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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

  • The Holy Grail of hellebores!

    Graham Rice on 30 Aug 2008 at 03:06 PM

    A hybrid between Helleborus niger and H. orientalis has recently been announced - and this time it really does sound like the real thing. A hybrid between these two species has been claimed before, there even used to be a plant at Kew behind a label which claimed it was such a hybrid. But no. Not until now.

    It's called ‘Walberton's Rosemary' and I confess I would have been suspicious if I hadn't known who raised it. But it comes from the highly respected plant breeder David Tristram - whose father was instrumental in the creation of the legendary Helleborus niger ‘Potter's Wheel'.

    This is what he told me:

    "I've tried for years (rather as one buys lottery tickets!) crossing H. niger x H. orientalis both ways, using both white spotted and red orientalis selections (of my own) crossed with ‘Potters Wheel' selections that I'd worked on for many years. I was looking, of course, for large well presented uprightish flowers.  I never got any joy until suddenly in 2000 this one came up which is quite unique in my experience. I don't think I did anything unusual. Naturally I've been trying again to produce other ones but without any more such luck."

    So what convinced him that this really is a cross between the two species?

    "The two reasons for my claim that it really IS H. niger x H. orientalis this time are: (1) that that is what I was trying to do; and, more importantly, (2) that it seems to me to be intermediate in virtually all its leaf and flower characteristics, except of course for its enormous flower production and complete sterility in which it differs from either parent."

    As you can see from the pictures (click on each to enlarge it), the pink flowers are gorgeous. opening pink on the backs and paler inside then fading to rich rose pink inside and out. It's obvious from the picture how prolific this is.

    Helleborus ‘Walberton's Rosemary' will available in good garden centres across the country in January and February 2009.


  • Delightful dwarf daffodil

    Graham Rice on 24 Aug 2008 at 09:41 PM
    As bulb-buying time is upon us, I came across this lovely little daffodil over on the Our Little Acre blog from Ohio - and it's available here too.

    ‘New-Baby' looks unique. It's a Jonquil, about 10in/25cm high, with slender dark green foliage and heads of three or four, occasionally five, 1in/25cm flowers. Each flower has a bright yellow cup backed by six white petals and here's what's special: the edge of each petal, at the base, is bright yellow, matching the cup. The result is a flower with real sparkle. Click on the image to see that delihtful colouring.

    Frankly, I'm not quite sure how new it is but I've never seen it before and I'm looking forward to seeing it next spring.

    Narcissus ‘New-Baby' (note that the name has a hyphen) is available from these suppliers: Miniature Bulbs and Choice Bulbs, Quality Daffodils and Thompson & Morgan.


  • Exquisite new dahlia

    Graham Rice on 19 Aug 2008 at 01:43 PM
    News from Ireland of a gorgeous new dahlia which Camolin Potting Shed of Wexford have on sale before anyone else.

    ‘Maya’ was raised in Holland by Kees and Aad Verwer of Verwer Dahlias, the good people who have been bringing us the superb Happy Single Series of dahlias as well as the popular dwarf double Gallery Series. (Verwer Dahlias do not sell direct to home gardeners). This is a more traditional Decorative dahlia, but what a gorgeous colour.

    I won’t try to describe the delicate colouring, I don’t need to - just click on the picture to enlarge it. The flowers are about 15-17cm/6-7in across and are carried generously on plants about 70-80cm/28-32in high. ‘Maya’ makes a superb plant for a mixed border and a lovely cut flower.

    It’s available to callers and by mail order from Camolin Potting Shed.


  • Exotic hibiscus – first time in Britain

    Graham Rice on 14 Aug 2008 at 09:02 PM

    When we think of hibiscus we tend to think either of the hardy shrubs in which Notcutts have specialised for so long or we think huge and exotic... say Hawaii.

    But Shelley and Robert Antscheri of Burton Grange Nurseries in Cheshunt in Hertfordshire realised that large-flowered, exotic hibiscus can be grown here. They have rooted cuttings and plants available for the first time this year.

    Seventeen varieties of these amazingly exotic, large-flowered, tropical style hibiscus are available to grow as conservatory plants - and to grow out on the patio in summer. And those flowers really are huge, up to 25cm/10in across, and come in a range of vivid colours including red, pink, orange and white with a number of pretty bicolours and also a few doubles. ‘Bon Temps’, in yellow with a rich rose centre, is illustrated above, while ‘Magnifique’, below, is a wonderful swirl of strawberry ice cream. Click on the images to enlarge them.

    "We are a small family-run nursery specialising in growing and selling tropical hibiscus rooted cuttings and mature plants," Shelley told me. "We originally sourced our very unusual varieties from Florida, and we now create the cuttings and plants from our own mother-stock.
    "We are the only commercial growers of these varieties in the UK and so far they are largely unheard of by the general public, although we are doing everything we can to change this! We have secured a small programme with Marks & Spencer this year.

    There's more information about these spectacular plants and how to grow them, plus and a very tempting picture gallery, at the Burton Grange Nurseries website where you can also order online.


  • Three new roses

    Graham Rice on 11 Aug 2008 at 09:32 PM

    There are almost seventy new roses in this years RHS Plant Finder and I was especially taken with Lucky (‘Frylucy') which I wrote about last month over on my plants blog from the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and which is the Rose of the Year for 2009. But there have been even more launched since the Plant Finder went to press - and these are just two of them.

    From David Austin Roses comes Wisley 2008 (‘Ausbreeze'). "This is a rose of exceptional delicacy and charm, perhaps more so than any other rose we know," says the man himself and he's raised a good many beautiful roses so it must be good. Flowers in perfect rosettes, delicate colouring, elegant arching growth and, I noticed, a lovely scent which is described as "a delightful, fresh, fruity fragrance with hints of raspberries and Tea". This replaces an earlier rose named Wisley which turned not to be sufficiently healthy.

    You can order plants of Wisley 2008 from David Austin Roses or look out for it at the RHS Wisley Plant Centre (no mail order).


  • The first red rudbeckia

    Graham Rice on 07 Aug 2008 at 02:02 PM

    There are lots of exciting new plants around now and here’s news of the first ever red rudbeckia. ‘Cherry Brandy’ is the result of fifteen years careful selection at Thompson & Morgan Seeds. Click on the pictures to see larger versions revealing the astonishing colouring. “The colour really is as you see in the picture, red with a darker centre,” T&M’s plant breeder Charles Valins told me. “The colour is quite stable, in shades varying from light to deep red.

    “This is a breeding program I finished rather than started. Keith Sangster  started about 15 years ago to try and get red out of various bronze flowered rudbeckia selections. He thought the red colour was probably present beneath the bronze shades. Ruthless selection for the reddest plants year after year resulted in the colour breakthrough we just introduced.”

    (Keith Sangster, by the way, ran T&M’s British business for many years and started them down the road of breeding their own flowers. He is now Vice Chairman of the RHS Floral Trials Committee.)

    ‘Cherry Brandy' was been awarded a Fleuroselect Novelty Award after trials all over Europe and very narrowly missed an All America Selections award - it was the highest rated annual but just missed out in a year in which no awards for annuals were given.

    This looks like a great plant for mixed borders, reaching 60cm/24in in height, it would make a superb centrepiece in large containers and should also make a great cut flower. T&M already have the excellent double rudbeckia, ‘Cherokee Sunset’, in gold and orange and rusty shades, as well as ‘Chim Chiminee’ in similar shades but with fluted petals. I bet they have red doubles on the way.

    Seed of Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ will be available in the 2009 Thompson & Morgan catalogue which will be posted in mid September. You can request a catalogue here. You can also order online from early September. Young plants can be ordered from January 2009.

    © Images: Thompson & Morgan (Group) Ltd


  • The best pansies – in a new mixture

    Graham Rice on 04 Aug 2008 at 05:29 PM
    Last winter there was a huge trial of winter pansies at Wisley. Two hundred and fifty four different entries were grown and many were dazzling in the spring but not so many were consistently good in the winter when they're most needed. And it was for winter flowering that we judged them. The result was only... one AGM - although there are a few more whose awards are being held back until they've been made available to gardeners.

    However, there were many varieties that were really excellent - especially in late winter and spring - but not quite good enough for an AGM. So the enterprising people at Thompson & Morgan have put together a mix of eight of them. Let's be clear, these didn't-quite-make-its are not bad plants. In fact to be chosen from the very best out of the other 253 is pretty impressive. And it's great to see the deliberations of the trial judges translated into an attractive new mixture so quickly.

    The ‘Winning Formula' blend includes the spectacular ‘Ultima Morpho' in blue with a large whiskered yellow face, the classic pansy look of ‘Supreme Yellow with Blotch' and the smaller flowered but bushy and prolific ‘Panola Yellow and Purple'. Most of the varieties included are available only in this special mix.

    Plug plants of pansy ‘Winning Formula' are available from Thompson and Morgan Young Plants. You can order for delivery in September.

    And look out for my article on winter pansies in the November issue of The Garden.