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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

  • ‘Hot Papaya’ – an orange double echinacea

    Graham Rice on 31 Jul 2008 at 04:04 PM

    Some impressive new echinaceas (coneflowers) have arrived in nurseries this year, you can see some of them in my article entitled Rays of Light in the August issue of The Garden. Now I can bring you the latest echinacea news - a spectacular new variety for next year.

    ‘Hot Papaya' will be the next introduction from Dutch master breeder Arie Blom who specialises in double-flowered echinaceas. You can take a look at some of his earlier introductions here. This is the very first hybrid double bringing a wonderful fiery shade to double flowered echinaceas which were previously either pink or white. Click on the pictures to see larger versions. The flowers do not fade, are unusually uniform in colour and bloom from June to August on 80cm/32in well branched stems. I can't wait to grow this - it really looks spectacular.

    But now the bad news... ‘Hot Papaya' will not be available to gardeners until the autumn of next year. As soon as I know which nurseries will be listing it I'll let you know. In the meantime, just enjoy the pictures - and wonder what else Arie has on the way...


  • A rose-scented begonia!

    Graham Rice on 25 Jul 2008 at 08:22 PM

    I couldn’t believe it either.

    I was visiting Mr Fothergill’s Seeds near Newmarket recently and they were very excited by their exclusive new begonia for the 2009 catalogue.

    Of course, it’s their job to get excited about their new varieties but there was definitely something special in the air. Me? Well, show me the plant and I’ll tell you what I think. And when I saw it – or rather when I smelled it – I knew what all the fuss was about.

    I was amazed. It smells exactly like a rose. And not just a faint hint of fragrance, if I’d closed my eyes and sniffed I would have sworn I had my nose in a rose.

    It’s a tuberous begonia for baskets and containers – click on the picture to see the lovely colouring. I know… not a perfect flower form, but hey – don’t be greedy. It doesn’t have a name yet, it’s just too new, but I wanted to tell you about it as soon as I could. I’ll let you know when it’s available to order, the catalogue will be out in the autumn.


  • A more stylish vertical berberis

    Graham Rice on 21 Jul 2008 at 11:07 AM

    Berberis may not be the most glamorous of shrubs - what is, I wonder: the camellia, perhaps? - but for many years, Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar' has been popular for its purple foliage and striking, unusually upright habit. It makes an attractive small specimen, and can even be clipped into a low ledge. Now a new, more stylish upright berberis has arrived from Eastern Europe, the purple foliage accented with the same white speckling seen on popular bushy varieties like ‘Rosy Glow'.

    ‘Rosy Rocket' features the same upright habit as ‘Helmond Pillar' and the same deep red foliage but its leaves are lightened by attractive white mottling, especially on the young foliage. From a distance the effect is indeed rather rosy. It would be especially lovely, in a group of three perhaps, interplanted with the daintily variegated Geranium phaeum ‘Margaret Wilson'. It also makes a striking container specimen, could be clipped into a path-edging hedge or used unclipped as a slightly taller hedge or as a divider in a small formal garden.

    After ten years ‘Rosy Rocket' reaches about 1.2m in height with a width of just 40cm, slightly smaller than ‘Helmond Pillar', and grows at about 15cm a year. Young plants can be pinched out to create a denser plant without disrupting the upright growth. The plant in the picture (click the image to see a larger version) has been planted for just two years.

    ‘Rosy Rocket' arose in the Czech Republic and is the rather surprising result of a deliberate cross between B. thunbergii ‘Aurea' and ‘Helmond Pillar'. It was selected in 1994 and has undergone many years of assessment before being finally released. It looks like it was worth the wait.

    Berberis thunbergii ‘Rosy Rocket' is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.



  • A flurry of new crocosmias

    Graham Rice on 14 Jul 2008 at 05:30 PM

    It’s crocosmia season and in gardens, around the shows, in garden centres and at many nurseries crocosmias are opening their fiery sprays. Gardeners with a taste for pastels are sometimes wary of their flaming colours but they make fine garden plants and excellent cut flowers. And there are quite few newcomers this year.

    From the breeding work of David Tristram comes Bright Eyes (‘Walbreyes’) in bright yellowish-orange with a rich red eye; a great combination. And it’s sterile so flowers prolifically and throws no inferior self sown seedlings. Look out for it in RHS plant centres.

    ‘African Gold’ has large, outward facing, golden yellow flowers while ‘Cylvia’ is bright orange with a paler streak through each lobe and a yellow throat, its colouring is noticeably subtle.

    From plant breeder Ken Ridgely comes the lovely 'Golden Ballerina' with large elegant, downward-facing, bright orange flowers with slender petals held on 90cm arching stems. ‘Hellfire’ is similar to the well known ‘Lucifer’ but with larger, darker flowers with no yellow parts in the flower to detract from the rich colouring. And the flower stems are stylishly mahogany brown.

    The unusually vigorous ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’ has huge, outward facing, rather flat, golden flowers which are strikingly pure in colour and show themselves off well. ‘Salsa’ has orange flowers, upward facing with a striking red ring around the yellow throat.

    There are seventeen new crocosmias out this year, and look out for two more which are on the way from Trecanna Nursery. ‘Tamar Glow’ is like a large-flowered form of the familiar montbretia with unusually early orange-red flowers above pleated leaves. ‘Zeal Remembrance’ was raised by the late Terry Jones, all of whose introductions feature the Zeal prefix, and is a very large flowered, early orange.

    The big news – though not everyone thinks it’s good news, I have to say – is that there’s a double-flowered red crocosmia on the way. But it’s not out yet.

    Here’s the full list crocosmias added to this year's RHS Plant Finder, check there for the sources of each.

    Crocosmia Bright Eyes ('Walbreyes')
    Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'African Gold'
    Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Heligan'
    Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Moses'
    Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Severn Seas'
    Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora Wasdale strain
    Crocosmia 'Cylvia'
    Crocosmia 'Fireworks'
    Crocosmia 'Golden Ballerina'
    Crocosmia 'Hellfire'
    Crocosmia masoniorum Holehird strain
    Crocosmia masoniorum Slieve Donard selection
    Crocosmia 'Moorland Blaze'
    Crocosmia 'Orange River'
    Crocosmia 'Paul's Best Yellow'
    Crocosmia 'Salsa'
    Crocosmia 'Tangerine'


  • New and unusual plants at Hampton Court

    Graham Rice on 09 Jul 2008 at 11:32 AM

    This week I'm at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, dodging the downpours by taking shelter in the floral pavilions and hunting out the interesting plants. I'm blogging about them from the show every day until Sunday when it closes. You can find my posts here.

    Highlights so far? Spectacular Disas (orchids from South Africa), chillies from a nursery in Kent which have been raising their own new varieties, splendid new heucheras from France and much more. Check back here every day for my latest posts.



  • A new edible honeysuckle!

    Graham Rice on 02 Jul 2008 at 05:11 PM

    Grow-your-own gardeners are becoming more and more interested in unusual fruits - and shoppers, too, are increasingly looking out for something different. So what about a honeysuckle with edible fruits?!

    The Honeyberry produces fruits which look rather like large bullet-shaped blueberries with that same colour and that same dusty bloom. Click on the picture to see them more closely. They taste rather like blueberries too and they can be eaten straight from the bush, made into jam or ice cream and they also freeze well. They are also said to make good juice.

    Botanically speaking the Honeyberry is Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica and it originates in the Kamtschatka Peninsula in north east Siberia which is exceptionally cold - so it's certainly very hardy. The little bushes only reach about 90cm in height, are rarely troubled by disease and, once established, are drought resistant. The flowers are small and not especially showy, but the berries ripen earlier than most fruits and the seeds are so tiny you don't notice them. Just one thing to keep in mind: you need two plants to pollinate each other. Sounds well worth trying.

    Honeyberry is available now from DT Brown.

    Also new from DT Brown, amongst more traditional fruits, is a new raspberry called ‘Cascade Delight'. Reckoned to be an improvement on ‘Tumaleen', which is the star of the current Wisley trial of raspberries, the fruit is said to be 20% larger and firmer too. It's also said to grow much better than other raspberries in wet conditions. It's so new that it wasn't available when the Wisley trial was first planted; plants were added to the trial last year but it has not yet begun cropping. Raspberry ‘Cascade Delight' is available now from DT Brown.



  • New verbascum from Great Dixter

    Graham Rice on 01 Jul 2008 at 08:10 AM

    Judging the verbascum trial at Wisley recently, a splendid new introduction caught my eye.

    Many of the plants in the trial had died during the winter – sadly, many are not as hardy as we’re led to believe and this trial has proved the point  – but a new variety from the garden at Great Dixter was outstanding, both in its hardiness and its impact. And unlike some, the arching green basal foliage was in excellent condition and tall upright spikes of bright but cool yellow were well packed with flowers.

    Called ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightning’, it was found in Eastern Turkey when Christo (the late Christopher Lloyd) was on a trip with Dixter head gardener Fergus Garret and tulip expert Anna Pavord. They came across a man leading an elderly donkey as it laboured feebly along a rocky path loaded down with a towering load of verbascum stems. Christo asked Fergus (who speaks Turkish) to ask the man the name of the donkey – and it turned out the donkey was named Lightning.  So it was natural that the verbascum that came from the trip was called ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightning’. And it looks as if it’s on the way to an Award of Garden Merit.

    Verbascum ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightning’ is too new to be in the latest RHS Plant Finder but it’s available from the nursery at Great Dixter.