lasting flowers just keep coming, especially if dead-headed or picked for the house.

    There are five colours (above, click to enlarge), Lemon, Orange, Pink, Red and Salmon, all with the same mass of slender rays surrounding a golden eye. When planted in containers, this distinctive flower formation can be more easily seen in close up.

    These Spider Series gerberas appreciate good drainage, especially in winter. In containers, use a compost that drains well and stand the pot on pot feet as container composts tend to be mostly peat or peat-substitute and can hold too much winter moisture. Allow the plants to become a little dry before watering. In the garden plant in a sunny border with fertile soil that drains well.

    These Spider gerberas also make long lasting cut flowers. Cut them as the ray petals are unfolding but before you see pollen in the central eye. Gerberas are especially susceptible to the build-up of bacteria in the water so be sure to use a flower food.

    You can order these Spider Series gerberas as a collection or as individual colours from Hayloft Plants.



  • Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’: Prolific trailing begonia from seed

    Graham Rice on 07 Feb 2013 at 10:47 PM
    Begonia 'Santa Cruz Sunset': Prolific trailing begonia from seed. Image ©BallColegave.There are over nine hundred different species of Begonia, so it always seemed a little odd that we only ever saw two different kinds used in summer borders and containers – known by the shorthand of fibrous-rooted, and tuberous-rooted. But the re-discovery in the wild of the South American Begonia boliviensis has led to the introduction of a whole new range of selections and hybrids.

    Most of these are designed to be raised from cuttings – the excellent Million Kisses Series is perhaps the best example – but now we have the first of this type that’s raised from seed, ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’.

    Plants are bushily semi-trailing, ideal for baskets and tubs, and feature long narrow, fresh green leaves with reddish toothed margins. This attractive foliage makes a fine background for the prolific display of swaying reddish-orange flowers, each made up of four long flared petals and which are held on reddish stems. Flowering is from early summer to the frosts and each plant always carries plenty of colour.

    The seed is raised in the same way as more familiar begonias, or plug plants are also available. One other advantage of ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ is that while the cost of each plant of a cuttings-raised variety includes a royalty payable to the breeder, no royalty is paid on the seed-raised ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’. So ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ is more economical.

    You can order seed of Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ from Mr Fothergill and from Nicky’s Nursery.

    You can order plug plants of Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ from D T Brown, and from Mr Fothergill, and from Unwins.

    And look out for Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ in garden centres in May.


  • Dianthus Diadoble Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 30 Jan 2013 at 01:22 PM
    Dianthus Diadoble Series: Fragrant new Dianthus hybrids. Images ©AllPlantWe see a great many new pinks every year but they’re all pretty much the versions of the same old familiar type. Nothing wrong with that, as they become better scented and more prolific and long flowering. But sometimes, we just look for something a little different. So step forward the Dianthus Diadoble Series (above, click to enlarge).

    I was very taken with their more relaxed and informal style of flowers; they’re in between the tight doubles of so many pinks, and the old single-flowered types. And it turns out these are unusual hybrids between Chinese pinks, Dianthus chinensis, and the traditional Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus. If you think about it, you can see hints of both species.

    All have bold colours, ‘Diadoble Crimson Picotee’ (above centre) is especially eye-catching, and all are well-scented with the scent being especially strong warm sunny days.

    Reaching 10-12in/25-35cm in height, with a spread of 6-8in/15-20cm, these Diadoble dianthus are neat enough to grow in containers with other summer flowers, or to site at the front of a sunny border in any reasonable soil. But the stems are also long enough to cut for small bouquets and the more you cut them – or deadhead them – the longer they’ll flower.

    Three colours are available this spring, all have prettily toothed semi-double flowers: ‘Diadoble White’ is pure white; ‘Diadoble Purple’ is a very vivid shade of purple with a red flash at the base of each petal; ‘Diadoble Crimson Picotee’ is bright red with a white edge. Lovely.

    You can order these Diadoble dianthus, either individually or as a collection, from Hayloft Plants.



  • Tomato ‘Tastyno’: Plenty of flavour, disease resistant

    Graham Rice on 26 Jan 2013 at 02:05 PM

    Grafted tomato 'Tastyno', disease resistant, full of flavour. Image ©Histil LtdWe’ve seen some impressive developments in tomato growing for home gardeners in recent years, and while they all came from development for commercial growers some are invaluable for home gardeners. The top two are disease resistance and the revival of grafting as a way to increase vigour and prevent root diseases. The two ideas come together in grafted plants of the cherry tomato ‘Tastyno’.

    ‘Tastyno’ has a high resistance to tomato mosaic virus and five strains of leaf mould as well as good resistance to three strains of eelworm, and to tomato yellow leaf curl virus. But graft ‘Tastyno’ on to a disease resistant rootstock, just the way that apples are grafted on to rootstocks, and the rootstock provides the roots with resistance to fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, tomato mosaic virus, crown and root rot, eelworm, and corky root rot.

    Of course none of this is any use at all unless the fruits have a good flavour and you get plenty of them. Well, ace veg grower Medwyn Williams, says the round, deep red fruits, up to twenty or sometimes more on each truss, and weighing in at 12-15gm each, have an “exceptional flavour”. They have a great combination of sweetness and sharpness.

    It’s the combination of the tasty, prolific and disease resistant variety with the vigorous disease resistant rootstock, which also tolerates a wider range of soil conditions that the varieties own roots, that gives these plants the edge. Shame abouit the silly name.

    You can order grafted plants of ‘Tastyno’ from Simply Seeds and Plants. Or order seed from Medwyn’s of Anglesey or order seed from Simpson’s Seeds


  • Digitalis ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’: Follow-up to Plant Of The Year Winner

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2013 at 03:57 PM
    Digitalis 'Illumination Chelsea Gold': New hybrid foxglove. Image ©Thompson & MorganOne of last year’s outstanding new perennials was Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’, the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year for 2012. This unexpected hybrid between our familiar biennial foxglove and a rare perennial relation from the Canary Islands, originally known as Isoplexis canariensis, was deservedly popular around the world. Now it has a sister, a gorgeous yellow-flowered form called ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’.

    Like its award-winning predecessor, ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ reaches about 3ft/90cm in height and branches well. Over its long flowering season from early summer almost to winter, the flowers just keep coming. Each flower is peachy orange in colour, darker on the outside and paler on the inside with a delicate patterning of spots. Bees love it.

    Thompson & Morgan, whose ace plant breeder Charles Valin raised this unique plant, say that plants of ‘Illumination Pink’ are hardy down to -15C/5F and ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ should be as hardy. Though it’s only fair to say that some gardeners have not found ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ so tough.

    This should prove a fine plant for a container in a sunny place, make sure the pot stands on pot feet to ensure good drainage, and you only need to dead head occasionally to improve the look of the plant.

    And by the way: although Isoplexis canariensis was not considered a member of the genus Digitalis when Charles Valin began his development of these plants, partly as a result of his work botanists now consider Isoplexis canariensis to be a Digitalis, and it’s known as Digitalis canariensis.

    You can order plants of Digitalis ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ from Thompson & Morgan.



  • Peach 'Crimson Bonfire': For flowers, foliage and fruits

    Graham Rice on 15 Jan 2013 at 01:39 PM

    Grow patio peach 'Crimson Bonfire' for its flowers, foliage and fruits. Images ©YouGarden.comOne of the themes of the year is multi-season and multi-use plants, plants that provide different pleasures at different seasons. In fact I've written a whole book on the subject, and it's just out.

    This impressive little peach, ‘Crimson Bonfire' (left, click to enlarge), has two distinct and valuable features in addition to its succulent fruits. The fruits themselves are dark red,  almost purple, and gold in colour taking the tones of their colouring from the foliage.


  • Monarda ‘Bergamo’: Perfect for Pollinators

    Graham Rice on 10 Jan 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Monarda 'Bergamo' is colourful and attracts pollinators. Image ©Ball ColegraveHere's a new Monarda, a first-year-flowering perennial, which is prolific, colourful, easy-to-grow and attracts pollinating insects.

    'Bergamo' (left, click to enlarge) is a hardy perennial, not an annual as some catalogues say, and reaching 20-24in/50-60cm in height, sometimes as tall as 3ft/90cm, this is a well branched plant, needing spacing of 14-16in/36-41cm to show itself off well. Often considered more elegant than the more familiar forms of Monarda didyma, this hybrid has its flowers gathered in a series of tiers making up long, elegant spikes in two tones of rosy purple.


  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Midnight: New from Plantify

    Graham Rice on 05 Jan 2013 at 01:53 PM

    Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Midnight: New from Plantify. Image ©Seiont NurseriesUntil about ten years ago, hardly anyone had even heard of Physocarpus and even fewer actually grew it. Now it’s at last being recogised as amongst the best deciduous foliage shrubs we have, and a new dark-leaved variety emphasises the point.

    The wild species, Physocarpus opulifolius, is originally from eastern North America, where it’s named ninebark from the fact that the bark peels away in thin strips which curl into the shape the number nine. In the wild it tends to grow in damp woods and along streams but in gardens seems much more adaptable. Last winter in Poland, it survived outside in pots at -30C/-22F!

    ‘Midnight’ has the darkest foliage of any variety so far, a deep midnight purple with a lovely sheen, and unlike some other dark-leaved types it has a neat, compact and bushy habit - better for smaller gardens. In June and July clusters of pink-tinted white flowers line the branches, and these are followed by  black berries.

    ‘Midnight’ was named by John Jones of Hyfryd Plants, a small nursery in Mid Wales. “Three seedlings were selected from a batch of about 150 in the early 2000s,” John told me. “One was an exceedingly bright gold form (now discontinued as it suffered very badly from late frosts) and another was the same type as 'Lady in Red' which may be introduced in the USA. The third was ‘Midnight’. All the seedlings came from 'Diablo' which was planted next to 'Darts Gold' and obviously cross pollination had taken place.”

    Look out for more Physocarpus varieties from John, and elsewhere, over the next few years.

    You can order plants of Physocarpus opulifolus ‘Midnight from Plantify.


  • Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’: Evergreen perennial for inside and out

    Graham Rice on 30 Dec 2012 at 05:06 PM
    Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’: Evergreen perennial for inside and out. Image ©PlantIppAstelias are unusual perennials. Most silver foliage plants grow best in relatively dry conditions but astelias are more adaptable. They grow naturally in boggy places in New Zealand and so will take more moisture in gardens than you might expect; but they've also proven to be drought tolerant.

    The problem is that although they make very effective foliage plants for the late spring and the summer, in autumn and especially in winter they can look rather ragged.

    The smart approach comes in two parts. First, try this new Astelia hybrid - ‘Silver Shadow'. A cross between two of the most widely grown species, A. chathamica and A. nervosa, it's vigorous, it develops into an impressively architectural specimen up to 39in/1m high and it has more brightly silvered leaves than any others astelias.


  • Petunia Martha Washington: Unique new double petunia

    Graham Rice on 27 Dec 2012 at 07:12 PM

    Petunia 'Martha Washington' - spectacular new double petunia. Image ©

    Cambridgeshire plant breeder David Kerley is known the world over for his Tumbelina series of double petunias. They're the best; that's all there is to it. He's also introduced many many other fine petunias as well as phygelius, primroses, violas, chrysanthemums and more. I've featured him a number of times here on the RHS New Plants blog, and I'm happy to do so again here with a one-off petunia, Martha Washington (‘Kermartha')


  • Spiraea ‘Tor Gold’: New yellow-leaved shrub

    Graham Rice on 17 Dec 2012 at 02:37 PM

    Spiraea betulifolia is not a shrub that most gardeners will know. It has just three stockists in the RHS PlantFinder and I only recollect ever seeing it once or twice. It’s a small shrub with neat rounded, toothed leaves and clusters of white flowers in early summer.

    Then the variety ‘Tor’ appeared, a neatly mounded form with lovely autumn foliage in red, gold, yellow, bronze and purple. Now we have ‘Tor Gold’.

    This neat deciduous shrub reaches about 2ft/60cm high and as much across, and the foliage opens in bright yellow in spring. As the foliage continues to retain its eye-catching colouring, the clusters of white flowers open in June. As the flowers fade the foliage changes to a yellowish green through the summer then in autumn undergoes quite a transformation. In yellow, purple, pink and greenish tones it makes a lovely specimen for its autumn colour.

    ‘Tor Gold’ was found in The Netherlands in 2008 as a sport on a plant of ‘Tor’ which, because it will take very low temperatures, is grown widely in gardens and as a landscape plant in Scandinavia and in Eastern Europe. ‘Tor Gold’ is equally tough.

    Happy in full sun and any reasonable soil, its yellow foliage, white flowers and very colourful autumn foliage – combined with its neat growth – make this a fine plant for small gardens and for containers.

    You can order plants of Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor Gold’ from The Plantsman’s Preference.


  • Two tasty new patio tomatoes

    Graham Rice on 13 Dec 2012 at 02:43 PM

    Tomato 'Donna', a blight tolerant semi-trailing variety. Image © Marda-PrudacWe’ve seen some impressive developments in tomato growing for home gardeners in recent years, and many have come from the world of commercial tomato growing. But some varieties are developed specially for the home gardener, and they include these two new dwarf bush tomatoes from The Netherlands, ‘Donna’ and ‘Tarzan’. Both are ideal for patio pots

    ‘Donna’ (above) develops into a spreading plant 20-25cm high and 50-60cm wide making a broad specimen ideal for baskets and trailing over the edge of large tubs. It does not need support. Even in a 30cm pot each plant should produce about one hundred fruits, in trusses of seven to ten, over a long season. Each fruit is about 3cm across and has a fresh sweet flavour. While not completely resistant, ‘Donna’ is very tolerant of blight.Tomato 'Tarzan', a blight tolerant upright variety. Image © Marda-Prudac

    ‘Tarzan’ (left, click to enlarge) matures into a larger plant, up to 40cm high and 50cm wide, making a more upright specimen better given a tub of its own or used as a centrepiece in a large container. With fruits 5cm or slightly more in diameter, and a very thin skin, a dense meaty flesh and a sharper taste, ‘Tarzan’ is ideal for sandwiches and the barbecue. Each plant should produce at least a kilo of fruit in trusses of three to five. This too has a good tolerance of blight.

    You can order a collection which includes both varieties from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Geranium Dreamland: New long flowering hardy geranium

    Graham Rice on 07 Dec 2012 at 02:09 PM
    title=I’ve lost count of the number of excellent hardy geraniums that Alan Bremner has developed at this garden up in the Orkney Islands, but you’ll find that many of the best and many of your favourites originate there.

    Amongst those he raised are ‘Anne Thomson’, ‘Dilys’, ‘Joy’, ‘Orkney Cherry’, ‘Patricia’, ‘Sabani Blue’ and ‘Sirak’. His latest is ‘Dreamland’.

    Originally discovered in Orkney back in 1998, it then underwent five years of trials in The Netherlands where not only did it prove reliable, prolific and long flowering but also it happily survived temperatures down to -5F/-20C.

    Making a plant about 16in/40cm high, and about the same in width, from May to September ‘Dreamland’ produces a long succession of pale pink flowers with darker veins shading down to a white centre, all set against fresh green toothed foliage.

    Ideal as ground cover under well-spaced roses, Dreamland is also very useful towards the front of the border in a small garden. Spilling out of a container, it’s lovely around a purple-leaved Cordyline. Dreamland is happy in any reasonable soil that is not parched or waterlogged in full sun or partial shade.

    Geranium Dreamland (‘Bremdream’) is available from Crocus, from Mr Fothergill, from Plants Galore and from Woottens Plants.


  • Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’: New style petunia

    Graham Rice on 02 Dec 2012 at 06:28 PM
    Petunia 'Sparklers Mixed', developed from seed sent to T&M by a customer. Images ©GardenPhotos.comFor many years Thompson & Morgan have been offering a reward for new plants discovered by their customers and that the company introduces in their catalogue. Now I know some people have been a little sceptical about this offer but in fact quite a few T&M customers have had their new plants taken up and received the reward.

    Plants that T&M have introduced which originated from a find by a customer include: Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’, French marigold ‘Mr Majestic’, nasturtium ‘Flame Thrower’, Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’ and also a vegetable, Tomato ‘Sungella’. Now there’s also a new Petunia, ‘Sparklers’.

    A white form petunia with unique star-shaped flowers was found by T&M customer Edward Cragen of Bexleyheath in Kent and in 1998 he sent seed to Thompson & Morgan. Their plant breeding team set to work to stabilise the variety and add new colours and this year have introduced ‘Sparklers Mixed’ (above, click to enlarge), a mixture of colours, all with these unique starry flowers. Also, the leaves are pointed to match the flowers.

    ‘Sparklers Mixed’ was trialed all over Europe by Fleuroselect, the pan-European organisation that trials new plants and gives awards to the best. Last year Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ was recognised as an Approved Novelty, confirming it as new, different and without off-types that would spoil the display.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about how to find or breed new plants, and perhaps win that £500, take a look at T&M’s detailed guide to finding or developing new plants.

    You can order seed of Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan, or order plants of Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan



  • Phlox Paparazzi Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 27 Nov 2012 at 02:48 PM

    Phlox Paparazzi Series: Angelica (top), Lindsay and Miley. Images ©Hayloft PlantsThere’s been a great deal of new development in phlox recently, but most of it has been with the tall, summer flowering border phlox. The new Paparazzi series of phlox are different. These new phlox are spring flowering, fragrant and they’re short and bushy.

    Developed in Japan mainly from forms of the familiar spring flowering species Phlox divaricata and P. subulata, plants in the Paparazzi Series reach about 8-10in/20-25cm high and about 12-18in/30-45cm across. The mass of flowers, often held on dark stems opens over neat narrow foliage.

    Hayloft Plants are offering three varieties from the series. ‘Paparazzi Angelina’ is lavender, with a tiny purple eye, and is named for the actress Angelina Jolie; ‘Paparazzi Lindsay’ open in rose pink and develops richer pink tones, and is named for the actress Lindsay Lohan; while ‘Paparazzi Miley’ is pink with sparky dark purple eye, and is named for singer and actress Miley Cyrus.

    Flowering from March to May, these evergreen perennials will thrive in retentive soil in full sun or in partial shade and make lovely additions to the spring tapestry. Clipping them over as the flowers fade will neaten them up and may prompt the appearance of more flowers.

    You can order these Paparazzi Series phlox individually or as a collection from Hayloft Plants.


  • Kale ‘Black Magic’: An improved Cavalo Nero

    Graham Rice on 22 Nov 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Old forms of black kale could be very variable but not ‘Black Magic’. Image ©Tozer SeedsOver the last twenty years, black kale has gone from a plant that no one had heard of, to a fashionable vegetable, to an unexpected ornamental and then to cause of frustration. Also known as Tuscan kale, Cavolo Nero, Lacinato kale and Tuscan cabbage, amongst other things, it’s an important ingredient in traditional Italian minestrone.

    The problem has been that while many of us wanted to grow it, the plants we grew were rarely very consistent. I know when I grew it years ago as a summer foliage plant no two were quite the same. Now comes a British-bred variety, ‘Black Magic’, which solves that problem and which also brings other great qualities.

    As well being uniform in colour, the foliage of ‘Black Magic’ is darker than earlier forms and with more intense puckering. The leaves are a little narrower, it’s much less likely to bolt, and its frost resistance is even better than before. Ready to pick about three months from sowing, baby leaves are ready in about 30 days and when harvested as a baby leaf crop, its leaves are more tender. And there’s one more thing.

    I found that plants I’ve grown in the past tended to stretch up on leg, making them unstable; you really don’t want to have to stake kale. ‘Black Magic’ stays more compact and produces its rosette of leaves closer to the ground.

    You can order seed of kale ‘Black Magic’ from Plants of Distinction and from Suttons.


  • Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’: Sparkling new six colour mixture

    Graham Rice on 19 Nov 2012 at 02:07 PM

    Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ comes in six bright colours. Image ©FleuoroselectNew echinaceas seem to be appearing on all sides but there’s still a relatively small choice for gardeners who like to raise their echinaceas from seed.

    Winner of a Gold Medal from Fleuroselect, the Europe-wide flower trialling organisation, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ (left, click to enlarge) is an echinacea mixture to raise from seed. It produces plants with large single flowers in six colours: red, orange, yellow, purple, rosy-red, and cream. So there’s an excellent range of colours (although no pure white), and, great news for the gardener, the plants flower in their first year from a spring sowing – treat them like a half-hardy annual to give them a good early start.

    The plants all reach about the same size, whatever the colour – 27-31in/68-80cm in height and 25-30in/64-76cm wide – the plants are very bushy and while in their second year they should flower from June to September, flowering will begin later in the first year.

    ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is ideal in sunny borders, where as well as providing its own shining colours, it attracts bees and butterflies and it’s also good as a cut flower. Cut the stems just as the petals are unfurling. And once your plants are flowering, you can pick out your favourite color and divide the plant so you have more for the future.

    You can order seed of Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ from Nicky’s Nursery.


  • Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’: Dark foliage and fiery flowers

    Graham Rice on 13 Nov 2012 at 01:49 PM

    Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ has dark foliage and fiery flowers. Image ©Ball ColegraveAlstroemerias with more than just flowers seem to be demanding more attention these days. There were a number in the recent RHS trial and two variegated varieties, ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Spitfire’, were given Awards of Garden Merit. Back in February the brightly variegated Alstroemeria ‘Rock and Roll’ featured here on the RHS New Plants blog. Now, another with good foliage but in a different style: ‘Indian Summer’ is the first with dark foliage and is too new to have featured in the trial.

    Making a rounded plant no more than 30in/75cm high, the foliage of ‘Indian Summer’ is dark green stained with smoky bronze. So even before the flowers open the foliage marks its mark.

    Then, from June to October, the flowers open in a fiery mix of orange and yellow. The intensity of flowering may vary a little over the months but even when flowering is less intense, there are the red buds.

    ‘Indian Summer’ makes an excellent specimen in a container. In a large container partner it with calibrachoas in fiery or autumnal shades, the old tall single French marigold ‘Striped Marvel’, with gold and orange lantanas, or with other plants in fiery colours. It will also thrive in rich soil in a sunny border.

    You can order plants of Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ from Thompson & Morgan, or look out for it in garden centres next year.


  • Digitalis Dalmatian Series: gorgeous colours, quick to flower

    Graham Rice on 08 Nov 2012 at 01:32 PM

    Dalmation foxgloves have attractive spotted flowers and are quick to bloom. Images ©Kieft Seed” align=Every few years a new series of foxgloves comes along, each said to be better than the last. The Dalmation Series really does look to be an improvement, with some lovely colours and the ability to flower just a few months after sowing. And, as the name indicates, all are beautifully spotted.

    Dalmation Series foxgloves reach 31-43in/80-110cm in height, and can produce their well-filled spikes of flowers in just sixteen weeks from sowing. Start seed in February, in heat, and raise as a bedding plant for June flowering or sow later to flower later in the summer. Unlike traditional foxgloves, plants do not need a cold spell (vernalisation) to prompt flowering but late spring and summer sowings will not flower until the following year when the plants will then be larger and produce more flower spikes.

    There are five colours in the series, although not all are available from all suppliers. ‘Dalmation Cream’, sometimes listed as ‘Dalmation Crème’, is a lovely soft creamy yellow with deep crimson spots; ‘Dalmation Peach’ is soft apricot-peach with pale, delicate spotting; ‘Dalmation Purple’ is foxglove purple with bold spots; ‘Dalmation Rose’ is purple-pink with fewer spots; ‘Dalmation White’ is bright white with small crimson spots.

    One interesting feature of these plants is that as the flowers open they tend to hang down in the same way as a wild foxglove, then as they mature they move to a more horizontal position where their markings can be seen more easily.

    Seeds of varieties in the Dalmation Series of foxgloves are available from Mr Fothergill, Nicky’s Nursery, and Thompson & Morgan.

    Plants of varieties in the Dalmation Series of foxgloves are available from Crocus, and Woolmans


  • Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’: Sparkling new bicolour

    Graham Rice on 05 Nov 2012 at 05:26 PM

    Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’: Sparkling new bicolour from Dobies and Suttons. Images ©Proven Winners.” align=Since the Million Bells series of calibrachoas came on the market about twenty years ago they’ve come a long way. Often called mini-petunias, the earliest varieties had brittle stems, they tended to become hang in vertical sheets when trailing out of baskets and other containers and soon became bare at the base. They tended to suffer from root diseases and although the flowers came in bright single colours, they were not always very prolific.

    Now, things have changed and Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ is a fine example of how far calibrachoas have come. Slightly bushy and semi-trailing, the habit is ideal for baskets and other containers. The plants stay well-furnished with foliage and flowers towards the base, are disease resistant, and the stems don’t snap in breeze.

    As you can see (above, click to enlarge) the plants are very prolific and this new colour is simply delightful. Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ comes in bright yellow with five white flashes and, unlike similar patterns in petunias, the star pattern is very stable in a range of growing conditions. It’s ideal as a specimen in a container by itself, with other calibrachoas, or with the colourful foliage of coleus or oxalis.

    To get the best from calibrachoas, grow them in full sun or just a little shade, feed them regularly and don’t let plants become parched.

    You can order plants of Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ from Dobies and from Suttons.


  • Tomato ‘Black Opal’: New black cherry tomato from Dobies and Suttons

    Graham Rice on 28 Oct 2012 at 09:27 PM

    Tomato ‘Black Opal’: New black cherry tomato. Image ©Gourmet GeneticsMore veg growers are now taking an interest in “black” tomatoes. Their flavour is distinctive and they add to the colour palette of summer salads, but the texture can be poor and the skins can be prone to cracking.

    The old heirloom favourite from Russia, ‘Black Cherry’, for example, has a much appreciated flavour but the fruits tend to be mushy and to crack when mature. ‘Black Opal’ (left, click to enlarge) is a new, British bred, black-fruited cherry tomato that is a noticeable improvement.

    An indeterminate variety for outside or for the cold greenhouse, the flavour of ‘Black Opal’ is even better than that of ‘Black Cherry’, the texture is noticeably firmer and the plant habit is better too. The colour (click the picture to enlarge) is chocolate red. It has good general disease tolerance including good tolerance of the dreaded late blight.

    ‘Black Opal’ was developed by Simon Crawford and Mark Rowland of Gourmet Genetics, Simon was responsible for creating the well known ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Tumbler’ tomatoes. He told me: “'Black Opal' has a good flavour but selection was more for the texture of the fruit, more crispy rather than mushy as it is with 'Black Cherry' or 'Chocolate Cherry'.

    “It has fruit weighing about 18grams/0.6oz each with about 120-150 fruit per plant over a three month period so the total yield of ‘Black Opal’ will be around 2.3kgs/5.1lbs per plant.”

    The flavour is a tempting mix of sweetness and tanginess with a Brix rating (a measure of sweetness) of 9% in a cold greenhouse and similar when grown outside. For comparison, the well known ‘Gardener’s Delight’ has a lower Brix rating of 7%.

    You can order young plants of ‘Black Opal’ tomatoes from Suttons or from Dobies.


  • Olearia ‘Moondance’: New variegated evergreen shrub

    Graham Rice on 26 Oct 2012 at 02:31 PM

    Olearia ‘Moondance’ has both variegated leaves and large white flower heads. (Image © All Rifght Reserved)Olearia arborescens is a shrub not seen much in Britain but this New Zealand native is often grown in its home country, as a hedge and for its large heads of white flowers. Now there’s a new variegated form.

    The wild species is a vigorous evergreen shrub reaching 13ft/4m, perhaps more, in height, with slightly glossy dark green leaves which are prettily silvered on the undersides. In May and June small, white, daisy-like flowers are carried in rounded heads up to 6in/15cm across.

    In ‘Moondance’ (left, click to enlarge), the leaves are slightly greyer and feature a broad irregular creamy margin. There is also a slight pink tint the shoot tips. As the plants mature the pale margin becomes a little less broad and the result is a very effective foliage shrub.

    Olearia arborescens ‘Moondance’ was found in New Zealand by Denis Hughes of Blue Mountain Nurseries. He told me: “This cultivar was developed from a bud sport I found in a hedge of the plain species that grew cream and variegated leaves. With careful selection of propagation material, ‘Moondance’ was born.

    “Over the past decade or so we have found it to be a very stable and colourful cultivar. As variegated shrubs are not particularly popular in New Zealand, at the moment we have not offered the cultivar to the New Zealand public but I’m pleased that it’s now available in Britain.”

    One important point. Since before the mid-1970s another variegated form of O. arborescens has occasionally been seen, ‘Variegata’. This is a much less attractive plant than ‘Moondance’ with irregular cream or greyish green splashes and streaks.

    It’s interesting to note that amongst all the shrubby plants in the daisy family, there are just a few variegated forms – all are olearias.

    You can order Olearia arborescens ‘Moondance’ from The Walled Garden Nursery.


  • Hosta ‘Purple Heart’: red leaf stems and colourful flowers

    Graham Rice on 21 Oct 2012 at 08:03 PM

    Hosta 'Purple Heart' has red leaf stems and colourful flowers. Images ©Terra Nova NurseriesSo many new hostas appear each year that it’s hard to keep up with them all. Some are much the same as existing varieties but a few are both distinctive and useful in the garden.

    ‘Purple Heart’ (above, click to enlarge) is the culmination of a programme designed to create new hostas with a red leaf stem and with red colouring at the base of the foliage. Each leaf is about 7in/18.5cm long and 4.5in/11.7cm wide, dark green at first then becoming slightly paler green and yellowish green underneath.

    The special feature is that the leaf stems are very dark maroon in colour, almost black, and the red colouring extends up into the leaf itself as dense spotting along the base of the midrib and also into the base of the side veins. The rather open habit of the plant shows off the colouring well.

    Compared with two existing, widely grown, red stemmed forms ‘Purple Heart’ makes a significantly larger plant than ‘Little Red Rooster’, which reaches only about 6in/15cm in height, and it is also taller than the 10in/25cm ‘Red October’ and with red colouring which is noticeably more intense.

    In addition to the attractive foliage, the flowers of ‘Purple Heart’ are also a good feature. About thirty flowers are held on reddish stems about 15in/38cm long, each flower is flower is pale mauve, darker at the base. The flowers set no seed and may last as long as eight weeks. Plants reach about 15in/38cm high and 30in/90cm wide.

    Hosta ‘Purple Heart’ was developed by Gary Gossett at Terra Nova Nurseries in Portland, Oregon

    You can order plants of Hosta ‘Purple Heart’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Euonymus japonicus ‘Happiness’: Bright new colourful evergreen

    Graham Rice on 14 Oct 2012 at 01:13 PM

    Euonymus ‘Happiness’ is a colourful new evergreen shrub. Image © Van Vliet New PlantsWe tend to think of evergreen Euonymus as rather tough, practical, utilitarian shrubs but they can be interesting and colourful too.

    Euonymus japonicus ‘Happiness’ is a relatively dwarf evergreen and its special feature is its foliage. The new growth is pale green then fading to pale yellow and maturing to a rich golden yellow before; the foliage colour makes a colourful contrast with the stems which remain green. Eventually the foliage turns dark green, creating the ideal background against which the bright new foliage is shown off.

    Developing into a low mound about 8in/20cm high and 10in/25cm wide after three years, eventually it reaches about 24in/60cm high and 30in/75cm wide. So it’s relatively slow growing, but is also robust and tolerant of a wide range of conditions.This is a good plant for containers in a contemporary urban environment, for town and commercial landscapes, and indeed anywhere that a low dome with a long season of colour is needed. Happy in any reasonable soil, ‘Happines’ thrives best in partial shade but will also do well in full sun as long as it never gets too dry.

    ‘Happiness’ was found in Holland in the autumn of 2005, it is a sport of the widey grown E. japonicus ‘Microphyllus Aueovariegatus’.

    You can order plants of Euonymus japonicus ‘Happiness’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Agastache ‘Blue Boa’: colourful and drought tolerant

    Graham Rice on 09 Oct 2012 at 01:09 PM

    Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ is colourful and drought tolerant. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesAgastaches of all kinds are becoming more popular these days. This is partly because most are drought tolerant once they’re established, and also because they’re dependable attractors for bees and butterflies. Their foliage is aromatic, too, and of course they provide a long season of intense flower colour.

    ‘Blue Boa’ is a new introduction with spikes of deep violet blue flowers held over deep green foliage with a distinct licorice flavour. Reaching 18-24in/45-60cm in height, ‘Blue Boa’ blooms from early summer right through until the frosts end the display.

    This looks to be an improvement on the similar Award of Garden Merit winning ‘Blue Fortune’. Dependably hardy, unlike ‘Blue Fortune’, the flowers of ‘Blue Boa’ are deeper in colour, and the long flower spikes are also fatter than those of ‘Blue Fortune’.

    With its well-branched but upright habit, this makes a splendid central feature in a large mixed container, with the limey yellow foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’, perhaps. In a sunny border ‘Blue Boa’ would be impressive with kniphopfias such as the vibrant ‘Orange Flame’, with pink Penstemon ‘Evelyn’ or with bright orange-yellow Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’.

    Developed in Portland, Oregon by Terra Nova Nurseries, it is one of eight new agastaches they’re introduced recently. Their aims are to create new varieties with unusually long lasting flowers, improved weather resistance and an improved habit of growth – many older varieties flop and branch poorly.

    You can order Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ from Hayloft Plants, and also from the Walled Garden Nursery.


  • Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’: Combines fragrance and colour

    Graham Rice on 04 Oct 2012 at 01:12 PM

    Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is both colourful and fragrant. Image © Szczepan MarczyńskiNew clematis often feature on this blog, but rarely is one quite as different as this. ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is the first fragrant clematis with large colourful flowers. There are a few fragrant clematis already, C. flammula and the related C. x aromatica, come to mind, but ‘Sweet Summer Love’ not only has a strong scent but very colourful flowers.

    Reaching about 11ft/3.5m in height, from early July until September the plant is covered with flowers which open in deep red, then mature through purple-red, then purplish violet to violet then becoming paler as they fade. Each flower is just under 2in/5cm across and has an intense scent. One plant can carry as many as 1000 flowers delivering not only a spectacular effect, but a heavy dose of perfume.

    ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is happy in any reasonable soil where it gets at least some sunshine, such as on a east, west or south wall or fence. It can be limited in size by hard pruning every spring, just cut the plant down to about 8in/20cm above the ground as the buds start to burst.

    Breeder Szczepan Marczyński tells me that ‘Sweet Summer Love’ was the result of a cross made in July 2003 at his nursery near Warsaw in Poland. He prefers not to reveal the identities of the parent plants but the plant is related to C. flammula. The cross produced just one single seed which germinated the following year. It was planted outside in 2006 and first flowered in 2007.

    I asked Szczepan to describe the fragrance. “I would say it is pleasant, delicate, sweet, with elements of evening stock, Viola, vanilla with note of almond...” he told me. And on such a colourful plant, too.

    You can order plants of Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’ from Crocus, from Gardening Direct, and from The Walled Garden Nursery.


  • Narcissus ‘Spoirot’: new award-winning miniature

    Graham Rice on 29 Sep 2012 at 02:21 PM

    Narcissus 'Spoirot': a prolific new miniature daffodil. Image ©RHSIt can take many years for enough stock of a new variety of daffodil to be built up so that it can be offered to more than a few specialist enthusiasts. This plant was identified as a promising seedling in Tasmania way back in 1987 but only has it now reached the mainstream here in Britain. It was awarded the Award of Garden Merit in 2011 by the RHS after being trialed at Wisley.

    This pretty hoop petticoat daffodil, 'Spoirot', has bright white flowers 11/2in/4cm across which are very slightly tinted in the faintest of green. Reaching about 19cm/71/2in in height with arching or almost prostrate leaves up to 10in/25cm in length, the mass of flowers stands up well above the foliage so it can be seen clearly.

    Flowering begins early, the trials staff at Wisley noted that in 2011 blooming began on 14 February and continued for 42 days with 180 flowers being produced from ten bulbs planted in September 2009; that’s quite a display. The daffodil experts on the Trials Assessment Panel who voted to give ‘Spoirot’ its AGM summarised their thoughts in this way: “Beautiful, eye-catching flowers, and very floriferous. The flowers have beautiful form. Flowers are above the foliage and are a consistent height.”

    ‘Spoirot’ is a hybrid between Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. bulbocodium var. conspicuus and N. cantabricus subsp. cantabricus var. foliosus raised at the Glenbrook Bulb Farm in Tasmania by Rod Barwick. ‘Spoirot’ is one of his Little Detective Series named after Agatha Christie's fictional detective Hercule Poirot.

    You can order Narcissus ‘Spoirot’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Verbena ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’: New scented verbena from Mr Fothergill

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Verbena 'Talman's Fragrant Treasure' - new scented Verbena from Mr Fothergill. Imafge ©GardenPhotos.comOver the years, visiting seed companies and looking over the rows and rows of plants grown side by side for testing and comparison, I’ve often noticed individual verbena plants in amongst the seed-raised mixtures that stood out. I even grew some mixtures myself, and picked out a few individual plants that looked promising and propagated them from cuttings. But, in the end, none proved truly exceptional.

    But Brian Talman, Trial Ground Manager at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, has struck gold with a verbena that caught his eye, or rather his nose, on their trials back in 2009.

    “Walking past it one August day, I could smell it,” he told me. “I got down on my hands and knees for a closer look and it was exceptional. The colour was lovely, and that one plant in the row was also more vigorous.

    “I dug it up, potted it, grew it on in the greenhouse and took cuttings. We continued to look at it and found that while all verbenas get mildew in the end, this was the last to get it.” Mr Fothergill’s decided it was so good that they decided to put it in their own catalogue.

    ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’ is spreading rather than trailing. It makes a lovely specimen plant in a container and is a good mixed with other plants in a hanging basket. The individual flowers are lavender blue with a white eye – and then there’s that lovely scent.

    For many many years Brian looked after the trials for one of the huge multinational seed companies and when he spotted a seedling that looked special he reported his find to the plant breeders and let them deal with it. Now, one of his own finds carries his own name.

    You can order plants of Verbena ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’ from Mr Fothergill.


  • Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 20 Sep 2012 at 08:31 PM

    Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia from Crocus. Image © are amongst the most impressive and dependable of flowering shrubs – but they have a problem. They’re spiny, sometimes viciously spiny. Not any more.

    Mahonia eurybracteata is a modestly sized evergreen shrub that grows wild in five provinces of south west China. Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, and about as wide creating a more or less rounded plant, the long slender divided foliage is slightly greyish green, soft to the touch and not at all spiny or holly-like as so many varieties are.

    From August until October the flowers appear, upright clusters of spikes at the tips of the shoots are lined with slightly fragrant, bright yellow flowers that last for many weeks and are followed by blue berries.

    ‘Soft Caress’ is a new form selected for its extra hardiness and for foliage which has a more noticeably silvery sheen. The leaves may also take on reddish tints as the days shorten and the nights become cooler. ‘Soft Caress’ is neat enough to be grown in a container, or is happy in a sunny or partially shaded border where it appreciates fertile, but well-drained soil.

    ‘Soft Caress’ was selected by Ozzie Johnson and Karen Stever from a group of seedlings of Mahonia eurybracteata grown at ItSaul Plants in Chamblee, Georgia.

    You can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Crocus.


  • Geranium ‘Blushing Turtle’: New ground cover hardy geranium

    Graham Rice on 17 Sep 2012 at 06:11 PM

    Geranium 'Blushing Turtle': new ground cover hardy geraniumThere’s no shortage of hardy geraniums, cranesbills, in nurseries – in fact there are thousands. So a new one really has got to be good to be worth choosing over the best of those already available. And the strangely named ‘Blushing Turtle’ looks as if it might be up to the task.

    Making a broadly mounded plant about 20in/50cm wide and 6in/15cm high, whose stems branch repeatedly to create a mass of dense growth, flowering is at its peak in June and then starts up again in September and continues until the frost.

    Each small, 1.5in/3.5cm, prettily ruffled flower is vivid pink, boldly marked with an intricate network of darker, magenta pink veins. The mass of bloom is backed by neat, bright green, maple-shaped foliage which takes on bright autumnal colours late in the season.

    This is a fine plant to use as ground cover in mixed borders and amongst roses; it is also ideal to trail over a retaining wall and would also make a lovely container plant.

    ‘Blushing Turtle’ was developed by Karin Kosick of Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, as part of a project to develop, drought tolerant, repeat flowering hardy geraniums with large flowers. It’s a hybrid between Geranium sanguineum and either Geranium × oxonianum ‘Julie Brennan’ or Geranium asphodeloides. Further research will doubtless reveal which. Originally sold as ‘Breathless’, and it may still occasionally be found under that name, but it turned out that it was illegal to use that name as it had been trade marked for another plant. So now it's 'Blushing Turtle'.

    You can order Geranium ‘Blushing Turtle’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and from Mr Fothergill.


  • Greigii tulips: New and returning from de Jager

    Graham Rice on 10 Sep 2012 at 01:15 PM

    Griegii tulips from de Jager: 'Cape Cod' (left), 'Albion Star', 'Sweet Lady'. Images © de JagerDwarf tulips are ideal for tubs, window boxes and other containers as well as in clumps at the front of sunny borders. And, as well as colourful flowers on short, wind-resistant stems most Greigii tulips also feature foliage striped in dusky purple.

    Varieties available from mail order sources seem to come and go so here I’ve brought together one newcomer with two older varieties which are available by mail order this year having been missing from the catalogues last year.

    The newcomer is ‘Albion Star’ whose white flowers feature a delicate pink blush on the outer petals. Plants reach about 12in/30cm in height in full flower and are at their peak towards the end of April. In this case the foliage is plain green but ‘Albion Star’ would look lovely with the short pink forget-me-not ‘Rosylva’.

    ‘Cape Cod’, on the other hand, has been around since 1955 but was strangely absent from this year’s RHS Plant Finder. Now it’s available again. The outer petals of ‘Cape Cod’ are mostly deep apricot orange shading to a yellow edge; the inner petals are yellow with a matching apricot orange flash through the centre. The heart of the flower is black. ‘Cape Cod’ flowers in March and April and would look well in a container with a yellow-leaved heuchera such as ‘Citronelle’. It also features foliage striped in dusky purple.

    Finally, another oldie returning to the fold, ‘Sweet Lady’ is shorter at only about 6-8in/15-20cm and features pinkish red flowers with an apricot haze towards the base which is olive green around the stem. Flowering in March and April, with its short stature and striped leaves it can be planted at the very front of a container and will be attractive from when the leaves first emerge.

    You can order all three of these Greigii tulips from de Jager.


  • Narcissus ‘Jamestown’: An elegant Irish daffodil

    Graham Rice on 06 Sep 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Narcissus 'Jamestown' is an elegant daffodil for borders or containers. Image © Suttons.There’s no shortage of daffodils from which to choose. There are over two thousand varieties in the current RHS Plant Finder, although most are only available in small numbers from one specialist supplier, but any new daffodil has still got to be good to be worth choosing above established varieties.

    ‘Jamestown’ (left, click to enlarge) is a lovely elegant daffodil. Not gaudy and shockingly yellow like some, but more of a more subtle combination of colours, the wide pure white petals - the perianth – can make a flower which is over 3in/7.5cm across and form a bright, clean background for the small cup. Golden yellow in colour, the cup has a neat orange rim, which is noticeably frilly, and shades to vivid green in the centre.

    Flowering in April, and reaching about 14-16in/35-40cm in height, ‘Jamestown’ is ideal in spring containers where you can appreciate its elegant form, it would look well growing through the yellow foliage of Heuchera ‘Pastiche’ or with blue forget-me-nots. It’s also ideal in clumps of ten towards the front of the border.

    ‘Jamestown’ was raised in Northern Ireland at the Ballydorn Bulb Farm in Co. Down. One of its parents is the Award of Garden Merit winning ‘Irish Minstrel’. ‘Jamestown’ was available from a specialist a few years ago, then disappeared from catalogues. It is now re-introduced by Suttons and much more widely available.

    You can order Narcissus ‘Jamestown’ from Suttons.


  • Bloomerang: New reblooming lilac

    Graham Rice on 03 Sep 2012 at 01:35 PM

    'Bloomerang': a new reblooming lilac. Images © ProvenWinners.comWay back in December 2010 I picked out a new repeat-flowering lilac from America as likely to be one of the top newcomers for 2012. It’s now available here in Britain.

    Syringa Bloomerang (‘Penda’) (left, click to enlarge) makes a strong-growing plant about 5ft/1.5 high and as much across with a bushy, rounded habit and foliage which is smaller and neater than that of the more familiar larger lilacs. This lilac is more manageable and more adaptable.

    Flowering begins in late spring and continues through to late summer – quite different from the two or three week burst of so many lilacs. There may be a period after the first flush when flowering eases off a little, but blooming soon kicks in again. Regular dead heading will help ensure the most prolific display. Each flower head is about 4in/10cm tall and 3in/7.5cm across and may contain over 250 individual flowers, each well scented and slightly bluish lavender purple in colour.

    So while the flower heads are much smaller than those of traditional lilacs, the number of flowers and their long season more than compensates.

    Happiest in full sun and fertile but well-drained soil, another useful feature of Bloomerang is that it’s more resistant to soil born diseases and mildew than others of this type.

    Bloomerang is a form of Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla and is a seedling of Josee (‘Morjos 060f’) selected by Tim Wood at Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan.

    You can order Syringa Bloomerang from Thompson and Morgan and also from Van Meuwen.


  • Heucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’: New trailing and ground cover variety

    Graham Rice on 29 Aug 2012 at 03:33 PM

    Heucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’: sunny new trailing and ground cover variety. Image © Terra Nova NurseriesIn October last year, I told you about a completely new style of perennial – a heucherella for hanging baskets and ground cover. xHeucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ was the first in the Falls Series and the series has now expanded to three varieties with the addition this year of ‘Sunrise Falls’.

    These plants combine the creeping habit of some tiarellas, with the extra resilience of heucheras to create adaptable plants for trailing plants for containers or groundcover for shady borders.

    ‘Sunrise Falls’ (left, click to enlarge) is the brightest of the three, with foliage in a clearer and brighter yellow than that of ‘Yellowstone Falls’. Each leaf is blazed with a red stain in the middle of each lobe but the red colouring is less dominant and less bright than in some other heucherellas and the effect is altogether more pleasing. In winter, the foliage develops impressive rusty red tones.

    Grow ‘Sunrise Falls’ in a traditional wire hanging basket with moss and, when planting in autumn, add a liberal planting of blue grape hyacinths in the top and the sides – right down to the base. The grape hyacinths will grow through the mesh, and then through the yellow heucherella leaves which will provide a colourful background to show off the grape hyacinth flowers as the spikes turn upwards and open. The brightly coloured Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’ would be a good choice.

    As ground cover ‘Sunrise Falls’ will spread widely, rooting as it goes, and will snuggle up to shrubs and undercarpet perennials. It would be lovely under plummy hellebores and with another blue flowered bulb, Scilla siberica.

    xHeucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Three new double-flowered echinaceas

    Graham Rice on 26 Aug 2012 at 08:41 AM

    Three new double echinaceas: 'Secret Joy' (left), 'Secret Lust' and 'Secret passion (right). Images © Terra Nova Nurseries.There seems to be no drop in enthusiasm for echinaceas, as more new colours and new types arrive in nurseries and garden centres. But some gardeners have become wary of the double flowered varieties.

    It’s true that some of the first double-flowered echinaceas proved to be disappointing – either the flowers were not consistently double and sometimes broke into distorted shapes or the stems were not strong enough to support the heavy flowers. In some sad cases, varieties suffered from both problems.

    Recent introductions are much improved and three new varieties in the Secret Series not only guarantee nothing but double flowers but are also a little shorter than earlier double-flowered varieties at about 75cm/30in in height. They also have better strength to support the double flower heads – which of course are heavier than single flowers, especially when they collect rain.

    All have double flowers with a pronounced coloured cone surrounded by a ring of petals. The latest three varieties in this series to become available are ‘Secret Joy’ (above left, click to enlarge) in rich yllow fading to pale yellow, ‘Secret Lust’ (above centre, click to enlarge) with a reddish orange central cone and petals in pinker tones and ‘Secret Passion’ (above right, click to enlarge) with vivid pink cones and paler pink petals.

    All are scented, all flower from July to October, all make good cut flowers and all require sun, fertile soil and good winter drainage; without good drainage most modern echinaceas may prove to be short-lived.

    Plants of ‘Secret Joy’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants

    Plants of ‘Secret Lust’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants and from Suttons

    Plants of ‘Secret Passion’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants and from Suttons


  • Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster

    Graham Rice on 14 Aug 2012 at 06:57 PM

    Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster. Image ©Charles OliverCharles Oliver is the pioneer of creating new heucheras, it was his initial work hybridising wild selections which led to the dramatic developments of recent years.

    He also has an interest in other North American plants including Phlox, Tiarella, Arisaema and Aster but it has taken nearly fifteen years for his form of a widespread American Aster species to make it across the Atlantic to Britain.

    ‘October Skies’ is his selection of Aster oblongifolius, a species not often seen in British gardens. The wild species is a little like A. novae-angliae in general appearance, though with more petals – up to thirty five - around each flower giving a more solid look, but tends to be woody at the base, rather weak in growth and floppy.

    ‘October Skies’ is much more compact, reaching about 18in/45cm, and branches well to create an attractively bushy, self-supporting plant, much better in its habit of growth than the other variety sometimes seen, ‘Fanny’s’, which is taller and floppier. Its foliage, like that of the wild type, is strongly aromatic with a balsam-like scent then the purple-blue flowers, just over 1in/2.5cm across, open from late September and continue through October to the first heavy frost.

    Best in full sun and in well-drained soil, ‘October Skies’ will tolerate dry conditions once established. It was selected by Charles Oliver in 1999 from a wild population growing on his land in south west Pennsylvania.

    You can order Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • New clematis from Raymond Evison

    Graham Rice on 11 Aug 2012 at 03:20 PM

    Clematis The Countess of Wessex™ (‘Evipo073’), new from Raymond Evison. Image ©Raymond Evison

    Back in April I highlighted one of this year’s new clematis introductions from Raymond Evison, Alaina (‘Evipo 056'), this time I’m taking a look at the other two.

    The Countess of Wessex™ (‘Evipo073’) (above, click to enlarge) was chosen as the variety to carry her name by Her Royal Highness herself from a range of new Raymond Evison clematis varieties.

    The 5–7in/14–17cm single flowers are an especially delightful soft colouring. Each of the six petals is blushed white with a slightly darker central stripe through the centre, while in the middle of the flower the ring of maroon anthers makes a striking contrast. The edges of each petal are appealingly rippled. The flowers open early to mid-summer, sometimes take a short break, then bloom again in late summer to early autumn.

    With its delicate colouring, which fades in bright sun, The Countess of Wessex™ is ideal out of direct sunlight, facing north, east or north west is ideal, and reaching only 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m is ideal in a container on the shady side of the patio. Clematis Zara™ (‘Evipo062’), new from Raymond Evison. Image ©Raymond Evison

    Even shorter, but happy in any aspect, Zara™ (‘Evipo062’) (left, click to enlarge) has lovely pale blue 4–5in/10-13cm single flowers, with six broad overlapping petals and a mass of golden anthers in the centre

    Reaching only 3-4 ft/1–1.2m in height, this is one of Raymond Evison’s most compact varieties and ideal for the smallest of spaces flowering from early summer to early autumn, with perhaps a short rest.

    Pruning of both these new clematis is simple: cut back to 12in/30cm in spring.

    You can order Clematis The Countess of Wessex™ from Raymond Evison Clematis and from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

    You can order Clematis Zara™ from Raymond Evison Clematis and from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries


  • Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade': the first pink-fruited blueberry

    Graham Rice on 06 Aug 2012 at 07:11 AM

    Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade': the first pink-fruited blueberryGardeners have taken a liking to blueberries in recent years, with the enthusiasm of Jennifer Trehane and her books – the latest one is Blueberries for Everyone – making us all realise what great fruits they are, packed with flavour and goodness. But now, in addition to what have become the familiar dark blue fruited blueberries – we have a variety with pink fruits.

    First, it’s worth a reminder of what valuable three-season plants blueberries are. There are the dainty little spring flowers, like blushed white bells in this case; then in summer there are the fruits; and finally there’s fiery autumn leaf colour.

    ‘Pink Lemonade’ reaches about 5ft/1.5m high and wide, with masses of twiggy branches. The fruits begin green, then become speckled in pink and then take on a rich pink colouring as they mature in August and September. They can be eaten straight from the bush – with ice cream or Greek yogurt, or cooked in muffins, pies or other desserts.

    ‘Pink Lemonade’ is the result of many years development by the United States Department of Agriculture and has both traditional blueberries, Vaccinium corymbosum, as well as the less common V. ashei and V. darrowi in its background, with a wild white-berried form of the blueberry, V. corymbosum, being especially influential.

    Like all blueberries, ‘Pink Lemonade’ demands an acid soil and is especially happy in a large container of ericaceous compost. Although it’s self fertile, it will crop more heavily if another blueberry is planted nearby.

    You can order Blueberry ‘Pink Lemonade’ from DT Brown and from Suttons and from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Two new heucheras from America

    Graham Rice on 30 Jul 2012 at 02:03 PM

    Heuchera 'Delta Dawn' (left) and 'Spellbound'. Images ©terra Nova Nurseries
    As the flow of exciting new Heuchera varieties continues, this year two new introductions from America stand out. Both are from the breeding work of Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, the company that has done so much to revolutionise what had become little more than an unfashionable cut flower.

    Now, of course, it’s foliage that is to the fore – foliage that lasts the whole year and often changes with the seasons.

    ‘Delta Dawn’ (above left, click to enlarge) certainly changes as the months go buy. Its bold, rounded, gently lobed leaves are red in spring with a golden yellow rim, the colouring retreating to red veins in summer and the older foliage becoming green with a faint red stain.

    This is a compact variety, reaching about 8in/20cm high and 12in/30cm across, the creamy white flowers are held just a few inches above the foliage in summer. This is a splendid container plant, or can be used at the front of partially shaded borders. It takes summer heat unusually well – when necessary….

    ‘Spellbound’ (above right, click to enlarge) is a different creature altogether, making a big bold clump 16in/40cm high and 14in/35cm wide. The foliage is also very different, silver with ruffled edges and dark veins, and with reddish purple margins to the leaves – especially in spring. That reddish colouring also covers the backs of the leaves. As is the case with ‘Delta Dawn’, the white flowers add little to the display.

    Dramatic as a specimen, try two in matching terracotta pots at the top of some partially shaded steps – but never let the plants dry out.

    You can buy Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

    You can buy Heuchera ‘Spellbound’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Six new roses from Harkness Roses

    Graham Rice on 26 Jul 2012 at 01:17 PM

    Rose 'Esperanza' - new from Harkness. Image ©Hardkness RosesI recently highlighted some of the new roses from two of Britain’s relatively new rose nurseries, David Austin Roses and Peter Beales Roses. So it only seems fair also to focus on those from a nursery that’s been around, one way or another, for over one hundred and thirty years – Harkness Roses. They have six new roses this year, all developed at their Hertfordshire nursery.

    ‘Diamond Days’ is a very strongly scented Hybrid Tea rose with white flowers, much creamier in the centre, set against rich dark green leaves. It flowers prolifically right through summer and autumn, but on neat plants which reach about 32in/80cm high and just 24in/60cm high. The citrus-like scent is very powerful.

    ‘Esperanza’ (above, click to enlarge) was picked out by the Harkness experts for its excellent health, no hint of disease, something they’re always looking for, but a visitor – knowing nothing of this – picked it out for its beauty. This is a modern shrub rose, reaching about 32in/80cm high and wide and is good in both borders and containers. 20% of receipts from sales of ‘Esperanza’ (the name means hope) will be donated to Addenbrooke’s Hospital Trust.

    ‘Glyndebourne’ is a lovely blushed white shrub rose for the back of the border, Roses 'Diamond Days', 'Ice Dance', 'Mercy Rose', 'Summer Sweetheart - all new from Harkness Roses. Images ©Harkness Rosesreaching 51/4ft/1.6m in height. This well-scented variety is also good for a flowering hedge and is excellent for cutting.

    ‘Ice Dance’ is a neat and dwarf shrub rose reaching only 2ft/60cm high and wide. The pure white flowers, set against dark green foliage, are single but with extra rows of petals to give the flowers more impressive impact – and they keep coming all summer and into the autumn.

    ‘Mercy Rose’ is a shrub-like Floribunda, with yellow-centred pale pink semi-double flowers fading almost to white. It’s tough, easy to grow, disease resistant and reaches just 3ft/90cm high and rather less across. 10% of the sales receipts will be donated to Mercy Ships, which provides medical and other help to the world’s poorest countries.

    ‘Summer Sweetheart’ is one of those invaluable roses – a well behaved climber. It won’t run up your apple tree, over the house and down the other side as it reaches only about 61/2ft/2m so can be trained up alongside the front door. With fragrant flowers all summer, its rich pink colouring never fades and disease is rare.

    You can order ‘Diamond Days’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Esperanza’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Glyndebourne’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Ice Dance’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Mercy Rose’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Summer Sweetheart’ from Harkness Roses.


  • Strawberry ‘Sweetheart’: New from D T Brown

    Graham Rice on 21 Jul 2012 at 01:20 PM

    Strawberry 'Sweetheart' - wonderful traditional strawberry flavour. Image ©MeiosisMost new varieties of strawberry are selected for the value in commercial strawberry production. But the features that make a good commercial variety are not necessarily the same as those that make a good variety for gardeners.

    ‘Sweetheart’ comes from East Malling Research in Kent, one of the world’s leading creators of new fruit varieties, but they note that it is not ideal for intensive commercial systems. For gardeners, however, its ability to crop productively after its first year and in non-intensive plantings makes it well suited to home food growing. And while few commercial growers keep their strawberry plants for a second or third year after planting this is normal for home gardeners and ‘Sweetheart’ does well as a perennial.

    Yield is good too, in its second year, in its peak cropping week around the third week of June, research shows that each ‘Sweetheart’ plant will produce about a third more fruit than the old favourite ‘Elsanta.

    But of course yield is not everything, what about flavour? This is what D T Brown General Manager Tim Jeffries had to say: “I think Sweetheart is set to become a favourite for home gardeners. It is a very vigorous growing strawberry but with a compact habit but when we tasted the fruits we realised it was something special. It has that great balance of sweetness and acidity, mouth-wateringly juicy and quite frankly just tastes like a strawberry should, full of flavour and full of memories of summers gone by. It was one of those strawberries which made me keep going back for  more even though I was supposed to be tasting a full range of varieties! I’ll be growing it at home so clearly I really do rate it!”

    I think he likes it…

    You can order strawberry ‘Sweetheart’ from D T Brown.


  • New autumn and spring flowering wallflower

    Graham Rice on 17 Jul 2012 at 10:02 PM

    'Sugar Rush' wallflower blooms in autumn as well as spring. Image ©FloranovaThe colour, the fragrance – the humble British wallflower is a vital part of our spring; in fact no other country has such an attachment to wallflowers, we grow far more than anyone else.

    Of course we all think of wallflowers as essentially spring flowers, in fact they need a chilly spell to switch on flowering, that’s why they never flower in the autumn. Until now.

    In the British-bred ‘Sugar Rush’, this requirement for vernalisation, as it’s called, has been eliminated. They need no cold snap to initiate flowering so plants will flower in the autumn, sometimes lasting till Christmas. Pinch off the dead flowers and they then take a break before flowering again in spring.

    ‘Sugar Rush’ comes in a mixture of four colours - rich red, gold, primrose and purple - and the plants are relatively short, too, unlike many traditional types which can grow so tall that they fall over in full flower. The ‘Sugar Rush’ mixture also features that lovely fresh wallflower fragrance.

    Sow the seeds in July and the first flowers will be opening in the autumn. Plants are hardy down to -15C/5F, so they’re tough, and reaching only about 12in/30cm in height, they’re especially good in containers.

    You can order plugs of wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ from Mr Fothergill.

    You can order seed of wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ from Plants of Distinction.

    And look out for it in your local garden centre in the autumn.


  • Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream': New for 2012

    Graham Rice on 09 Jul 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Leucanthemum 'Banana Cream', the best yellow flowered Shasta daisy yet. Image © Chris Hansen.As long ago as December 2009 I looked forward to the arrival of a new yellow-flowered Shasta daisy, Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream', I’d seen across the Atlantic but it seems to have taken until this year to appear. It’s in the batch of new RHS Plantfinder introductions for 2012 listed by half a dozen different suppliers.

    This is generally reckoned to be the best yellow-flowered Shasta daisy yet, but it also has other valuable qualities. Each 4in/10cm wide flower opens in lemon yellow and then, as it matures, changes to butter yellow; there are other varieties that open yellow, but they tend to fade to cream. Each flower also has a double row of petals, giving the flowers extra substance.

    What’s more, as you can see from the picture (click to enlarge), flower buds develop not only at the tips of the shoots but also in the leaf joints farther down the stem. This leads to a much extended summer flowering season. When cut, the flowers also last up to two weeks in water yet are carried on plants no more than 18in/45cm tall.

    The plants are also vigorous, and increase well, and the foliage tends to be less prone to disease than in older varieties.

    ‘Banana Cream’ was developed in Michigan by Kevin Hurd at Walters Gardens, one of North America’s best known perennial growers.

    You can order Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream' from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • New plants at the 2012 Hampton Court Show

    Graham Rice on 05 Jul 2012 at 05:37 PM

    Trailing sweet pepper 'Sweet Sunshine' . Images ©DobiesSome great new plants were shown for the first time at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this week but perhaps the most astonishing of all was a new trailing sweet pepper from Dobies of Devon, it’s called ‘Sweet Sunshine’.

    As you can see from the picture (left, click to enlarge), the plant develops a dramatic trailing habit and looks impressive in a hanging basket. It’s covered in small slender peppers – they look like chilies but are actually pointed, slimline sweet peppers maturing from green to bright orange. They can be sliced or stir fried whole and you can keep picking right through to the frosts.

    To be honest, when ‘Sweet Sunshine’ was first released earlier this year I hadn’t seen it and I couldn’t quite believe it. But it really does trail. So I thought it deserved a better-late-than-never mention now.

    Also new at the show was another in the Harlequin Series of Streptocarpus from Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Purple' - new from Dibleys. Image © Diblleys.Dibleys. The first of these dramatic bicolours, ‘Harlequin Blue’, won the first Plant of the Year Award at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010. Now ‘Harlequin Purple’, with rich plum purple upper petals and creamy yellow lower petals has arrived. The flowers are flat to show off the colour effectively, and it flowers for eight months of the year.

    The 2013 Rose of the Year was also announced at the show. You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’) is a lovely pink, lightly scented, Floribunda rose which although it reaches only 3ft/90cm in height, is strong and bushy but neat enough for small borders and You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’), the 2013 Rose of the Year. Image ©Fryers Rosescontainers. Find out more on the Fryers roses website. And check out the other new roses launched at the Show.

    You can order seed of pepper ‘Sweet Sunshine’ from Dobies of Devon.

    You can order Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Purple’ from Dibleys.

    The 2013 Rose Of The Year You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’) will be available from Fryers Roses and most other mail order rose specialists in the autumn.

    Take a look at the new and exciting Hampton Court plants from Phil Clayton, of The Garden.


  • Five new roses from Peter Beales

    Graham Rice on 30 Jun 2012 at 03:11 PM

    Five new roses from Peter Beales for 2012. Images ©Peter Beales RosesPeter Beales Roses are famous as champions of old fashioned roses. By making so many old roses available to gardeners and showing off so effectively in the Norfolk rose gardens, they’ve inspired a huge number of gardeners to grow them.

    In recent years they’ve also been developing new roses under the guidance of Amanda Beales, daughter of the company’s founder, and this year they have five new introductions (above, click to enlarge). Three were launched at Chelsea, two more will be launched at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

    The Queen’s Jubilee Rose (‘Beajubilee’), launched at Chelsea, is a lovely fully double scented white rose blushed with peachy tones with traditional goblet flowers. Reaching only about 3ft/90cm is its good in containers and also good in borders.

    The cross that led to this rose was made in 2005 and while it’s been on test before being released it was learned that a hard prune in February suits it best, along with a fortnightly feed through the summer.

    Red Letter Day (‘Beajackdaw’), also launched at Chelsea, is another new rose with a traditional look. Crimson red flowers, quartered in the traditional way, are set against dark glossy foliage and there are relatively few thorns and those mostly low on the plant.

    With such a thoughtful name, this is a great rose to give to celebrate anything from passing a driving text to getting married.

    Finally from the Chelsea launches, Capel Manor House (‘Beajammie’) has a more simple look. Its semi-double, blood red flowers have unusual white striped on the young petals as well as gentle fragrance. This is a strong growing variety which can be grown as a climber in a small garden if tied in to its supports.

    The two Peter Beales roses launching at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show are Nelson’s Journey (‘Beaflirt’) and Richard Porson (‘Beajuniper’).

    Nelson’s Journey is covered in beautiful two tone pink, semi-double flowers with a subtle fragrance. Its sales are supporting the charity of the same name which works to “bring back smiles to bereaved children”. The deep red buds of Richard Porson open to double crimson-pink, fragrant flowers on compact plants. It’s named for the influential eighteenth century classical Greek scholar who was from Norfolk, where Peter Beales Roses is based.

    All these roses are, or will soon, be available from Peter Beales Roses.


  • Double laced polyanthus: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 26 Jun 2012 at 01:07 PM

    Primula ‘Tarragem Gilded Garnet’ (top) and ‘Tarragem Sparkling Ruby’: New from Hayloft Plants. Image ©Simon CrawfordBritish gardeners have a special fondness for primroses and polyanthus, especially those with hints of the old varieties of long ago. We’ve seen some lovely new British-bred double primroses in recent years, now we have some stylish double-flowered laced polyanthus – ‘Tarragem Gilded Garnet’ (above, left) and ‘Tarragem Sparkling Ruby (below, left)’.

    Both varieties reach about 10in/25cm in height, both have delightful double flowers. The flowers of ‘Tarragem Gilded Garnet’ are a deep mahogany red with pale gold edging to every petal, ‘Tarragem Sparkling Ruby’ is a much brighter red with a fine white edge to every petal.

    Both were developed by Dr Margaret Webster, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Primula (British floral variants) - that is, all the different forms of British native primulas – who’s been working on native primulas and the garden plants derived from them, for many years. Others of her Tarragem varieties (Tarragem, by the way, is an anagram of Margaret) can sometimes be seen at Primula ‘Tarragem Gilded Garnet’, New from Hayloft Plants. Image ©Margaret Webster specialist Primula shows.

    “I first began breeding double polyanthuses sometime in the early 2000's,” she told me, “and the two Tarragem double polyanthuses date from about 2008. It took time to get them bulked up by micropropagation. They can be grown as other polyanthuses, but all doubles benefit from feeding.  They normally don't set seed so expend much energy continuing to flower over the season.”

    You can order these Tarragem double polyanthus from Hayloft Plants.


  • David Austin Roses: Five new varieties

    Graham Rice on 21 Jun 2012 at 01:18 PM

    New roses from David Austin for 2012: Boscobel (Auscousin), Heathcliff Images © David Austin RosesAt Chelsea this year, David Austin Roses again launched a batch of new varieties. They had five this year, all with the familiar David Austin combination of an old-fashioned look but with the modern attributes of a long flowering season, disease resistance and compact growth.

    Boscobel (Auscousin), named for the seventeenth century Shropshire house, features red buds which open to form a rich salmon pink cup opening further to form a traditional rosette; sparks of orange-yellow enliven the colouring and the fragrance is dominated by myrrh. Boscobel is very compact, reaching just 3ft/90cm in height.

    Just a few inches taller, and slightly spreading in habit, Heathcliff (Ausnipper) features large, tea scented, deeply cupped, fully double rosette flowers in that sultry shade of deep crimson which everyone associates with old roses. This is an especially healthy variety, with dark green foliage.

    With very few thorns, the flowers of Royal Jubilee (Ausparade) are rich pink, rounded in shape and with a deep fruity scent. The inwardly curved petals are reminiscent of a peony. It’s vigorous, repeat-flowering of course, and at 5ft/1.5m a little taller than most of this year’s other newcomers.

    Another taller variety, The Lark Ascending (Ausursula) reaches 5ft/1.5m and is unusually vigorous and healthy. The petals of the semi-double apricot flowers are slightly frilled and create an attractive feathery look. The fragrance is light, but with up to fifteen flowers in each head the effect is impressive.  Named after Ralph Vaughan Williams’ classical piece, recently voted Britain’s favourite by listeners to Desert Island Discs.

    Finally, Tranquillity (Ausnoble), another almost thornless variety and with the classic old rose look. From creamy buds large, beautifully formed, rosette shaped blooms open in pure white with a creamy centre. Healthy and vigorous, upright with glossy leaves, and reaching just 4ft/1.2m, the flowers are lightly apple scented.

    Find out more about all these roses, and order them for autumn delivery.


  • Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute' and ‘Logan Rock’: Plant Of The Year finalists

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Aeonium 'Logan Rock': Chelsea Plant of the Year Finalist 2012. Image ©RHSAeoniums have become popular plants for Mediterranean and gravel style gardens, especially as bold specimens planted in terracotta pots. Their broad succulent rosettes in green or bronze and the way they develop striking shapes, bring a unique look to a sunny patio.

    But while many gardeners appreciate the sculptural shapes of mature plants, many prefer plants in a more compact and uniform style. At Trewidden Nursery in Cornwall that is what they set out to create.

    At Chelsea Flower Show last month, Claire Batten of Trewidden Nursery explained about Aeonium 'Logan Rock'. “Compact in habit, it grows to about 75cm/30in in height and 45cm/18in in width, freely branching. The branches have lovely lance-shaped dark leaves, green in the centre, and this doesn’t change apart from in the heat and drought when the colour gets darker on the outside. It’s fantastic in containers and very drought tolerant.”

    Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute': Chelsea Plant of the Year Finalist 2012. Image ©RHSThe second of their two new aeoniums is 'Cornish Tribute'. “It’s a new hybrid,” she said, “compact in habit - very very tight clumps - with rosettes that are garnet coloured on the outside and apple green on the centre; it reaches 45cm/18in in height and 20-25cm/10-12in in spread. Very very drought tolerant. Fantastic for containers, doesn’t show any of the dead leaves when it’s dry.”

    The breeding programme began with crossing several different Aeonium species. About five hundred seedlings which looked especially different or interesting were grown on in 9cm/3.5in pots and then the most promising fifty plants moved on into 1.5l pots for final assessment. These two are the first varieties to be named.

    Finally, in recognition of their enjoyment of local refreshment, nursery owners Claire Batten and Jeff Rowe named ‘Cornish Tribute’ after their favourite local Cornish beer, while ‘Logan Rock’ is named after their local pub.

    Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute'  and 'Logan Rock'  are available from Trewidden Nursery.


  • Heuchera ‘Circus’: Plant of The Year finalist

    Graham Rice on 11 Jun 2012 at 01:41 PM
    Heuchera 'Circus' - Plant of The Year finalist 2012
    The flood of new varieties of Heuchera that have originated in the United States has perhaps distracted us from the fact that Europe is also generating some superb new varieties.

    One of the best of recent introductions, from France, was a finalist in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year competition. Heuchera ‘Circus’ was developed by Thierry Delabroye who also created ‘Caramel’ and the superb ‘Citronelle’. At Chelsea Vicky Fox, of the Heuchera specialists Plantagogo, explained why it’s so special.

    “It’s an amazing plant for the garden. It’s evergreen, it produces beautiful flowers of cream and pink, and it produces this kaleidoscope of colour of leaves through the seasons, it changes as the seasons go on…. As the weather cools down the leaves change to this beautiful pink. In the spring you’ve got mint with a burgundy veining and in the summer it’s a buttery mint – I can’t think of any other way to describe it at this time of year. The veining fades as the weather goes warmer and then as it cools those leaves will change to pink. It’s really easy to grow, it’s easy to maintain, of course heucheras are really good garden plants.”

    ‘Circus’ has Heuchera villosa in its background which ensures that not only is it hardy through the winter but that it is also tolerant of extremes of summer heat. It  looks to be an especially good plant to grow as a specimen in a container.

    Heuchera ‘Circus’ is available from Plantagogo (scroll down).


  • Dianthus Memories: Plant of the Year runner-up

    Graham Rice on 06 Jun 2012 at 04:58 PM

    Chelsea Plant Of The Year runner-up. Image ©RHSLast summer at the National Plant Show, Dianthus Memories ('WP11 GWE04') won the award for the Best New Plant Introduction. Having won the top award at a trade show, recently it was a deserving runner-up in Chelsea’s Plant of the Year competition.

    The journey began eight years ago when Whetman Pinks, the world’s top breeders of new garden pinks, dissatisfied with the faults of the old cottage garden favourite ‘Mrs Sinkins’, decided it was time to create an up-to-date replacement. At the Chelsea Flower Show last week Caroline Bourne, of Whetman Pinks, explained.

    “There’s a very famous Dianthus variety called ‘Mrs Sinkins’ which was raised in 1863 the Master of the Slough workhouse. At Whetman Pinks 150 years later we’re raised a modern version of ‘Mrs Sinkins’ compatible with 21st century demands.

    “This plant, bred in 2004, has undergone extensive trialling to provide us with a plant that is pleasing to the eye, fills our noses with beautiful fragrance, is easy and satisfying to grow and repeat flowering. It’s versatile, it can be grown in pots, containers, borders, or up the garden path. It’s repeat flowering, naturally compact, about 12in/30cm high, it’s extremely hardy to frost and heat, drought tolerant, easy to grow in a well-drained sunny situation.

    “Most importantly, to me at last, it has the most fantastic scent, hurling out its fragrance at me stimulating the senses. This has very often been overlooked in modern breeding. Why the name Memories? Until Dec 2013 Whetman Pinks is donating all the royalties on this variety to the Alzheimer’s Society.”

    You can order plants of Dianthus Memories from Whetman Pinks. And look out for it at your local garden centre.


  • Dianthus Green Trick: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 27 May 2012 at 03:38 PM

    Dianthus Green Trick (‘Temarisou’), a new green flowered Sweet William for cut flower or patio pots. Image © Hilverda KooijGreen flowers are always tempting, and as cut flowers they’re especially valuable as they go so well with so many other colours. Until recently, white carnations were often dyed green - never very satisfactory - but now here’s a natural solution.

    Green Trick (‘Temarisou’) is not a carnation, in fact it’s a Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), but as you can see from the picture (click to enlarge) each flower develops into a 2in/5cm wide fuzzy ball of delicately and repeatedly dissected green petals. Flowers are unusually long lived in a vase, lasting at least four weeks. This is not raised from seed, unlike most Sweet Williams it’s propagated vegetatively, by tissue culture, so every plant is identical.

    You may have seen this unique new flower in florists or supermarkets this year and it was also a finalist in the Plant of The Year competition at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Thompson & Morgan’s Paul Hansord described it for the RHS experts who voted on the award.

    “Green Trick was bred in Japan for the cut flower market,” he said. “It’s sterile, so as a cut flower it lasts for a long long time and in the garden we’ve been amazed… We grew it in a container and we didn’t stake it; it’s normally 24in/60cm tall and it falls over and you get these green puffs of flowers that just fill in; if you put other colours with it looks superb in a patio pot. So you can grow it as a cut flower or you can use it in a patio pot.”

    Dianthus Green Trick (‘Temarisou’) is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012: The Winners

    Graham Rice on 22 May 2012 at 07:27 PM

    Digitalis Illumination, Chelsea New Plant of The Year, with Dianthus Memories and Hyacinth 'Royal Navy'. Images © Plant Novelties,, and RHSThe winner of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award is Digitalis Illumination. In second place came Dianthus Memories and in third place came Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'.

    I have to say that I’ve been enthusing about Thompson & Morgan’s Digitalis Illumination ('Tmdgfp001') for quite a while (above left, click to enlarge). It’s a hybrid between the familiar foxglove and what used to be called Isoplexis canariensis, a slightly shrubby relation from the Canary Islands.

    I wrote it up here on this blog back in January when T&M’s plant breeder Charles Valin said this: “I started in 2006. I had a feeling that although Ispolexis was classified as separate from Digitalis, they are so similar that Isoplexis should probably be called Digitalis. I kind of wanted to prove botanists wrong! And I wanted to combine the exotic looking bird pollinated flowers of Isoplexis with the hardiness of Digitalis.”

    He was right, not only did he create this beautiful new plant but in the latest edition of the RHS Plantfinder, the botanists have reclassified Isoplexis canariensis as a Digitalis.

    Chelsea Plant of The year Award presented to Thompson & Morgan by Elizabeth Banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS . Image ©Fiona GilsenanThe trophy was presented (left, click to enlarge) by Elizabeth banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS, to Paul Hansord (centre) and Michael Perry, both of Thompson & Morgan.

    Dianthus Memories ('WP11 Gwe04'), from Whetman Pinks (above centre, click to enlarge), was voted into second place. I first came across this fragrant double white garden pink when it won the Best New Plant award at The National Plant Show in the summer of last year. The National Plant Show is a trade show and plants that do well there often make their mark with gardeners the following year. I wrote about it at the time.

    In third place in the Chelsea New Plant of the Year awards was Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy' from JS Pennings De Bilt (above right, click to enlarge). This double-flowered dark blue hyacinth is beautifully fragrant and the colour is a deep and dark sultry blue.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012

    Graham Rice on 21 May 2012 at 03:45 PM

    The expert plants people of the RHS chose the shortlist for the 2012 Chelsea Plant of the Year. Thirty seven entries were brought down to a Top Twenty of new plants from all over the world. The winner, as I forecast yesterday, was Digitalis Illumination Pink ('Tmdgfp001') (below, lick to enlarge). Here's the full Top Twenty.
    Digitalis 'Illumination' - top candidiate for Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012. Image © Thompson & Morgan

    Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute' makes a tight mass of succulent green rosettes turning red with age. Ideal in a container, and drought tolerant. (Trewidden Nursery)

    Aeonium 'Logan Rock' has glossy purple-bronze rosettes with green centres. Ideal in a container, and drought tolerant. (Trewidden Nursery)

    Choisya × dewitteana 'Aztec Gold' is a bushy shrub with aromatic, golden-yellow foliage. (Hillier Nurseries) Find out more.

    Clematis 'Shikoo' has densely double, purplish blue flowers in May and June. (Thorncroft Clematis)

    Dianthus barbatus Green Trick ('Temarisou') has extraordinary fluffy green flowers the size and shape of tennis balls. Ideal for cutting. (Thompson & Morgan)

    Dianthus Memories ('WP11 Gwe04') has double white flowers with an exceptionally strong spicy perfume (Whetman Pinks) Find out more.

    Digitalis Illumination Pink ('Tmdgfp001') has pink flowers with honey centres. (Thompson & Morgan) Find out more. This is my tip for the winner! (Above, click to enlarge)

    Digitalis 'Silver Cub' with multiple flower stems carrying white blooms, from a rosette of silvery-white, woolly leaves. (Thompson & Morgan)

    Heuchera 'Circus' has foliage which changes from deep to light to silver green then in autumn it turns pink. (Plantagogo)

    Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'
    has spikes of deep blue double flowers. (J S Pennings "De Bilt")

    Leucanthemum × superbum 'Freak!' flowers repeatedly throughout the summer (Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants)

    Lilium 'Bethan Evans'
    is an extremely hardy yellow and pink Martagon lily with a powerful fragrance. (HW Hyde & Son.)

    Lilium 'Cream Tea'. (HW Hyde & Son.)

    Nepenthes 'Linda' has large dusky red pitchers up to 40cm long. (Hampshire Carnivorous Plants)

    Osteospermum 'In The Pink' is repeat-flowering with vivid pink daisies. (Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants)

    Petunia × atkinsiana Gioconda Series, which is a free-spreading plant in five colours and said to be the first hardy petunia. (Ideal World)

    Rosa The Queen's Jubilee Rose ('Beajubilee') from has fragrant blooms that are white-blushed with peach. (Peter Beales Roses)

    Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Lace' has large lobelia-blue flowers withy purple and white patterned lips. (Dibley’s Nurseries)

    Streptocarpus 'Sweet Melys' is the first streptocarpus with a strong scent, the pale blue flowers mature to pale pink (Dibley’s Nurseries)

    Tillandsia 'Samantha' has pale green and pink candelabra-like flower head above glossy green leaves. ( Every Picture Tells A Story )

    Last year’s winner was Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ while the first Chelsea Plant of the Year. In 2010, was Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue'.


  • Geum ‘Fire Storm’: New in the 2012 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 16 May 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Geum ‘Fire Storm’: New in the 2012 Plantfinder. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesContinuing our occasional look at the plants most widely available in the new RHS Plant finder…. Fiery colours used to be ignored or even despised in favour of soft pastel shades, but not any more. And one of the most widely grown new plants in this years RHS Plantfinder is a very sparky looking perennial, Geum ‘Fire Storm’.

    Like the old favourites ‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’ and ‘Lady Stratheden’, this is a tough and easy-to-grow plant which, while preferring a rich soil that never becomes too dry, should also do well in drier, less fertile conditions – as long as it has plenty of sun.

    You could say that ‘Fire Storm’ is in between those old timers in terms of colour. The flowers are semi-double, opening a rich fiery orange with scarlet overtones then maturing to a brighter, slightly yellower orange shade. And they open over many months. With dark foliage – purple-leaved berberis behind, perhaps, and dark-leaved heucheras in front – the display will be dramatic.

    Also, this is a much neater, more self-supporting plant reaching about 20in/50cm in full flower with the foliage making a fresh looking mound about 12-14in/30-35cm high. So it’s also 10in/35cm less tall and so less floppy than ‘Fireball’. And the flowers even last well in water.

    Geum ‘Fire Storm’ is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Pelargonium ‘Skyscraper’: New from Vernon Geranium Nursery

    Graham Rice on 11 May 2012 at 07:47 AM

    Geraniums, or pelargoniums as we should call them, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Creating varieties that are more bushy and more prolific, or which trail more effectively, and in new colours and colour combinations, seems to have been a high priority in recent years. But this variety climbs.

    Well, ‘Skyscraper’ (left, click to enlarge) doesn’t climb like a clematis or a honeysuckle; it needs tying in. But it’s vigorous and determined to grow upright. The soft foliage with its rounded lobes has a faint dark zone, and the clusters of salmon orange flowers keep coming over a very long season.

    Liz Sims of Vernon Geranium Nursery told me more about it: “The plant will require tying in to a support… preferably a support all around the outside of the pot or a triangle of stakes up the centre. Increased pinching will result in more laterals and a greater number of flowers but it will take longer to achieve a 6ft/2m plant if the tip is pinched out.

    “I've noticed it has extra long flower stems - hence it's great height! - and have also noticed it flowers a great deal better than other climbing geraniums. The picture (click to enlarge) shows it at the end of one season’s growth.
    “It remains extremely vigorous in temperatures above 53F/12C. Without the top growing tips being removed it will continue to grow and spread. However, trimming to keep to a neater shape will reduce the height if the top tips are removed.”

    ‘Skyscraper’ was discovered by Ellene and Derek Simmonds from Lincolnshire. It was a chance seedling which survived the first winter in their garden as a very small plant under a canopy of other geraniums. It’s thought to have blood of both zonal pelargonium and the ivy-leaved geranium .

    Pelargonium ‘Skyscraper’ is available from Vernon Geranium Nursery.


  • Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret'): New in the 2012/2013 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 03 May 2012 at 09:27 AM

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret'): new in the 2012/2013 PlantfinderNew variegated daphnes have been appearing regularly over the last few years. Two years ago we had Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) and now another is one of the new plants most widely listed by nurseries in the 2012-2013 RHS Plantfinder.

    Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ has been the standard for many decades but Robin White, the authority on daphnes says in his book “the narrow band of variegation is not significant in the garden.” It’s more creamy than yellow and really very narrow.

    New this year is Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') which features a broader band of colour around the edge of each leaf and in a more vivid yellow shade. It also features clusters of highly scented flowers in February and March, each flower reddish purple on the outside and pale pink within.

    Marianni, like Rebecca, is much more colourful in its variegation than ‘Aureomarginata’. But unlike both ‘Aureomarginata’ and Rebecca, Marianni keeps most of its foliage right through the winter while the other two can look rather sparse in the colder months. Marianni is also more spreading in growth than Rebecca and its flowers are a slightly redder shade.

    Found as a sport on a plant of ‘Aureomarginata’ in France in 2004, this looks to be an exceptional garden shrub, its bright variegated foliage providing colour all the year and its colourful early flowers bringing a powerful fragrance.

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’: New from Hillier

    Graham Rice on 28 Apr 2012 at 10:39 AM

    Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', new from Hillier. Image ©Hillier NurseriesYellow-leaved Choisya Sundance (‘Lich’) is one of the most popular shrubs in the country. At its best, it’s superb but it does have its problems. Now Hillier have raised and introduced a new and improved golden leaved choisya called ‘Aztec Gold’.

    ‘Aztec Gold’ (left, click to enlarge) is an attractive evergreen shrub with a rounded habit and reaches about 4ftx4ft/1.2x1.2m. Its leaves are split into slender, pointed segments which are rich burnished gold towards the tips and a slightly greenish yellow shade towards the base.

    In spring and early summer, clusters of attractive, almond-scented white flowers appear and then after a break another flush opens in autumn.

    ‘Aztec Gold’ was developed by Alan Postill (right, click to enlarge) and is derived from ‘Aztec Pearl’ which provides the leaf shape together with versatility and resilience in the garden, and Sundance which brings the foliage colour. Alan worked at Hillier Nurseries as a propagator for fifty years and was also responsible for selecting and naming the prolific and impressively fragrant Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.

    Andy McIndoe of Hillier Nurseries explained why he thinks this is such a good Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', with its raiser Alan Postill. Image ©Hillier Nurseriesplant: “‘Aztec Gold’ is a golden foliage evergreen with a subtlety that will endear it to even those gardeners that “don’t do yellow”. In sun, the leaves at the ends of the shoots are rich golden yellow, while those in the heart of the plant maintain a greener hue. In shade, the overall colour leans towards lime; more subtle but still cheerily pleasing. The variation in the foliage colour between the young and old leaves gives the plant depth and a three dimensional quality often lacking in plain yellow evergreens.”

    Happy in any reasonably fertile soil that is well drained, the brightest colour develops in full sun.

    Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’ will be launched at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, but is already available from Hillier Online.


  • Rose Wollerton Old Hall: New in the RHS Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 22 Apr 2012 at 02:39 PM

    Rose Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) - new for 2012. Image © David Austin RosesFour new roses created by David Austin make their first appearance in the 2012 RHS Plantfinder, but Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) just pips the other three in being available from more nurseries.

    It first saw the light of day at last summer’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and in what has become a great tradition of English Roses from David Austin, Wollerton Old Hall combines the elegant flowers and heady perfume of so many old roses, with the long flowering season that so many old roses lack.

    There are sparks of red in the unopened buds, but as each flower develops into a fully rounded bloom the butter yellow colour emerges then softens to cream as the flower matures while developing slightly peachy tones. All the way, the flowers retain their attractive rounded shape.

    This is one of the mostly strongly scented of all the English Roses. The myrrh fragrance is exceptionally powerful and is also relatively uncommon. Seeing it at Hampton Court last summer the BBC’s Rachel de Thame said: “I loved the pale creamy yellow flowers, which have an attractive spherical shape and intense myrrh-like perfume”.

    More upright in growth than many English Roses, reaching about 5ft/1.5m high and 3ft/90cm across, and mostly thorn-free, Wollerton Old Hall makes an ideal specimen in a mixed border. It was named for the garden at the 16th century house of the same name, one of the finest recently made gardens in the country.

    You can buy Rosa Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Clematis Alaina: New in the 2012 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 16 Apr 2012 at 03:54 PM

    Clematis Alaina (‘Evipo 056'): New in the 2012 Plantfinder. Image ©Raymond EvisonFor some years, clematis wizard Raymond Evison has been developing a series of varieties that are much more suitable for small town gardens than most clematis. It’s not true that all clematis will take over your garden, but some will and many gardeners tend to think that in a small space it’s just too much of a gamble.

    But the varieties in the Boulevard Series never get out of hand and the latest in the series, Alaina (‘Evipo 056'), is one of the most widely offered new plants in the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder.

    Reaching no more than 5ft/1.5m in height and only about 2ft/60cm across, this is an ideal variety for a container, or a bed along the side of a patio.

    Flowering comes in two seasons; first in June and early July, then in August and September and each flower opens a rich and vivid pink, with a dark stripe along the centre of each of the six petals. Then, as the flowers mature, they become paler creating a happy harmony of pink shades. Sometimes the petals may be a little twisted creating an appealing sense of movement. They’re best planted in at least some shade to help prevent the colour fading too much.

    Of course, there’s pruning to think about. Couldn’t be easier. Just cut the plants back hard to about 12in/30cm every spring.

    Clematis Alaina (‘Evipo 056') is available from seven RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • The new RHS Plantfinder is out today

    Graham Rice on 11 Apr 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Echinacea 'Daydream': new in the 2012 RHS Plantfinder. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesOne of the most exciting days in the gardening year is upon us – the new RHS Plantfinder is out today. This – need I remind you – is a book that serves two invaluable purposes. It reveals where to buy almost 70,000 different plants, and it also serves as a record of the correct names for them all.

    This year the RHS Plantfinder contains an amazing 67,603 different plants, with suppliers from 541 nurseries listed for every one. In fact there are nearly 74,000 names included as all the synonyms are cross referenced. This year there are 3,380 new plants included.

    There are forty five new clematis included this year, twenty nine new echinaceas (including ‘Daydream’, above click to enlarge), thirty seven new hardy geraniums, eighty four new hostas and sixty nine new roses. There are too many new hemerocallis to count!

    I noted the most popular new entries in my recent post. Check back here regularly over the next few weeks as I’ll be giving you more details about all the top plants that are new to this year’s RHS Plantfinder.

    You can order the 2012-2013 RHS Plant Finder now.


  • Miscanthus ‘Starlight’: New from Knoll Gardens

    Graham Rice on 06 Apr 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Miscanthus 'Starlight' - the shortest variety yet. Image ©Neil LucasSome miscanthus are monsters, but not this one. We’ve seen some excellent dwarf miscanthus in recent years, and they’re so much more useful than the tall and vigorous varieties that were previously more common and which tended to take over the garden.

    Neil Lucas at Knoll Gardens has been responsible for introducing three of these dwarf types and now there’s a fourth – and it’s the shortest of all. He selected and introduced ‘Abundance’ and ‘Elfin’ and also named ‘Little Kitten’, which until now has been the most dwarf. ‘Starlight’ is shorter still.

    The waist high ‘Starlight’ (32-39in/80cm-1m) features mounds of slender green foliage and in summer is topped by biscuit brown plumes which turn silvery as they age. Very prolific and free flowering, ‘Starlight’ is happy in any reasonable soil in full sun. Once established it’s helpfully drought tolerant.

    Miscanthus can make wonderful garden plants,” said Neil Lucas of Knoll Gardens. “They are drought tolerant and bear tons of flowers but many are simply too large for a smaller garden setting. Miscanthus ‘Starlight’ is the perfect answer, a well-behaved dwarf miscanthus, that can bring the wow factor to containers and small spaces right through to planting in drifts.

    “Grasses are currently in huge demand and it is always satisfying to be able to introduce a new grass that is particularly garden worthy,” said Neil.

    You can order Miscanthus ‘Starlight’ from Knoll Gardens.


  • Runner bean ‘Firestorm’: New self-fertile bean from Marshalls

    Graham Rice on 03 Apr 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Runner bean 'Firestorm': new self fertile variety from Marshalls. Image ©Marshalls SeedsThe weather is on our minds again. This time, the drought. And it reminds us that drought always seems to disrupt the pollination of runner beans. Some say that we should spray the flowers with water – but I think this is a waste of time. I’m sure the only benefit they get is when the water runs off and soaks into the soil. But growing one of the new self fertile runner beans is certainly a help.

    Most runners beans need pollination from another plant to produce beans. They need bees to carry the pollen from flower to flower and they also need moisture at the roots. But with fewer bees and drier summers, crops have been unpredictable.

    ‘Firestorm’ is the first scarlet runner that is completely self fertile, it crops well when fertilised with its own pollen and without a visit from the bees. In fact it’s altogether less fussy about setting pods. The beans themselves are stringless and slightly thicker, slightly sweeter and more tender than other runner beans. And the flowers make quite a show too.

    ‘Moonlight’, introduced a couple of years ago, is also self fertile but has the less popular white flowers.

    The other thing that helps ensure a good set for all runner beans is moist soil. So the bath water and the washing up water should go along the bean trench.

    You can order seeds or plants of runner bean ‘Firestorm’ from Marshalls Seeds.


  • Skimmia ‘Temptation': new self-fertile variety

    Graham Rice on 29 Mar 2012 at 09:15 PM

    Skimmia 'Temptation' - new self fertile varietySkimmias are valuable evergreens with two seasons of interest: spring flowers and winter berries. But, mostly, they come in male and female varieties so that you need two different plants, one of each, to ensure that those bright scarlet berries are produced on just one of them.

    ‘Temptation’ is different. The plants are self-fertile, only one plant is needed for the fruit to develop, so all plants of ‘Temptation’ produce berries without another plant nearby for pollination.

    The other problem with some of the older varieties is that although they may srat small, they eventually become uncomfortably tall for many modern gardens. ‘Tempation’ is shorter, and more bushy, so makes a more effective garden plant. Its root growth is strong, unlike the other self-fertile form, S. japonica subsp. reevesiana, and its berries are a much brighter red.

    ‘Temptation’ is the result of more than twenty years of careful selection at Wageningen University in Holland where it was picked out by breeder Margaret Hop in 2005.

    ‘Temptation’ is sufficiently compact to make a good two season container plant, and also thrives in any fairly well-drained garden soil in sun or partial shade.

    You can order Skimmia ‘Temptation from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries and from Hillier Online.

    You can find out more about the shrub breeding of Margaret Hop in the June 2009 issue of the RHS magazine The Plantsman.


  • Top plants in the new RHS Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2012 at 01:08 PM

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') - new in the 2012/2013 Plantfinder
    The new edition of the RHS PlantFinder will be out very soon and this year the most useful plant reference book of them all includes some very appealing new introductions.

    Here’s a quick look at the most popular of the new plants appearing in the RHS Plantfinder for the first time this year, these four new plants are each being introduced by seven nurseries.

    Anemone 'Wild Swan'
    This is the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year for 2011 but it’s been available only in very limited quantities for most of the time since then. It’s a lovely hybrid anemone which was a very popular winner. I wrote up Anemone 'Wild Swan' last May.

    Clematis Alaina ('Evipo 056') (below, click to enlarge)
    The latest in the Boulevard Collection from Raymond Evison, this short variety is ideal for containers. The rich pink flowers fade to pale rose.

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') (above, click to enlarge)
    A colourful variegated daphne with fragrant pink and white flowers. It looks to be a fine small garden shrub.

    Pulmonaria 'Blake's Silver'
    From Ireland comes this pink pulmonaria noted in particular for the fact that the pink flowers have hardly a hint of blue.

    Next most popular are five plants which are available from six suppliers: another clematis from Raymond Evison, a geum, a yellow Shasta daisy, a shrubby potentilla and a rose from David Austin.

    The eleven plants being listed by five suppliers include three more roses from David Austin, the two Irish primroses I wrote up here recently, two heucheras and a heucherella, and epimedium and a hydrangea.

    I’ll be looking at all these plants in more detail over the next few months.

    You can order the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder now for delivery as soon as it’s available, it’s published on April 11. The updated online version of the Plantfinder goes live soon. I’ll let you know when, check back here or follow me on Twitter.
    Clematis Alaina ('Evipo 056') - new in the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder


  • Name-the-new-plant competition winner

    Graham Rice on 22 Mar 2012 at 01:56 PM

    Eschscholzia ‘Pacific Fire’ - named by a reader of this blogI’m delighted to announce that the winner of our competition to name Thompson & Morgan’s bright new California poppy is Radojka Harris from North Saanich, in British Columbia in Canada. Congratulations, Radojka.

    Radojka’s suggested name was ‘Pacific Fire’. Michael Perry from T&M and I especially liked the name as it combined both the flower colour, and a reference to the native habitat of the original wild California poppy along America’s Pacific coast. And I thought the name had an air of excitement about it.

    Radojka will soon be receiving her prize, and when seed becomes available everyone who entered will receive a free packet.

    Thank you everyone for your entries, there were some great names that didn't quite win.


  • Courgette 'Sunstripe': New attractive yellow striped variety

    Graham Rice on 19 Mar 2012 at 02:22 AM

    Courgette 'Sunstripe': New attractive yellow striped variety. Image ©Thompson & MorganHere’s a lesson in the wisdom of choosing exactly the right variety.

    So many of the veg gardeners I’ve known over the years just glaze over when faced with a page and half of different courgette varieties in a catalogue or two rows of varieties on the garden centre seed rack. At least the colour of the British-bred ‘Sunstripe’ stands out - and that’s not all.

    But that colour is unique: the golden yellow fruits are brightly striped in white. The flavour and texture are both excellent, the yield is good too, though perhaps not up to the best of the green-fruited types, and you can sow from May to July for cropping from July to October. The good people at Which? Gardening tested ‘Sunstripe’ last year and harvested an average of 24 fruits from each plant. So you don’t need many plants, and the rest of the seed will keep in the back of the fridge till next year.

    Here’s another good thing: the plants are bushy, so they won’t take over the garden as some older varieties do. They’re also completely spine free, so no scratches when you’re picking them. And all the fruits are pretty much the same shape which is very helpful for some dishes.

    One final point: even the leaves have yellow markings and although some people find this disconcerting, I like a little brightness in the veg plot.

    Courgette ‘Sunstripe’ is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Competition: Name this new plant

    Graham Rice on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:43 AM

    Name this new Eschscholzia from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & Morgan

    Isn’t this an amazing new California poppy? Such a wonderful fiery colour, and double too. It’s been developed by Thompson & Morgan and readers of the RHS New Plants blog have the unique opportunity to name it – and win a prize.

    Just email your suggested name (with your name and address) to and if yours is chosen as the winner you’ll win £20! And everyone who enters will receive a free packet of seed when seed becomes available.

    The great thing about this new California poppy is its fiery red colouring and the fact that it’s double. [Sorry I don’t have more than this snapshot at the moment.] It’s derived from the old ‘Mission Bells’ mixture which has some double flowers but some semi-double and even a few single flowers. Being double not only makes a more substantial flower, but helps the flowers last longer.

    Michael Perry of T&M told me: “This Eschscholzia came out of a breeding program we started in 2003 with the aim of refining the double flowered seed mixture ‘Mission Bells’. We wanted to both increase the doubleness and select separate colours. We now also have a deep red and a harsh copper coming along. Both have extra double flowers.”

    T&M are introducing another new double eschscholzia in the 2012 catalogue,‘Peach Sorbet’ is a new double Eschscholzia from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & Morgan) ‘Peach Sorbet’ is a soft creamy peach shade and all the flowers are double.

    Send your name suggestion for the fiery double poppy at the top of the page (click to enlarge) to (with your name and address) for the chance to win £20. Everyone who enters will received free packet.


  • Irish primroses: New from Cotswold Garden Flowers

    Graham Rice on 13 Mar 2012 at 01:01 PM
    Two new Irish primroses: Innisfree (left) and Drumcliffe (right). Images ©Fitzgerald Nurseries
    • Exciting new series of Irish primroses
    • Dark purple bronze foliage
    • Prolific flowers in contrast or harmony
    • More colours coming

    Primroses from Ireland have always captured the imagination of gardeners. Just think of ‘Garryade Guinevere’ introduced from Co. Leitrim in the 1930s – one of the best, and best known, of all hardy primroses. Now a new series of Irish primroses is starting to appear.

    Kennedy’s Irish Primroses are the result of over thirty five years of careful selection by Joe Kennedy, originally in Co. Carlow in the south, and now in C. Antrim in the north. The first was released in Ireland last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, and now they’re available in Britain. In fact the plants are being propagated from a nursery just a short step from the Kennedy family’s original homestead in Co. Wexford.

    The plants have three things in common. The foliage of all the Kennedy’s Irish Primroses is an unusually dark purple bronze colour. The plants are prolific too, with flowers in gentle harmony or bold contrast to the foliage. And they’re tough, they’ve proved hardy in parts of the world far colder than Britain.

    The first two introductions are Drumcliff (K74’) and Innisfree (‘K72’). Drumcliff (above right, click to enlarge) has very pale lilac tinted white flowers while Innisfree (above left, click to enlarge) is deep and vivid red, and features unusually dark and glossy leaves. Both have occasionally been listed for a brief time in recent months, now they again available.

    More varieties are on the way, with yellow, white, peach and pink flowers, and another thirty six are being trialed and tested for introduction in the future.

    Primula Drumcliff (K74’) is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

    Primula Innisfree (‘K72’) is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers.


  • Strawberry Toscana: Colourful flowers and tasty fruit

    Graham Rice on 08 Mar 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Strawberry 'Toscana' - tasty new strawberry with colourful flowers

    • Rosy red flowers bring colour early in the season
    • Sweet, bight red fruits are full of flavour
    • Raised from seed, so without virus diseases
    • Everbearing, so produces fruits all summer
    • Ideal in containers
    • Winner of the prestigious Florastar Award

    A strawberry with bright and colourful flowers as well as sweet and tasty fruits - all through the summer - just has to be a winner.

    Developed by strawberry specialists in Holland, the 4cm rich rosy red flowers - rather like the flowers of wild roses – are at first carried in clusters from the centre of the plant. Then, as the runners develop during the summer and trail down the sides of the pots, they too carry flowers.

    ‘Toscana’ is an everbearing variety so as summer progresses there are both flowers and fruits on the plant at the same time. Grow it in a container on the patio or deck and it’s a genuine edible ornamental – it looks good and tastes good too.

    There’s another advantage. Strawberries tend to suffer from virus diseases. But because ‘Toscana’ is a seed-raised variety – and virus diseases are not transmitted in seeds – each new plants starts life completely virus free.

    Strawberry ‘Toscana’ won the 2011/2012 Florastar Award for the most eye-catching plant of the year.

    You can order plants of strawberry ‘Toscana’ from DT Brown.

    You can order seeds of strawberry ‘Toscana’ from DT Brown or from Nicky’s Nursery.

    You’ll also find strawberry ‘Toscana’ in some garden centres this year


  • Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike: New ruffled hydrangea from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 04 Mar 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike - New ruffled hydrangea.

    • Attractive ruffled florets bring a fresh new style to hydrangeas
    • Pale backs to the petals add a little extra flair
    • Pale green buds complete a harmonious pastel look
    • Flowers can be pink or blue
    • Reaches a manageable 4ft/1.2m in height
    New hydrangeas seem to be arriving with increasing speed. This is partly fuelled by their increasing popularity as cut flowers, and the cut flower trade is always looking for new and interesting varieties.

    At the same time nurseries and gardeners are realising that while hydrangeas are amongst the easiest shrubs to grow, and give many months of colour, for years they didn’t really change that much.

    But last year I mentioned three new hydrangeas with fine new features – Invincibelle Spirit, Fantasia and Expression – and here’s another: Beautensia™ Spike ('Spike').

    Its highlight is the ruffled summer and autumn flowers. Each floret is very prettily waved revealing, at the edges, the paler colouring of the backs of the petals. And each floret also pales prettily towards the centre while the buds and opening flowers have a greenish tint.

    The result is a delightful harmony of colours – in pink or in blue. As with other hydrangeas of this type, on limey soils the flowers will be pink while on lime free soil they’ll be blue. Or you can treat them with hydrangea colourant to make sure that they’re blue.

    Reaching about 4ft/1.2m high and as much across, Beautensia™ Spike is easy to grow in full sun or partial shade in any reasonably fertile garden soil that is not waterlogged or parched.

    Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike (‘Spike’) is available from Crocus


  • Ageratum: New cut flowers from seed or plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Ageratum 'Everest Blue' (left) and 'High Tide Blue' - new for cutting. Images © Ball Seed and Kieft SeedsAs a cut flower, ageratum is does not always come to mind. We tend to think of it more as an edging plant. But it’s actually one of the best of all blue flowers for cutting, especially as it’s not difficult to grow. And this year sees the arrival of two new varieties, one available as seed and one as plugs.

    ‘Everest Blue’ (above left, click to enlarge), new from Holland, is perhaps a fraction taller, reaching 20-26in/50-65cm in height and continues to produce new colour all through the summer.

    ‘High Tide Blue’ (above right, click to enlarge), new from across the Atlantic, is a very productive variety reaching 20-24in/50-60cm in height and is very well branched.

    Frankly they both look good, and your choice may well depend on whether you’d rather grow plants from seed, in which case choose ‘High Tide Blue’, or if you’d prefer to start with mini-plugs, in which case choose ‘Everest Blue’.

    Both are happy in any reasonably fertile soil, but prefer at least six hours of sunshine each day. Expect up to twenty cut stems from each plant, cut the stems when the central floret in the head is completely open and there is colour in the florets to the side. Always use flower preservative and that should give you a ten day vase life.

    Cut Ageratum stems do not store well or travel well – so Ageratum ideal as a home grown cut flower


  • Hibiscus: New huge-flowered perennial varieties

    Graham Rice on 24 Feb 2012 at 04:10 PM

    Hibiscus: New huge-flowered perennial varieties. Images © Walters GardensMost of us are familiar with the shrubby hibiscus, attractive summer flowering shrubs with single or double, mallow-like flowers. But there’s also a wide range of hardy perennial types that we hardly ever see – and they have HUGE flowers. Now’s your chance to try the latest varieties (above, click to enlarge).

    Let’s start with the flowers. They’re like lavatera or single hollyhock flowers, in red, pinks, bicolours and white but they reach from 8-12in/20-30cm across. They’re probably about the size of your head! They develop on upright stems from large thongy roots and flower from mid summer into autumn on plants about 3ft/90cm high. Can you imagine?

    So why do we see them so rarely? It’s not that they’re tender. A few years ago, when I was in Michigan, I visited a nursery where one of the top breeders was trialing new varieties. They were planted in a windswept field in an area where the winter temperature reaches as low as -29C/-20F. So they’re tough.

    But they do like a hot summer, so they’re more likely to thrive in the warmer parts of the country and they appreciate a cosy sunny area in cooler regions. They’re also good in large containers.

    Six varieties are available this year, from three of America’s top breeders, so you can choose the colours you prefer.

    ‘Cranberry Crush’ (bottom right): black buds opening to scarlet flowers.
    ‘Jazzberry Jam’ (top centre): ruffled magenta pink flowers with a scarlet eye.
    ‘Kopper King’ (top right): blushed white flowers with red eyes and coppery foliage.
    ‘Luna Red’: bright scarlet flowers.
    ‘Old Yella’ (bottom centre); yellow buds open to creamy, scarlet-centred flowers.
    ‘Summer Storm’ (left): pale pink flowers with darker veining; purple foliage.

    These perennial Hibiscus are available from Mr Fothergill’s and from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Alstroemeria Rock ‘n’ Roll: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2012 at 01:44 PM

    Alstroemeria Rock ‘n’ Roll - new variegated variety. Image © John WoodsThe recent trial of Alstroemeria at the RHS garden at Wisley not only highlighted the best of the familiar flowering types, but there were also some fine variegated forms that caught the eye, two of which received awards. Too new to be in the trial was this startling new variety from Australia, Alstroemeria Rock ‘n’ Roll (‘AlsDuno1’). (It’s sometimes written as Rock & Roll.)

    I spotted it at the National Plant Show last summer, where its combination of variegated foliage and bright flowers was impossible to miss. So it’s good to see it’s now available.

    Making a bushy plant eventually reaching about 30-40in/80-10cm height and 20-28in/50-70cm, the centre of each leaf is brightly splashed, the colour starts off yellow in the young leaves and then matures through cream to white. And because the pale variegation is at the centre of the leaf, where it’s at its thickest, rather than at the thin and vulnerable edge of the leaf it doesn’t scorch.

    Topping this bright foliage display are clusters of six to twelve, 2-3in/4-7.5cm flowers in a contrasting vivid orange-scarlet. They start to open in late spring and continue into the autumn, especially if the faded flower stems are pulled right out at the root.

    Happy in large containers, or in any fertile soil that is not parched or waterlogged, Alstroemeria Rock ‘n’ Roll is happy in sun or a little shade. To ensure that plants in beds and borders overwinter happily in chilly conditions, cover with a deep mulch of bark chips in autumn after the stems are cut down.

    Alstroemeria Rock ‘n’ Roll is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Canna ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’: new from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 17 Feb 2012 at 05:50 PM

    Canna ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’: new dwarf, dark-leaved variety. Image ©BallColegraveCannas are very fashionable these days. With the recent enthusiasm for plantings with a tropical air, the bold foliage and colourful flowers of cannas create an exciting impact that’s seen far more often than a few years ago.

    But there are two problems. One is that cannas are big plants; 5-6ft/1.5-1.8m is perfectly normal and with that hefty foliage they take up a lot of space. Also many of the familiar varieties are infected with virus and don’t always thrive the way we hope.

    Dwarf cannas from seed solve both problems. Their scale is more suitable for small borders and small containers, and virus diseases are not transmitted by seed so they start off perfectly healthy.

    Dwarf seed-raised varieties have been around for a while and, to be honest, they’ve not been a great success. But they’ve all had green leaves and it’s the purple- and bronze-leaved types which are the most popular.

    Step forward Canna ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’. Reaching only 24-30in/60-75cm in height, with a spread of about 16-18in/41-46cm its foliage is deep coppery bronze and the flowers bright red with a slight carmine haze. At half the size of most other cannas it’s both small and dramatic. And you can keep the rhizomes till next year.

    Sow this month, grow warm and harden off before planting out after the last frost.

    Canna ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’ is available from Plants of Distinction and should be seen in good garden centres in spring.


  • Magnolia Fairy Magnolia Blush: new evergreen spring magnolia

    Graham Rice on 13 Feb 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Magnolia Fairy Magnolia® Blush (‘MicJur01’) : new evergreen spring magnolia. Image © Mark JuryCreating new magnolias is a long term project. New Zealand magnolia breeder Mark Jury made the cross that has now led to the appearance of this impressive new variety way back in 1996. And it looks as if the wait has been worthwhile.

    Unlike most spring flowering magnolias, Fairy Magnolia® Blush (‘MicJur01’) is an evergreen variety, in the group that until recently was classified in a separate genus, Michelia. Plants eventually reach about 9ft/2.7m high and about 8ft/2.4m across, with neat, dark green, lustrous foliage. It makes an attractive plant even when not flowering.

    From March to May, rich, honey-colored buds open to reveal blush pink fragrant flowers with attractive veining. And they open all along the branches, not just at the tips – that was one of the features that distinguished Michelia from the tip-flowering Magnolia.

    Fairy Magnolia® Blush is happy in full sun or partial shade and in any moist but well-drained soil. It makes a fine small garden or container-grown specimen, or an attractive fragrant hedge. It can be trained to a trellis and would be happy on a west wall near a door where the prettily patterned flowers and their attractive fragrance can be appreciated. It even makes a colourful flowering standard.

    Fairy Magnolia® Blush is the result of a cross between the white flowered Chinese Magnolia laevifolia (formerly Michelia yunnanensis) and the pink flowered Magnolia ‘Mixed Up Miss’, a hybrid between M. figo and M. doltsopa. Both parents are very fragrant, as is Fairy Magnolia® Blush.

    Magnolia Fairy Magnolia® Blush is available from Crocus.

    For more information on Mark Jury’s magnolia breeding, check out his website and his Facebook page.


  • Chilli pepper ‘Basket of Fire’: prolific container variety

    Graham Rice on 09 Feb 2012 at 05:32 PM

    Chilli 'Basket of Fire' - new prolific semi-trailing variety. Image © VegetalisPlants that combine good looks with good flavour at the table are especially valuable in small gardens and in containers so the arrival of this new chilli pepper, ‘Basket of Fire’, is very welcome.

    So many chillies are either very upright or very dwarf and compact but although ‘Basket of Fire’ starts off as a rounded plant when young (as in the picture), it soon spreads out and develops a semi-trailing habit. Reaching about 12in/30cm in height it spreads out to twice that so ideal is in a container. And this new British-bred variety has two other important features.

    The small fruits can be used at any stage from early in their maturity, when they’re deep purple, through yellow to orange to full red ripeness. And this blend of colours makes a very attractive plant. You get the best of both worlds. Are they hot? Well, its Scoville heat rating is about 80000shu which puts it in the middle range between Cayenne and Habanero chillies.

    Plants are fairly quick to mature, there should be some useable fruits about five weeks after transplanting and fully ripe fruits after about three months. And ‘Basket of Fire’ is very prolific. Three plants can produce several hundred chillies and with useful tolerance to cool conditions the fruits continue ripening until well into the autumn. They can then be dried and stored for the winter.

    You can order plants of Chilli ‘Basket of Fire’ from Suttons and seeds from Marshalls, Plants of Distinction and Thompson & Morgan.



  • Physalis Halloween Series: New compact varieties

    Graham Rice on 29 Jan 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Chinese lantern Halloween King is compact and self supportingThe Bladder Cherry or Chinese Lantern, Physalis alkekengi, is a much loved garden plant whose vivid papery bells last in the garden well into the winter and which are much prized for cutting and for drying for indoor arrangements. There’s just two problems: the plants are often uncomfortably vigorous and they almost always fall over. Now, two new introductions not only feature unusually large bells but remain compact and at only about 16in/40cm in height they’re self-supporting.

    Halloween King (‘Jel02’) (above, click to enlarge) has papery bells shaped like an upside down pear and which may reach as much as 23/4in/7cm across. The slightly smaller, more rounded bells of Halloween Queen (‘Jel01’) reach about 21/2in/6cm and tend to be more pumpkin shaped. The bells begin to colour in August and retain their colour into the winter.

    Inside each orange bell is an edible orange berry which is the only part of the whole plant which is not poisonous. Although the flavour of the berry is a little bitter, it contains twice the amount of Vitamin C of lemons.

    These two new varieties were developed Georg Ubbelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Seeds although these are propagated vegetatively and not from seeds.

    Physalis alkekengi Halloween King (‘Jel02’) is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Physalis alkekengi Halloween Queen (‘Jel01’)  is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Lettuce ‘Lettony’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 26 Jan 2012 at 04:02 PM

    Lettuce 'Lettony' - new multi-purpose lettuce. Image © Thompson & Morgan
    When more than three quarters of over 700 gardeners who tried it say they liked the taste and the texture, and just under three quarters say they’d grow it again, you know you’re on to something. That was the result of a trial of ‘Lettony’ lettuce done last year by readers of Which? Gardening.

    ‘Lettony’ is a new dual purpose lettuce that be grown for either its baby leaves or its attractive curly mature heads. It doesn’t make a tight heart, but instead develops a loose head then can be cut at any point in its growth, although leaving it to mature of course produces the most useable salads.

    Colin Randel, Vegetable Product Manager at Thompson & Morgan, who are introducing ‘Lettony’, told me: “'Lettony’ is easy and reliable to grow, has good bolting resistance, performs in any soil and stands against all weathers; basically a reliable garden performer. The leaves have a fresh green colour, much reduced bitterness, and are strong against tipburn and downy mildew.

    “A gardener can grow a typical full size plant with similar maturity period to ‘Salad Bowl’ in about 80 days during summer, or as a “salad leaf” in about 25 days, or as midi sized plants in 50 days. ‘Lettony’ is most suited to our traditional sowing times of late March to late July outdoors, but cloche/fleecing will extend the season, and ‘Lettony’ can be sown as a salad leaf virtually all year round under glass.”

    Seed of Lettuce ‘Lettony’ is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Scabiosa Dessert Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 21 Jan 2012 at 03:23 PM

    Dessert Series scabious: ‘Blackberry Fool’ (lilac pink), ‘Blueberry Muffin’ (lilac blue), ‘Cherry Pie’ (red), ‘Plum Pudding’ (purple) and ‘Rhubarb Crumble’ (pink). Images © Pro-VegSince ‘Butterfly Blue’ came on the scene almost thirty years ago, a succession of new scabious in other colours have appeared but few really caught the imagination of gardeners. Now, as a new British bred series of five colours arrives, perhaps that will change.

    The Dessert Series all have a number of features in common. The drought-tolerant plants are bushy and compact, but not dwarf and dumpy; they reach about 20in/50cm high and 16in/40cm across, ideal for containers or sunny borders. Flowering over a long season in summer and autumn, especially if dead-headed, the colours are rich and the flowers have an unusually high nectar content, particularly the lilac and purple shades, so are attractive to bees and butterflies.

    Five colours are available: ‘Blackberry Fool’ (lilac pink), ‘Blueberry Muffin’ (lilac blue), ‘Cherry Pie’ (red), ‘Plum Pudding’ (purple) and ‘Rhubarb Crumble’ (pink). More are on the way.

    Raised in Essex by John Burrows of Pro-Veg, John told me: “These remarkable new scabious have resulted from more than ten years of continuous selection, re-selection and improvements.

    “These exciting new flower colours have been carefully selected for their excellent plant uniformity, well branched, reasonably compact plant height, free flowering plant habit. Some unique new colour combinations have being developed as a result, including bi-colours and new shades in a wide range of distinctive colours.

    “Originally 36 different colour combinations were chosen, from which these have now been picked out as the best.”

    One other important point, all are free of Cucumber Mosaic Virus which can be a serious disease of scabious.

    You can order the five colours in the Dessert Series of scabious from Hayloft Plants.


  • Petunia 'Belinda': New from Mr Fothergill

    Graham Rice on 14 Jan 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Petunia 'Belinda' - new double blue petunia. Image ©David KerleyTucked away behind a tall hedge in a village near Cambridge is the nursery that produces the best of all double flowering petunias. And now they’ve produced another.

    The first of the Tumbelina double petunias, Priscilla, with its purple-veined lavender flowers, set the standard for neat and bushy habit, consistently double flowers and good fragrance. Now comes number seventeen – Belinda, with deep blue flowers.

    Tumbling rather than trailing in vertical sheets, as you can see from the picture (click to enlarge) the rich velvety blue double flowers are carried on plants which billow out of the basket without trailing so low that your head hits them as you walk by.

    “It's taken a long time to get a good blue colour in Tumbelina, far longer than I expected,” breeder David Kerley told me. “It keeps its doubleness through the season, it’s very early to flower and it's somewhat fragrant, though not perhaps as fragrant as ‘Priscilla’ or ‘Joanna’. The downside: it needs good conditions to really thrive.”

    So plant Belinda in fresh compost – as you always should – keep it consistently moist and feed regularly.

    Back in 2009 I wrote about some earlier Tumbelina petunias, I also wrote about David Kerley’s bicoloured petunias and also about his impressive single flowered petunias.

    You can order plants of Petunia Belinda from Mr Fothergill.


  • Digitalis 'Illumination': New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 11 Jan 2012 at 11:28 AM

    Digitalis 'Illumination - a new hybrid foxglove. ©Thompson & MorganWe’ve seen some fine new foxgloves in the last year or two but this one is even more special as it brings together two species into a dramatic perennial that’s never been available before.

    Digitalis ‘Illumination’ combines the familiar purple colouring of our native foxglove with the rich orange colouring of Isoplexis canariensis, from the Canary Isles. The result is a plant reaching about 2-3ft/60-90cm in height, with spikes of flowers over a very long period. The flowers are sterile, so they just keep on coming.

    Shimmering purple, with faint honeyed streaks on the outside, inside the throats are almost white shading to honey orange at the edges. The throats are sometimes noticeably spotted and sometimes not, depending on temperature and light intensity.

    This is another plant created by Charles Valin, plant breeder at Thompson & Morgan. He told me about it: ‘I started in 2006,’ he said. “I had a feeling that although Ispolexis was classified as separate from Digitalis, they are so similar that Isoplexis should probably be called Digitalis. I kind of wanted to prove botanists wrong! And I wanted to combine the exotic looking bird pollinated flowers of Isoplexis with the hardiness of Digitalis.

    “So in 2006 I crossed various selections of Digitalis purpurea with Isoplexis canariensis. Only certain crosses took, and when they did the seed set was low. We saw the first hybrids in 2007, and they were spectacular. Unfortunately it turned out that the germination of the hybrid seed was very low, so we decided to produce vegetative clones instead, and propagate by tissue culture. We chose one plant with the best habit and strongest colour among about 100 hybrid plants.

    “The flower shape of Digitalis ‘Illumination’ retains the nice distinct look of Isoplexis, and because the hybrid is entirely sterile it keeps on flowering and sending new flower spikes all summer long. I have not seen any birds trying to pollinate it yet, but ‘Illumination’ is definitely a bumblebee magnet! The plants survived the 2010 winter in the field and re-shooted in spring from ground level. I expect that in a mild climate the top growth would not die and you would end up with a spectacular shrubby foxglove.”

    And yes, Isoplexis canariensis is now treated as a Digitalis.

    You can order plants of Digitalis ‘Illumination’ from Thompson & Morgan and look out for them, in bud, in garden centres in May.


  • Achimenes from Europe: New from Chiltern Seeds

    Graham Rice on 03 Jan 2012 at 04:57 PM

    Achimenes 'Fallen Angel', 'Golden Butterfly', 'Peach Cascade'. Image © Serge Saliba 

    Chiltern Seeds have recently issued their thirty seventh annual mail order seed catalogue but as well as vast variety of rare and unusual seeds from around the world, they have often also listed the very latest in Achimenes (sometimes known as Cupid's Bower, or Hot Water Plant).

    These neat and bushy relations of the Streptocarpus and the African violet are ideal windowsill and conservatory plants with flat-faced flowers held on long tubes above dark green foliage. They bloom in summer and autumn on plants about 8-15in/20-38cm high.

    They have more newcomers this year but Chiltern Seeds don’t supply them as seeds. They come as short lengths of scaly rhizome, often called tubercles, which look a little like tiny pine cones and which are easy to pack like large seeds and send through the post at minimal expense. Just plant in fresh, well-drained compost and away they go.

    Chiltern Seeds have been introducing new varieties of Achimenes for many years, and this year they have newcomers from top breeders Serge Saliba from Romania and from Konrad Michelssen from Germany.

    From Serge Saliba come ‘Fallen Angel’ (above left, click to enlarge) with large white flowers with a golden throat and a vivid pink picotee edge. There is also ‘Golden Butterfly’ (above, centre), golden yellow towards the centre and white with a hint of pink at the edges, while ‘Peach Cascade’ (above, right) is peachy orange with a yellow centre and a useful spreading habit. You can see many more of Serge Saliba’s Achimenes on Flickr.

    Finally, ‘Summer Festival’ comes from German breeder Konrad Michelssen and is especially valued for its voluminous pink flowers set against dark foliage.

    Numbers are limited, you can order these new Achimenes from Chiltern Seeds.

  • New perennials from a new supplier

    Graham Rice on 29 Dec 2011 at 05:34 PM

    Five new perennials from Simply Perennials. Image ©Simply Seeds and Plants
    A new supplier of hardy perennials has just launched, with a whole range of new varieties. Simply Perennials is the latest in a series of opportunities provided by Simply Seeds and Plants. They began with sweet pea plants, added fuchsias, continued with chrysanthemums and vegetable plants – and now they’ve added hardy perennials.

    But instead of starting with perennials which are the popular favourites, the varieties we all know and which you can buy anywhere, they’ve partnered with the American supplier of new perennials, Terra Nova Nurseries, who create more new varieties of perennials each year than anyone else.

    Almost half the initial batch of thirty four varieties are new to Britain. And this is just the start, there are more on the way. In fact I’ve just noticed that they’ve added more since I began writing this piece!

    There are new echinaceas, new kniphofias, an impressive new hosta, bright new penstemon, rudbeckia, coreopsis….

    Those in the picture (click to enlarge) are:
    Corydalis curviflora ‘Blue Heron’ (left) has very dark blue flowers, on bright red stems with dusky blue-green foliage.
    Echinacea ‘Quills and Thrills’ (centre, top) has pink rays, which are darker at the base and flatten out at the tip. Great for cutting.
    Coreopsis ‘Ruby Frost’ (centre, bottom) has white tipped, deep red flowers on tall, prolific and bushy plants.
    Kniphofia ‘Papaya Popsicle’ (right, top) has these vivid spikes – this is one plant, not cut stems from three!
    Viola ‘Heartthrob’ (right, bottom) has these beautifully marked flowers and small pink flowers in spring.

    You can take a look the full range at Simply Perennials from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Broccoli ‘Rioja’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 20 Dec 2011 at 04:33 PM

    Sprouting broccoli 'Rioja'- a new multiseason variety. Image © Elsoms SeedsSprouting broccoli is not a crop that excites every vegetable gardener but, as with so many traditional vegetables, new developments have made sprouting broccoli much more appealing to the home veg grower.

    ‘Rioja’ is a new bred-in-Britain, purple sprouting broccoli which is more flexible in its cropping season, an ideal feature for home gardeners who can make two or three sowings from one packet of seed for crops at different seasons.

    Keeley Watson of Elsoms Seeds in Lincolnshire, who developed this variety, told me: “Rioja could be planted at the same time as ‘traditional’ purple sprouting broccoli, in July and August, and it will produce spears in late February and March. It can also produce spears in October and November from earlier plantings but the spears are not of such a high quality.”

    Another valuable feature of ‘Rioja’ is that its spears are noticeably outward facing which made them especially easy to pick and they also snapped off easily. The plants are also less tall, at about 28in/70cm, so are more manageable in the garden and less likely to fall over under the weight of snow, but their early vigour is just right for cropping so soon after winter.

    By the way, broccoli not only contains more Vitamin C than oranges, but is also a significant source of glucosinolates, compounds which help liver function and are also said to have anti-cancer properties.

    Seed of sprouting broccoli ‘Rioja’ is available from Plants of Distinction.


  • Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’: New from Simply Fuchsias

    Graham Rice on 16 Dec 2011 at 04:08 PM

    Fuchsia 'Pour Menneke' is a trailing Triphylla fuchsia for baskets. Image ©Simply Fuchsias.Fuchsias are amongst the most impressive of summer flowers for hanging baskets but many trailing varieties tend to have big and blowsy flowers which can be battered by the weather. ‘Pour Menneke’ (left, click to enlarge) is more resilient – and more stylish.

    This is a Triphylla fuchsia, with three leaves at each leaf joint instead of the usual two. Another feature of the Triphyllas is that the flowers are long, slender and pendulous and are gathered in prolific clusters.

    The tall and upright ‘Thalia’, with its bright orange flowers, is the most familiar fuchsia of this type but is not suitable for baskets. Richard Massey of Simply Fuchsias from Simply Seeds and Plants told me: “’Pour Menneke’ has a more lax habit than ‘Thalia’ so is good in baskets and window boxes as well as in tall pots. Its flowers are approximately 50% longer and also come in a softer orange. It seems to like a sunny position.”

    In a basket ‘Pour Menneke’ develops an almost flat habit, the from reddish shoots arching over the sides. The long tubes are daintily slender and the very tip of each petal fades to pale green setting of the soft orange colouring beautifully.

    The origins of ‘Pour Menneke’ are uncertain, although it seems to have originated in Belgium. Other than that… Richard Massey found it on one of his plant hunting forays and knew he was on to a winner.

    You can order plants of Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’ from Simply Fuchsias from Simply Seeds and Plants. It’s only available in limited numbers this season.


  • Quince ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’: New from DT Brown

    Graham Rice on 11 Dec 2011 at 01:12 PM

    'Sibley's Patio Quince' - new dwarf variety Image © Will SibleyQuinces have been out of fashion. Perhaps because these days people don’t quite know what to do with the fruits, perhaps because some varieties can get a little large for the borders in today’s gardens. But a couple of things have happened which should help us appreciate quinces much more.

    In the December issue of The Garden Ian Hodgson has written about quinces and how to grow them, and on the RHS website Mary Berry has provided some delicious quince recipes. This is a big help. But there’s also a new variety intended for patio containers.

    ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ (left, click t enlarge) was developed by fruit grower and breeder Will Sibley who for many years has been working on fruit trees for the home gardener. Will told me: “The fruits are about the size of a tennis ball, quite round and yellow with a full bloom over the whole fruit. They are very sweet for a quince and make superb jelly or can be used in traditional fruit pie recipes.”

    The tree develops into a neat standard on a short leg and is ideal for patio containers especially as early in the season there are pinkish flowers. It remains this neat size because not only is the variety itself dwarf, but it’s also grafted on to a dwarfing rootstock so the result is a dwarf tree which also begins to crop when still young. It’s very productive too, and after only three years should be producing around fifty fruits, and ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ is also resistant to mildew. Sounds like a great combination of features.

    You can order plants of ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ from DT Brown.


  • Geranium ‘Havana Blues’: Long flowering new cranesbill

    Graham Rice on 06 Dec 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Geranium 'Havana Blues' - a new long-flowering hardy geranium. Image © Marco van NoortWith new hardy geraniums appearing constantly - twenty newcomers in the 2011 RHS Plant Finder alone to add to the many many hundreds already available – it’s understandable when gardeners are cautious about yet another new one.

    But when one of the world’s top breeders of new hardy geraniums introduces a new variety we should pay attention and in ‘Havana Blues’, Dutch breeder Marco van Noort looks to have a winner.

    “‘Havana Blues’ is special because it has big and nice blue flowers with dark veins,” Marco told me. “At first the plant sprouts with greenish yellow leaves and that is unusual for this type of plant. It starts to flower around May/June and doesn't stop until the first frosts come. It likes sun to half shade and grows 30-40 cm tall and 40-50 cm wide. I can't compare it with another Geranium, it’s is not a look-a-like of anything else”.

    Marco explained that every year since 1993 he has raised seedlings of forms of Geranium wallichianum and selected the very best. He is especially interested in plants with a very long flowering season and is also looking for new forms involving G. sanguineum and G. cinereum. He is also working on new varieties of echinacea, astrantia and other hardy perennials.

    Geranium ‘Havana Blues’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and is also available from Hayloft Plants.


  • Mangetout pea ‘Shiraz’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 01 Dec 2011 at 01:04 PM

    Mangetout pea 'Shiraz' has flat purple pods and is resistant to mildew. Image © ElsomsMany gardeners may find it difficult to get excited by a new variety of pea but this British-bred variety really is something new and different – and has value both as an ornamental and in the kitchen. ‘Shiraz’ (left, click to enlarge) is the first modern purple-podded mangetout pea.

    Developed in Lincolnshire by one of Britain’s top vegetable seed breeders, ‘Shiraz’ features long-lasting, flat purple pods which stay in top condition for an unusually long time on plants of a manageable size. Also, importantly, it’s resistant to powdery mildew.

    Purple-podded mangetout peas have occasionally been seen before, but the quality of the old heirloom types has been unpredictable. They’ve also been almost impossible to buy and often suffered from mildew.

    “In response to demand for unique products, we first started breeding for ‘Shiraz’ in 2000 and that was followed by eight years of painstaking breeding and testing,” said John Constable, Crop Manager at Elsoms who developed the variety. “So it is great news to finally produce a marketable variety with a quality purple pod, good plant height and yield combined with resistance to powdery mildew.”

    Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, its attractive two-tone purple and pink flowers are followed by a heavy yield of deep wine red pods whose seeds are exceptionally slow to develop so allowing the pods to remain flat and tender. First seen in a limited number of Marks & Spencer stores last year, seed is now available for the first time.

    With attractive flowers and pods, ‘Shiraz’ is one of an increasing range of vegetables that both look good and taste good. “They're a very striking colour, really eye-catching and pretty,” said Colin Randel of Thompson & Morgan who are listing ‘Shiraz’ for the first time. “They're best enjoyed raw or in stir fry, where their colour will really stand out. They might even help kids think vegetables are a bit more fun,” he said.

    Seed of mangetout pea ‘Shiraz’ is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Dahlia 'Twyning's Revel': Dark leaves and vibrant flowers

    Graham Rice on 26 Nov 2011 at 05:45 PM

    Dahlia 'Twyning's Revel', a vivid new dark leaved dahlia. Image © (all rights reserved)Dark-leaved dahlias have become increasingly popular recently, and a number of new ones have appeared this year. One of the most striking is 'Twyning's Revel'.

    Reaching about 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m tall, with finely divided, almost ferny, dark foliage 'Twyning's Revel' makes a bold impression from early in the season. Then in summer and autumn, right through to the frosts, the plant is covered in vibrant single flowers.

    Each flower has about twelve pointed petals, each a lovely shade perhaps best described as coral orange then fading streakily to yellow around the dark-centred orange eye. Occasionally a petal may be slightly malformed, and this was perhaps why this variety was denied an Award of Garden Merit - it came close. The assessment panel judging the Dahlia trial in 2009 noted its masses of flowers held just above the foliage and also remarked that the flowers, stems and foliage created a lovely combination. It was also voted joint favourite amongst visitors to the trial.

    In very rich conditions the flowers may be slightly masked by foliage which can become too lush, but the prolific flowering and the unique flower colouring set against that elegant dark foliage make this a really special dahlia.

    It was raised in Cornwall by Mark Twyning, who’s developed a range of varieties all with his name as the prefix coupled with a brand of chocolate or dessert. His best known is the white ‘Twyning’s After Eight’, also with dark foliage.

    Mark created ‘Twyning’s Revel’ back in 2007 by crossing ‘Magenta Star’, with single magenta flowers and dark foliage, and ‘Karma Fuchisana’, a pink and orange, green-leaved Decorative dahlia from Holland.

    You can read more about Mark Twyning and his work with dahlias in the September 2010 edition of The Garden.

    Dahlia ‘Twyning’s Revel’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Marigold ‘Kees Orange’: New for fiery summer borders

    Graham Rice on 21 Nov 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Tall African Marigold 'Kees Orange'. Image © Mr Fothergills SeedsWe know that African marigolds can be some of the most vivid of plants. The problem is that so many of them have been modified by plant breeders into such short, dumpy and inelegant plants.

    This has been done partly because they believe gardeners are only interested in dwarf plants and partly because if plants are dwarf, growers can fit more shelves on to those vertical trolleys they use to deliver plants to the garden centre.

    But integrating plants like footstools into today’s mixed borders is difficult, they just look so out of place. So the arrival of ‘Kees Orange’ (left, click to enlarge), which reaches about 2ft/60cm, is very welcome especially as it’s such a rich colour.

    The flowers are about 2in/5cm across, rather like carnations in form, held on vigorous and well-branched plants and are far more intense in colour than other orange marigolds. Because they’re taller than most African marigolds, they will integrate well into mixed borders, and especially with other hot-coloured summer and autumn plants like cannas and dahlias.

    Treat ‘Kees Orange’ as a half hardy annual and sow seed in heat from February to April, or sow outside where they are to flower a little later; being so vigorous they should flower well outside when treated like a hardy annual and sown in May.

    ‘Kees Orange’ was developed in Holland by the prolific plant breeder Kees Sahin who developed a wide range of annual and perennial flowers. This was one of his last projects before he passed away a couple of years ago.

    You can order seed of African marigold ‘Kees Orange’ from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.


  • Kniphofia ‘Elvira’: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 16 Nov 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Kniphofia 'Elvira' is new fiery poker. Image ©Hayloft PlantsKniphofias have been catching our attention recently. The Wisley trial that was completed last year highlighted many fine plants, there were ten newcomers listed in the 2011 RHS Plant Finder and a number of new varieties from the USA should be with us next year.

    But one vividly coloured newcomer, which really does justify the old common name of red hot poker, is ‘Elvira’. As the picture reveals, its colouring is extraordinarily bright and fiery.

    Tall and upright in growth, the slender rich green foliage makes a mound about 70cm/28in high, with the upright spikes reaching to about 1m/39in. Flowering continuously from July to September, each spike carries between 70 and 100 individual flowers, each lasting last for about ten days, so in all each spike lasts about 18 days. And one important point, the dying flowers drop off leaving a clean looking spike, they don’t hang on looking brown and grubby.

    Now, the colour… Vivid hot orange, with the new flowers slightly richer and redder in colouring and the older flowers not fading too much before dropping off. So the result is a bright and harmonious mass of colour with nothing to detract from the display.

    Like all kniphofias, ‘Elvira’ enjoys a well-drained soil in full sun and dislikes wet soil in the winter.

    You can buy Kniphofia ‘Elvira’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Fourberry: More than just a new fruit

    Graham Rice on 12 Nov 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Fourberry 'Black Gem' and 'Black Pearl'- multiseason fruits from Suttons, Dobies and Lubera. Images ©SuttonsThe blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries that we grow in our gardens are all derived from different wild species of Ribes. But, in all, there are around 150 different wild Ribes and others are also well worth growing including, of course, the flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.

    Now another species comes to the fore, R. odoratum (usually grown in gardens as R. aureum) and long prized for its attractive fragrant spring flowers. Two new varieties are being launched this autumn, ‘Black Gem’ and ‘Black Pearl’, both selected from several thousand seedlings for their combination of colorful flowers, fragrance, autumn foliage colour and, of course, high quality fruit. These four features give them the common name of Fourberry.

    Developed in Switzerland by a family fruit nursery that began as long ago as 1889, their Lubera brand specialises in new fruit varieties of all kinds. Their RedLove apple was launched last year.

    In April and early May, the distinctive yellow flowers of Fourberries hang along the length of the previous year’s branches in long strings. Each has a distinctive red ring around the centre of the flower and a delightful fragrance. In summer the black berries ripen, they can be eaten fresh or used for juice or in jam. Then, finally, in autumn the foliage turns vivid red. In today’s smaller gardens, any plant that brings us four separate features at different times of year by is especially valuable.

    Both varieties reach 1.2-1.5m/4-5ft, ‘Black Gem’ has slightly smaller berries and ripens from the end of July to mid August while ‘Black Pearl, with its larger berries, ripens earlier, from mid July into early August. Grow both for the longest season.

    You can buy Fourberry ‘Black Gem’ from Suttons, and you can buy Fourberry ‘Black Pearl from Dobies.


  • Chrysanthemum: Virus-free exhibition varieties

    Graham Rice on 06 Nov 2011 at 03:51 PM

    Virus free exhibition chrysanths Images ©Chrysanthemums Direct

    This post about new plants is a little different. This time it’s not the varieties that are new but the way in which the plants are produced.

    When growers produce new plants of their exhibition chrysanthemums themselves, there tends to be a loss of vigour over the years. Often this is the result of virus infection which is transferred to healthy plants by aphids or sometimes on the knife or secateurs used to take cuttings. This infection may not produce obvious visible symptoms so reduced vigour and slow rooting can be overlooked.

    Martyn Flint at Chrysanthemums Direct, Gold Medal winners at shows all over the country again this year, recognised the problem and has worked with chrysanthemum growers to choose the top exhibitors’ varieties and produce them by micro-propagation in the laboratory. As part of this process, virus diseases are eliminated. The resulting clean and healthy plants are known as Nuclear Stock. They perform much better for the gardener and grower.

    Many many plants are now produced in the laboratory from roses to heucheras and hostas to petunias, and chrysanthemums produced for cut flowers are often propagated in this way. Now it’s the turn of exhibition varieties.

    Twenty three varieties are being produced as Nuclear Stock and will be available from January 2012. Supplies will be limited, so it pays to order early.

    Nuclear Stock of these exhibition chrysanthemums is available from Chrysanthemums Direct.

    In the picture (click to enlarge):
    Top Row (left to right): ‘Chempak Rose Purple’, ‘Courtier Apricot’, ‘John Wingfield Pink, ‘Fairweather Peach’.
    Bottom Row (left to right): ‘William Florentine’, ‘John Hughes Yellow’, ‘Roy Coopland’, ‘Lyn Johnson’


  • Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’: Supersized silver ground cover

    Graham Rice on 01 Nov 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Lamium maculatum 'Ghost', new ground cover. Image © (all rights reserved)Lamiums are valuable and easy-to-grow evergreen perennial ground covers which thrive in most shady and partially shaded places. Their green and silver, or sometimes almost entirely silvered, foliage is topped by two-lipped spring flowers in reddish or pink shades, or white. They light up dark corners and fill round the base of shrubs very effectively.

    ‘Ghost’ is a newcomer which is bigger and bolder than earlier varieties and which makes an even more effective ground cover.

    Reaching 10-12in/25-30cm in height, significantly taller than older varieties, at 1.5in/4cm the leaves are fully twice the size of the leaves of most varieties. Each leaf is almost completely silver and so the resulting mass of very bright growth smothers weeds efficiently and also hides the dying foliage of daffodils and other spring bulbs. The pinkish purple flowers, held just above the foliage, contrast effectively with the silvered background.

    As well thriving as shady places, including dry shade, ‘Ghost’ will also do well in full sun as long as the soil does not dry out. It would also make a good winter container plant which can then be planted in the garden in spring to develop to its full size.

    Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’ was discovered at Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Illinois, an American nursery well known for its new introductions.

    You can order Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Heucherella ‘Redstone Falls’: New ground cover variety

    Graham Rice on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Heucherella 'Redstone Falls', for containers or ground cover. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesFor many years we’ve had tiarellas, those delightful North American shade lovers, which spread out across the soil rather than stay in tight clumps. They make great ground cover plants.

    Now, the creeping tiarellas have been crossed with the tightly clump-forming but much more colourful heucheras to bring a whole new style of foliage effects to ground cover perennials. ‘Redstone Falls’ is the first of these. And it’s valuable not only as a ground cover plant, but as a trailing perennial for containers.

    Created by crossing creeping tiarellas with heucheras which feature such an impressive range of foliage colours, ‘Redstone Falls’, named for a waterfall in Wisconsin, and its sister varieties combine exceptional foliage colour with a creeping, ground covering habit.

    First, ‘Redstone Falls’ develops a mound of foliage. Then it sends out stems which creep across the soil or trail down from containers. The dark-veined foliage is coppery red in spring and matures to reddish and brown tones in autumn and winter. There’s also the bonus of white flowers in spring.

    ‘Redstone Falls’ is ideal as ground cover in a shaded corner which is not deeply dingy and also under shrubs. It will take more sun if the soil is consistently moist. In containers drying out is the danger, especially when planted in hanging baskets, but regular watering or drip irrigation can easily ensure a constant supply of moisture.

    xHeucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Strawberry ‘Fenella’: New and British bred

    Graham Rice on 23 Oct 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Strawberry 'Fenella' - new, tasty and British bred. Image ©MeiosisSome gardeners don’t really think very much about which strawberry varieties they grow. But in terms of appearance and yield and flavour and disease-resistance it can make an enormous difference.

    Many of our top strawberries - for gardeners, supermarkets and greengrocers - have been bred in Britain and the latest, ‘Fenella’, looks to be a valuable addition to our home-grown fruit range. This is a late season variety, cropping from late June to late July, so extending the strawberry season after most varieties.

    The vigorous plants are leafy and combine a compact habit with long stems holding the trusses of fruit so the fruits tend to be held outside the foliage so are easy to pick. ‘Fenella’ produces a heavy yield of large glossy, orange-red berries which are juicy and well flavoured. Another valuable feature is disease resistance, the plants have built in resistance to verticillium wilt and crown rot. They also have a rather waxy skin which is not easily damaged and will not be spoiled by thunderstorms.

    ‘Fenella’ was developed at East Malling Research in Kent, and is a cross between two of their unnamed strawberries. It was first selected in 2001 and has been undergoing extensive assessment and trialing before being introduced.

    You can order Strawberry ‘Fenella’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Sweet pea ‘Almost Black’: New for autumn 2011

    Graham Rice on 17 Oct 2011 at 09:04 AM

    Sweet pea 'Almost Black' - unique new colouring. Image ©Keith HammettFor over a hundred years, since the first heyday of the sweet pea, varieties with very dark flowers have been sought after. As long ago as 1898 the great Henry Eckford introduced ‘Black Knight’, described as having a “bold, upright dark bronzey chocolate standard; some say shiny marone, wings a little more purple…; one of the best, if not the best, of all the very dark varieties....”

    Since then new varieties have appeared both in the old fashioned Grandiflora style and in the ruffled style of the Spencer sweet pea. Now a leading breeder of sweet peas from New Zealand, Dr Keith Hammett, has created a new one with a unique background. Keith named it ‘Almost Black’, with the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, in mind.

    “What more appropriate colour could a Kiwi want?” Keith told me. “The flowers are small and unwaved like ancestral sweet peas, which adds to the intensity of colour. They do appear black under artificial lights and when used in a vase with other colours.” They are also sweetly scented.

    “The initial cross was made twenty years ago in the 1991/1992 season (Southern Hemisphere),” said Keith. “The female parent was 'Mrs Collier' and Lathyrus belinensis was the pollen parent. The resulting hybrid was crossed with wild collected L. odoratus.

    “In subsequent seasons two further crosses were made to different sweet pea cultivars, thus restoring desirable characteristics of the modern sweet pea while preserving the unique colouring. I released it as 'Almost Black', a most appropriate name here in New Zealand especially with the World Rugby Cup in full swing.”

    You can order sweet pea ‘Almost Black’ direct from its raiser, Keith Hammett, or from these seed suppliers: Chiltern Seeds, English Sweet Peas, Nicky's Nursery, Owl's Acree Sweet Peas, Roger Parsons, Sarah Raven and Unwins Seeds.


  • Euphorbia ‘Frosted Flame’: New this year

    Graham Rice on 14 Oct 2011 at 04:48 PM

    Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Frosted Flame’, a bright and colourful new foliage plant.Variegated and coloured leaved euphorbias have caught gardeners’ imaginations in recent years as fine foliage plants as well as plants for late winter and spring flowers.

    The colour range has developed from a selection of variegated forms - some of which, unfortunately, are rather weak and difficult to grow into impressive specimens – to some which feature deep red colouring, especially in the shoot tips and in winter. Now brighter forms are being introduced and Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Frosted Flame’ is one of the brightest of all.

    In summer, its grey green foliage is edged in cream. Then as temperature cools reddish colouring starts to be added, first in the shoot tips and then lower down the plant. Our picture (above, click to enlarge) was shot in April, in May and June the plant is topped with heads of chartreuse flowers.

    Reaching about 18in/45cm high in flower, and a little less wide, this is a fine plant to grow as a specimen in a well-drained container, in a sunny but sheltered position. In a pot with a blue glaze it should look stunning. ‘Frosted Flame’ will also thrive in rich but well-drained beds and borders and, again, it appreciates sunshine.

    You can order Euphorbia ‘Frosted Flame’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Iberis Absolutely Amethyst: First in this colour

    Graham Rice on 08 Oct 2011 at 01:57 PM

    Iberis,Absolutely Amethyst,'Ib2401',Photo courtesy of Proven Winners - www.provenwinners.comWe always think of Iberis, or perennial candytuft, as white. In fact its gleaming spring flower heads set against slender dark green foliage are one of the dependable highlights of the spring garden. We’ve also had a pinkish flowered form that never really grabbed gardeners’ attention, now we have new form with bright, lavender purple flowers.

    Iberis Absolutely Amethyst ('Ib2401') is a mound forming evergreen perennial reaching 10-12in/25-30cm high and 8-10in/20-25cm across. Its leaves are narrow and rich green, and in late spring each plant is covered in flowers.

    The domed heads are made up of a large number of small flowers, opening purple in the top and slowing fading to pale lavender lower down as the flowers age. Sparks of yellow are scattered all through the flower heads as the anthers open.

    This is a drought tolerant plant, ideal at the front of a sunny raised bed where it will slowly tumble over the edge. Absolutely Amethyst is also good in gravel gardens and planted alongside a stone path where it can spread out across the edge of the stones. It will also thrive in a container.

    Absolutely Amethyst needs no special care. Simply clip off the flower heads when they’ve faded to be left with an attractive mound of green foliage.

    Iberis Absolutely Amethyst ('Ib2401') is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Clematis Princess Kate: New Texensis Group clematis

    Graham Rice on 02 Oct 2011 at 03:45 PM

    Clematis, Princess Kate,‘Zoprika’,Thorncroft. Image ©J. van Zoest B.V.There’s an increasing range of new clematis appearing on the market these days and this latest variety sets itself apart from more familiar and traditional, large-flowered types.

    Princess Kate (‘Zoprika’) is a Texensis Group clematis reaching about 10-13ft/3-4m in height and flowering from June to September. The flowers are very distinctive and are lovely both in the garden and also when cut for the house.

    Each flower is shaped rather like the blooms of lily-flowered tulips and held upright in the same way. Each is about 2.5in/6cm long and about 1.5in/4cm wide across the tip, and coloured white on the inside and reddish purple with a white edge on the outside. The tip of each flower flares back to reveal the white inside and also show off the reddish purple stamens in the heart of the flower.

    This is one of the easiest types of clematis to grow, plants are pruned by simply cutting back hard to about 10in/25cm in spring. Princess Kate is ideal growing up a trellis or arch, or trained into an early flowering shrub like a forsythia where its flowers will brighten up the shrub’s dull summer foliage.

    The hybridisation that led to the selection of Princess Kate was done in Holland in 2003 at J. van Zoest B.V this variety chosen from the resulting seedlings in 2006.

    You can order plants of Clematis Princess Kate (‘Zoprika’) from Thorncroft Clematis.


  • Hollyhock ‘Halo Mixed’: New bicoloured mixture

    Graham Rice on 23 Sep 2011 at 05:47 PM

    Hollyhock 'Halo Mixed, Alcea. Image © Thompson & Morgan Most gardeners love hollyhocks. They’re quintessential cottage garden plants and while new varieties come along every few years, especially doubles, there are few that are both genuinely new and that also retain the spirit of traditional types. ‘Halo’ seems to do just that.

    The flowers of ‘Halo’ single, but all are bicolours - they all have a ring of contrasting colour round the yellow heart of the flower. The Halo Series was developed by Thompson & Morgan breeder Charles Valin whose new varieties, including Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’, have featured on this blog before. He told me how the ‘Halo’ hollyhocks came about.Hollyhock 'Halo Cream',Alcea. Image ©Thompson & Morgan



  • Buddleja Miss Ruby: New award-winner from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 18 Sep 2011 at 08:45 PM

    Buddleja,Miss Ruby,NC2003-22. Image ©www.provenwinners.comIn each of the three years of the recent Wisley trial of buddleias, visitors to the trial were invited to vote for their favourite. Miss Ruby (‘NC2003-22’) won by a mile. The RHS experts who assessed the trial agreed, they were unanimous in giving it an Award of Garden Merit. And now it’s finally available.

    This is an interesting hybrid buddleia and is the closet to a true red that we have so far. In fact the flowers are a unique, rich and vivid pink and are carried in rather fat spikes about 41/2 in/11cm long and 11/4in/3cm wide. Each spike lasts about three to four weeks.

    Reaching about 61/2ft/2m in height, and about the same width on the good Wisley soil, Miss Ruby is not too large for small gardens – some of the other entries reached an unmanageable 10ft/3m high and up to 13ft/4m wide!

    Another appealing feature of Miss Ruby is that its sets almost no seed, so the irritation of self sown seedlings coming up in the cracks in the patio paving or in the mortar of walls is largely avoided. And an experiment in dead-heading during the trial showed how dramatically Miss Ruby benefits from having the old flowers snipped off. Not only does this encourage a longer and more prolific flowering season, but the greyish foliage is fresher and more attractive too.

    Miss Ruby is a hybrid involving B. davidii, B. globosa and B. fallowiana and it was created by Dr Denis Werner of the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina where he is continuing to develop more exciting new buddleias.

    Check out the comprehensive report on the Buddleja trial.

    You can order Buddleja Miss Ruby from Gardening Express.

    Photo courtesy of Proven Winners -

  • Muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 15 Sep 2011 at 04:22 PM

    Muscari,Pink Sunrise,Hayloft Plants. Image © Visions-BVWe always think of grape hyacinths, Muscari, as coming in various shades of blue or sometimes perhaps white. Now, we have pink.

    The flowers of Muscari 'Pink Sunrise' (click the picture to enlarge), crowded into a tight spike in the same way as the more familiar blue-flowered types, are a very pale shade of pink. In fact the unopened flowers are white, as they open they turn pale rose, then as they age they mature close to white again. The result is a delightful, harmoniously coloured and very appealing spike of flowers.

    Flowering in April and May on plants abut 6-8in/15-20cm high, ‘Pink Sunrise’ makes a fine container plant, with white or pale blue violas perhaps, and sited by a door or path or gateway visitors will surely appreciate this lovely colour break. It also looks good near the front of the border, especially against a dark mulch.

    Always plant in clumps rather than scattering the bulbs more thinly, and never in rows when they will not look at all natural. In clumps the flowers will make the most impact. Give them a liquid feed every two weeks after flowering until the dark green leaves start to fade away and this will help the bulbs bulk up and flower well the following year.

    You can order Muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’: New from Australia

    Graham Rice on 10 Sep 2011 at 08:24 PM

    Savia,Wendy's Wish,new. Image ©PlantHavenThere are about nine hundred species of salvias around the world, from annuals to perennials to shrubs. So there’s are plenty of opportunities to create interesting new hybrids. And that’s exactly what Australian gardener Wendy Smith did back in 2005 when created this long flowering and drought tolerant new salvia, ‘Wendy’s Wish’.

    This is a borderline hardy salvia, probably best grown as a tender perennial plant in mixed borders and large containers. Get your order in now for delivery next spring, or buy one now and keep in protected from frost through winter.

    Reaching about 3-4ft/90cm-1.2m in height and bushing out nicely, reddish stems carry long magenta pink flowers each bursting out of a tawny to pink calyx. With between thirty five and sixty five of these vivid flowers on each tem over a long period, this is a not a plant for the faint-hearted who only grow flowers in delicate pastel shades. The flowers have a citrus scent but, strangely, not the foliage.

    ‘Wendy’s Wish’ arose as a seedling amongst plants of Salvia buchananii and what was said to be Salvia chiapensis ‘Purple Majesty’ growing in Wendy Smith’s Australian garden. Salvia buchananii is familiar to many gardeners and is thought to originate in Mexico though is not known in the wild. Salvia chiapensis ‘Purple Majesty’ is something of a mystery – the plant known as ‘Purple Majesty’ is not a variety of S. chiapensis but is itself a hybrid.

    However, setting that aside, this is a dense, bushy, and prolific new salvia flowering from summer through to the frosts.

    You can order Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Hosta ‘Captain’s Adventure’: new three-coloured variety

    Graham Rice on 05 Sep 2011 at 01:48 PM

    Hosta 'Captain's Adventure','Captain Kirk'. Image ©Heemskerk Vaste PlantenThere’s a whole series of hostas derived from the variety ‘Captain Kirk’, and they all have more or less Star Trek related names. There’s ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Voyager’ and ‘Vulcan’ – and now there’s ‘Captain’s Adventure’. I have to say, the name ‘Captain’s Adventure’ is a bit of a let down… What about ‘Deep Space Nine’ or ‘Klingon Warrior’?

    Anyway… It goes like this. First there was the bluish Hosta fortunei var. hyacinthina and from that came ‘Gold Standard’, with green edged gold leaves. This produced ‘Captain Kirk’, with a wider green margin to the heavier leaves and generally a better and more vigorous garden plant. And from ‘Captain Kirk came ‘Captain’s Adventure’.

    ‘Captain’s Adventure’ is very distinct as not only is each leaf noticeably narrower than its predecessors but each leaf features three different colours. In the centre is a yellow streak; this is bordered on each side by a narrow green zone and then the outer edges of the leaf are cream. It’s similar to its forbears in having pale lavender flowers in mid summer. Expect it to reach about 24in/60cm in width and about 40cm/14in high.

    Especially valuable as a container plant, site it by a shady pathway or door where its unusual colouring can best be appreciated.

    Found and introduced by Heemskerk Vaste Planten in Holland, you can order Hosta ‘Captain’s Adventure’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Pear Humbug: New from Ukraine

    Graham Rice on 02 Sep 2011 at 02:19 PM

    Pear Hunbug ('Pysanka') Image ©Pomona FruitsUnusual pears are becoming more popular – Asian pears, for example, are much more widely grown than they were just a few years ago. Now, from eastern Europe, comes a new pear called Humbug ('Pysanka') – and it's striped.

    As you can see from the picture (click to enlarge) each fruit - in the traditional pear shape, not round like an Asian pear - is pale green striped in pale yellow from top to bottom, with each yellow stripe stained in pink. And then the whole fruit is delicately spotted in pale-centred green spots. It's a very pretty fruit. Not only that, the young shoots are also striped.

    Originating in the Ukraine, in eastern Europe this pear is stored through the winter and then used as a table decoration at Easter to celebrate the new spring. The fruits can be eaten raw, they're delightfully sweet and juicy, or cooked and although the skin is thick, this helps the fruits store well through the winter. The tree also shows good disease resistance.

    Like most pear varieties Humbug needs a pollinator to set fruit. It's a Group C variety which means that popular varieties like 'Conference' and 'Williams' Bon Chrétien' are will make good pollinators. But remember that this does not mean that the pollinating variety must be in your own garden. If one of your neighbours has the right variety in their garden the bees will do the job and your tree will set fruit.

    You can order the pear Humbug ('Pysanka') from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit: New from North America

    Graham Rice on 25 Aug 2011 at 08:03 PM

    Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners - www.provenwinners.comAfter a long time out of fashion, hydrangeas are again proving popular with many new varieties introduced in recent years. And not just new forms of the old favourites, the mophead and lacecap Hortensia types. Other species are being developed as well.

    Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' has been around for many years. It's a superb Award of Garden Merit winning shrub with spherical white flowerheads up to 13in/32cm across. Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1)' is, essentially, a pink flowered version.

    Reaching about 4ft/1.2m in height, this bushy shrub produces rounded heads of flowers up to 8in/20cm across from mid summer until the first frosts. Dark pink in bud, the impressive heads open in bright pink and then fade to pale pink. Expect up to a hundred flower heads over one summer on a mature plant, with up to 1200 florets in each head.

    Happy in sun or partial shade, and in any reasonable soil, Invincibelle Spirit flowers on new shoots so can be pruned hard in spring. In some situations, especially in shade, the flowers may prove too heavy for the stems and may lean over after heavy rain. In that case prune less severely and the result will be more flower heads but they will all be smaller and less heavy after the rain.

    Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1) was developed over many years by Dr Tom Ranney at North Carolina State University.

    You can order buy plants of Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1) from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Heuchera 'Magnum': new, and with huge leaves

    Graham Rice on 22 Aug 2011 at 09:36 PM

    Heuchera 'Magnum', huge leaves. Images ©Thierry Delabroye.New heucheras just keep on coming and just when you though there were enough another outstanding new one arrives - and 'Magnum'  certainly looks impressive.

    The feature that stands out in this new introduction is the size of the foliage: each leaf is up to 10in/25cm across! With the whole plant reaching a spread of about 18in/45cm and a height of about 12in/30cm this is an impressive plant. The foliage itself is boldly lobed, deep reddish with dark veins and, at times, the silvery overlay we see in so many other varieties.

    'Magnum' appreciates partial shade and a fertile but well-drained soil. It would make a splendid container specimen in a sheltered spot and would also work well as specimen in a woodland garden.

    'Magnum' was developed at his nursery in northern France by Thierry Delabroye, who with his wife Sandrine, has created more than a dozen heucheras with more on the way. These include some of the best of recent heucheras including 'Caramel' (apricot caramel), 'Miracle' (chartreuse and red) and 'Tiramisu' (honey and plum). Their daughter Perrine (in the picture above, click to enlarge) shows the scale of the foliage.

    They have also developed a number of other perennials including many hellebores and Geranium 'Sandrine' and are developing other new perennials.

    I looked at some of Thierry Delabroye's earlier varieties on my RHS New Plants blog back in the summer of 2008.

    You can buy Heuchera 'Magnum' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Antirrhinum 'Eternal': New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 16 Aug 2011 at 02:08 PM
    Antirrhinum 'Eternal',variegated,snapdragon. Image © (all rights reserved)We've had variegated antirrhinums for years, although they were not always very stylish and some people took a dislike to them. Antirrhinum 'Eternal' is different, this new introduction is altogether more elegant.

    Almost all those we’ve seen in the past have been raised from seed, had narrow margins and often slightly twisted foliage. Only the rather weak 'Taff's White', with white flowers and white edges to slightly greyish leaves, had more panache but it was never strong.

    'Eternal', sometimes known rather mysteriously as 'Eternal Magenta (the flowers are not magenta at all) is definitely a cut above those seed raised types. Reaching about 12-14in/30-35cm in height and with rather an upright habit, the grey-green leaves are narrowly edged in cream. That margin is broad enough to be striking yet not so wide as to deprive the plant of so much chlorophyll that its growth is feeble.

    The flower buds are almost white, with a little pale pink haze, they open to rosy pink with the lip slightly darker than the hood, and with an orange haze at the top of the lip. Then the whole flowers darkens as if matures. It should flower well into the autumn and, if kept in a sheltered place and the winter is not too ferocious, perform again next year.

    Grow Antirrhinum 'Eternal' in containers, perhaps with the trailing bronze leaves of Ipomoea 'Blackie' or a sky blue trailing lobelia, ensure it does not dry out and feed it regularly in the same way you would feed other container plants.

    You can order Antirrhinum 'Eternal' from Thompson & Morgan and look out for it at the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley.


  • Two new clematis: from Thorncroft Clematis

    Graham Rice on 13 Aug 2011 at 12:06 PM
    New Clematis from Thorncroft Clematis. Images ©Thorncrtoft ClematisEvery year Thorncroft Clematis introduce new varieties and this year two of them are a little different from the usual run of large-flowered varieties. Both were seen first at this year's Chelsea Flower Show but with so many new plants launched this year, they may have got lost in the rush. Each has a very distinctive flower form.

    Queen Mother ('Zoqum') (above left, click to enlarge) is a beautiful Viticella Group clematis which features exciting bell-shaped flowers in mauve pink – darker on the outside and paler within, the pale colouring showing where the bell splits and the edges roll back.

    Blooming prolifically from June to November, the plant reaches 4-6ft/1.2-1.8m in height and, as is usual with this type, plants are pruned hard just as the buds are swelling in early spring. It was raised in Germany by clematis breeder William Straver in 2003.

    The other new clematis from Thorncroft Clematis with an intriguing flower shape is 'Sweetheart'. This is a non-clinging scrambler in the group derived from crossing a large-flowered hybrid withthe hardy perennial C. integrifolia. Each 3-4in/7.5-10cm flower has delightfully twisted petals in bright mauve pink with a dark streak along the centre of each petal.

    Reaching 4-6ft/1.2-1.6m high and flowering from June to September, this is ideal working its way into a mature shrub for support and early each spring can be cut back hard and all the old growth removed. It should also be good tumbling over a wall.

    Confusingly, there's already a clematis named 'Sweetheart' but a plant in very different style: it's a form of the evergreen C. x cartmanii with masses of small white flowers in early spring.

    You can order Clematis Queen Mother ('Zoqum') from Thorncroft Clematis.

    And you can also order Clematis 'Sweetheart' from Thorncroft Clematis.


  • Hydrangea Expression: New double rebloomer from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 05 Aug 2011 at 07:19 PM

    After many years of being unfashionable - dependable but never exciting - hydrangeas are enjoying a revival. This is partly because some of the best new varieties flower for far longer than the old ones, the ones still gamely flowering late every summer in your grandmother's garden.

    Now, we have an increasing range of reblooming varieties with a longer flowering season including this first rebloomer with double flowers, Expression ('Youmesix').

    Expression starts to open in late spring, and continues to late summer and into autumn. In our coldest climates where hydrangeas may not bloom at all if the winter cuts back the top growth, Expression should flower in late summer.

    With small creamy buds, each floret opens in the shape of a tiny water lily – in blue on lime-free soil and in pink on limy soils. The florets are packed into wide heads and held on upright stems so they won't flop over as many older varieties do, especially after rain. Flowering should continue until frosts.

    The plants are also more compact than those of many mophead hydrangeas, reaching about 1m/40in high and about the same across. They're idea for smaller gardens and also be grown in containers where their long flowering season will make especially valuable. If you soil s is naturally limey and you'd like to have blue flowers on your Expression hydrangea, use hydrangea colourant or plant it in container of ericaceous compost.

    You can order Hydrangea Expression (Youmesix') from Gardening Express.


  • Viola Bunny Ears: New from Mr Fothergill's

    Graham Rice on 31 Jul 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Viola Bunny Ears, new from Mr Fothergill. Images © Mr Fothergill's SeedsA winter hardy viola, in a completely new flower form, is available now from Mr Fothergill's.

    Click on the picture to enlarge it and you'll see that with their two upright petals, just like rabbits' ears as the name implies, this series of dainty little violas is not like anything we've seen before. And those narrow upright petals contrast in colour with the three lower petals creating a very lively look.

    Originally developed in Japan, there are four Bunny Ears varieties so far and each is a distinct bicolour. The Google translation of their original Japanese names is actually rather appealing. From left to right in the picture (click to enlarge): "Akane main color", "Tico of the Valley of the Rainbow', "Mimo hare", and "This sun Lulu's Masquerade". I don't know about you, but I quite like the idea of growing a pretty little viola called "This sun Lulu's Masquerade". Mr Fothergill's list them under more descriptive names.

    They all make bushy little plants 6-8in/15-20cm high, and three plants of one variety in a 12in/30cm terracotta pot by the front door would make a delightful welcome.

    In recent years we've seen so many new violas and pansies with larger and larger flowers - which only flop and look sad in any sort of stress – that a new series with such pretty, but smaller flowers, produced in such generous numbers, is really appealing.

    As well as its unique flower form, the Bunny Ears Series violas are winter hardy, have good heat tolerance in the summer and flower prolifically.

    You can order the varieties individually, or in a collection, from Mr Fothergill's.


  • Sambucus Black Tower: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 28 Jul 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Sambucus,Black Tower,Eiffel. Image © Seoint NurseriesTwo really impressive dark-leaved elders have come on the market in recent years, first Black Beauty ('Gerda') and then the cut-leaved Black Lace ('Eva'). Both were developed in Britain and now they've been joined by a third, Black Tower ('Eiffel 1').

    As you might guess, Black Tower has an unusually vertical habit of growth, expect it to reach about 6-8ft/1.8-2.4m in height with a width of about 3-4ft/0.9-1.2m. So it really does make a tower rather than a slender spire. The shape is just right, if it was more narrow then too much of the branch structure would be revealed.

    The foliage is large, and comes in a deepest, darkest burgundy black. What's more, it covers the plant right to the base – there are no bare legs. As you can see in the picture (click to enlarge). The new shoots are green, creating lively highlights, and with its flat heads of pink flowers followed by black berries this is a fine plant as a focus at the back of mixed borders. I'd be inclined to pant a Clematis viticella variety to climb through it.

    Like all these new elders Black Tower responds to pruning, but pruning will tend to create a plant that is a little broader in its growth.

    It looks as if this might be the last of the elders to come from what used to be the government's East Malling Research Centre where development of new varieties of fruit was the priority. The excellent English Butterfly series of buddlejas came from the same stable and, when I visited many years ago, I remember seeing a great range of elders planted out for assessment. They were also working on lime-tolerant rhododendrons but a round of cuts and re-organisations brought the work to an end.

    But these elders are all fine garden plants. You can buy Sambucus Black Tower ('Eiffel 1') from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries and it is also now starting to find its way into garden centres.


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