Skip navigation.

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

  • New Australian drought-lover

    Graham Rice on 29 Oct 2008 at 11:29 AM

    When I worked in the Alpine Department at Kew - let's just say we measure the time in decades ago not just years - we used to grow a plant in called Ptilotus bigelovii. It featured lovely silvery plumes crowded with slender reddish flowers and always attracted interest. But it was difficult to grow - it comes from the Australian desert and it just loved to be dry. We grew it in the Alpine House in a clay pot of gritty compost and were very careful with the watering.

    Now a German plant breeder, Ernst Benary, has created ‘Joey' which is their easy-to-grow form of another Ptilotus species from the desert, P. exaltatus. ‘Joey' is being introduced this season by Suttons Seeds.

    Growing about 30-40cm in height, the blue-green foliage sets off the upright plumes beautifully and those plumes come in a lovely blend of silver and pink all summer. Just give it plenty of sun. And while ‘Joey' is a lot less fussy about its watering than the species I grew at Kew all those years ago, it thrives in dry conditions. It should be great in a container. I wonder if it dries well...

    You can order plants of Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey' from Suttons.



  • Best new pansies and violas

    Graham Rice on 25 Oct 2008 at 04:35 PM

    Sometimes, it's just not as easy as it should be to get hold of the best new varieties. This was especially true following last winter's trial of winter flowering pansies, when a number of the top performers had their Awards of Garden Merit held back because they were too difficult, or impossible, for gardeners to buy.

    I've written about the winter pansies in the November issue of The Garden and you can read my supplemental thoughts on buying seed, seedlings and plugs of winter pansies here and thoughts on making some of the best plants from the trial available in a mixture here.

    But I also wanted to guide your attention to two seed companies who usually list the best of the new varieties but for various reasons are sometimes overlooked.

    Moles Seeds are focused on the commercial grower but unlike most seed companies targeting the professional market, they also sell to home gardeners. Their list of both pansies and violas is vast with impressive availability of separate colours and with almost every variety illustrated in colour. Amongst others, they list those in the Ultima Series which did well in the trial and they usually have all the best new introductions.

    The downside is that their smallest packet size contains more seeds, and costs more, than home gardeners are used to. Also, their website is a little - how shall we say, idiosyncratic - pansies under Annuals and violas under Perennials, for example. The Search function also needs improvement but the site features new introductions across a wide range of seed-raised plants.



  • Lucky! - Rose of the Year 2009

    Graham Rice on 23 Oct 2008 at 01:26 PM

    Rose of the Year - Lucky! (‘Frylucy'). I wrote it up when it was launched at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show back in July.

    This fragrant and prolific Floribunda (cluster-flowered) rose features large clusters of flowers whose dark pink buds open to loose, wavy, lilac-pink flowers with a slightly old-fashioned look. What's more it's vigorous but neat and unusually disease-resistant. The trial plant that breeders Fryers Roses sent me in spring in advance of its launch was still flowering well last month having caused comment all summer.

    The Rose of the Year is chosen from new roses grown all over the country and assessed by rose experts.

    The 2009 Rose of the Year, Lucky! (‘Frylucy') is available from:

    These RHS Plant Finder Nurseries
    Fryers Roses (who created this variety)
    Rosebuddies and many of these other rose specialists


  • Yes, it really IS a hybrid hellebore - we have the proof!

    Graham Rice on 16 Oct 2008 at 01:17 PM

    Remember a few weeks ago I told you about ‘Walberton’s Rosemary’, a spectacular new hellebore that was reckoned to be a hybrid between H. niger and H. orientalis? Click here to see the earlier post. Well, doubts were expressed that it really is a hybrid - in spite of this fairly convincing picture.

    Now geneticist Ben Zonnenveld of Leiden University in The Netherlands has proved the point. He tested ‘Walberton's® Rosemary', H. niger and H. orientalis using a simple technique called flow cytometry which measures the quantity of DNA a plant carries. Repeating the test a number of times to be sure, he found that the amount of DNA in ‘Walberton's® Rosemary' is pretty much half way between that of H. niger and H. orientalis. Which indicates that it is indeed a hybrid - the first ever to be available to gardeners.

    ‘Walberton's® Rosemary' will be available in garden centres, including RHS plant centres, in January and February next year under the Farplants brand.


  • Salvia patens – now in pink

    Graham Rice on 04 Oct 2008 at 03:52 PM

    It's that season when the seed companies are announcing their new introductions for next year. Some are genuinely new, some are not so new. One that especially caught my eye is from Dobies Seeds, it's the new pink form of one of our favourite salvias - Salvia patens.

    This rose pink form is part of the new Patio Series. The plants are shorter and bushier than the tall, relatively unbranched plants with which we're familiar and they also come in an unusual range of colours. There's dark blue and sky blue, lilac and white - these are the colours in which Salvia patens has been available for some years - plus the very rare rose pink form. And, along with that bushier habit, it's the pink form which I'm sure will prove popular. Mind you, I have to say that I've not yet seen actual plants in flower so I'll be intrigued to see just how pink they are - "rose" is the term being used.

    Dobies Seeds are listing a seed mixture of the five colours. They're also listing young plants in three individual colours - deep blue, sky blue and rose pink as well, a collection of fifteen young plants in those three colours.

    It's true, one RHS Plant Finder nursery, John and Lynsey's Plants, list a pink flowered form but ‘Patio Pink' is not only available as seed and plants by mail order, plants should also be in garden centres next spring.


  • New AGM tomato on sale

    Graham Rice on 04 Oct 2008 at 02:23 PM
    One of the great things about the Wisley trials is that they sometimes highlight a variety which is not available from nurseries or seed companies – and as a result the variety is taken up and comes on to the market.

    In last year’s trial of cherry tomatoes ‘Cherrola' was outstanding. The trials judges reported that it had a nice flavour, the fruit was well spaced on long trusses and the yield was high. Laboratory testing revealed a 9% sugar content so it was sweet too. It can be grown outside or in a cold greenhouse.

    Colin Randel, chair of the RHS Vegetable Trials Sub Committee and the top veg man at Thompson and Morgan, said: "I was amazed at how vigorous the plants were, each producing extremely long trusses of which many held up to twenty ‘cherry-sized', well spaced fruits at any one time. I'm sure this will make an outstanding gardeners' variety".

    Seed of ‘Cherrola' is now available from Thompson and Morgan.