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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

  • Sparkling irises from France

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2009 at 01:00 PM

    New from Cayeux Iris. Image: Cayeux IrisCayeux Iris have a four generation history of introducing new irises and every year they launch new varieties, many of which are seen in Britain for the first time at the Chelsea Flower Show.

    For 2009 they have nine new introductions, all bred by Richard Cayeux at the family's nursery in Central France, three of which will be unveiled at Chelsea - I'll tell you about them nearer the time.

    But for the other six (click on the picture to enlarge it), the main theme seems to be dramatic colour combinations. And it's those sparkling colours which make these prolific irises such valuable plants for combining with Oriental poppies in the early summer garden.

    An amazing 27% of all the irises in the Cayeux catalogue are from their own breeding and, as Richard selects from the thousands of seedlings he raises each year in the search for something special, he not only looks for well formed flowers in captivating colours. Plants must also be robust, wind resistant, long flowering and able to thrive with minimal summer watering. My picture shows six of his 2009 newcomers:

    ‘Cocktail' - with densely veined falls and prettily ruffles standards.
    ‘Dyonisos' - very free flowering and well branched.
    ‘Folie Douce' - a unique colour combination.
    ‘Garnement'- dramatic colour contrasts.
    ‘Java Bleue' - even the beard is deep blue.
    ‘Petit Caprice' - gently waved in a cheerful contrast.

    Plants can be ordered direct from Cayeux Irises or from their British agent, Viv Marsh Postal Plants.

    For more on Cayeux Irises go to my post from May 2008.



  • New style begonia

    Graham Rice on 25 Feb 2009 at 01:19 PM

    Begonia 'Ikon Blush White'. Image: FloranovaBack in December I featured the Million Kisses begonias, one of a number of begonias in new styles for your outdoor beds and containers. Now here's another.

    ‘Ikon Blush White', bred by a British company, is the first of a new style of larger begonias for beds and containers. It has soft green, rather tactile foliage and develops into a plant which neither hangs down in sheets nor stays resolutely bushy - it's sort of in between. And it's covered in small, intriguingly bicoloured, pink and white flowers - each individual flower is white with a pink blush and is matched with pink bracts.

    Grow it in large baskets or tubs, in either it should mingle well with robust neighbours (it might elbow more delicate plants aside) and its mass of foliage sets of the the pretty flowers delightfully.

    Seed of Begonia ‘Ikon Blush White' is available from Plants of Distinction.



  • Scabious for the garden and the vase

    Graham Rice on 18 Feb 2009 at 02:03 PM

    Scabiosa africana 'Jocelyn'. Image: Hardy's Cottage Garden PlantsPerennials which are good in the garden and which also make good long lasting cut flowers are always in demand and a new scabious from Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants, to be launched at Chelsea, looks good on both counts.

    Rob and Rosie Hardy have been selling Scabiosa africana for a while, and the usual form has mauve flowers. But their new form, ‘Jocelyn', is a lovely clear pink, and with blooms 5cm/2in across all summer on plants about 45cm/18in high it's ideal towards the front of sunny borders. Like most scabious, it lasts well as a cut flower and is best picked as the centre is starting to uncurl. With flower food in the water, it should last 12-14 days.

    In the garden sunshine and good drainage are vital - scabious hate wet feet.

    This delightful newcomer is named ‘Jocelyn', after their son Cameron's nanny. With the Hardys spending so much time on their three acre Hampshire nursery and travelling to shows around the country, he's a vital member of the team.

    Scabiosa africana ‘Jocelyn' will be launched on the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants exhibit at this year's Chelsea Flower Show at which they will also be celebrating twenty one years in business.



  • Fragrant winter daphne

    Graham Rice on 15 Feb 2009 at 01:40 PM

    Daphne bholua 'Penwood'. Image: Karan JunkerSince the introduction from the Himalayas of the gorgeously scented, white flowered Daphne bholua in 1938 two selections have given a boost to its popularity. Varying between deciduous and semi-evergreen, and in hardiness, back in 1962 the hardy and deciduous ‘Gurkha' proved an excellent garden plant. Then in 1962 came ‘Jacqueline Postill', equally hardy but tending to be evergreen, which proved to be of Award of Garden Merit standard.

    Others followed and now there's another promising contender, ‘Penwood' from Junkers's Nursery (P. M. A. Plant Specialities). Karan Junker, who runs the nursery, told me: "It has superb rich purple buds which open into large flower clusters in the usual way. We actually prefer this one to the popular 'Jacqueline Postill' becasue it holds its foliage so much better after flowering - truly evergreen rather than suffering the unflattering "moult" that afflicts 'Jacqueline Postill' for a couple of weeks each spring."

    They raised ‘Penwood' as a seedling from a plant of D. bholua acquired from Doug Harris at Penwod Nurseries 15 years ago, hence the name. Just one seedling came from the seed. It stood out not only for the fact that it holds its foliage so well but also for the dramatic contrast between the rich purple buds and the large white flowers, much less pink than 'Jacqueline Postill', with just a little pink colouring seeping in at the edges of the white petals. It has an upright habit, the original plant is 2m tall and 1m wide and Karan tells me the fragrance is superb.

    Daphne bholua ‘Penwood' is available only from Junkers's Nursery (P. M. A. Plant Specialities). And Karan tells me she'll have another new form of D. bholua in the autumn.



  • New petunias - in a different style

    Graham Rice on 09 Feb 2009 at 01:02 PM

    Petunia 'Raspberry Blast'. Image: FarplantsI've featured petunias twice over the last month or so, and a couple of people have been in touch about some other new petunias they've seen in catalogues. Both are striking new bicolours - one will be widely available, the other is an exclusive to Suttons. Both are the first of their kind.

    ‘Raspberry Blast' is the first in this dramatic colour combination, the deep cerise flowers striped broadly in pale rose pink. It originated in Japan and features a Brazilian plant with tri-coloured red, pink and white flowers in its parentage. Petunia 'Raspberry Blast'. Image: Proven WinnersThe flowers are relatively small, but the plants are very prolific, and as well as being a fine basket plant it scrambled attractively in borders. There have been, often unstable, sometimes rather garish, white striped forms before but this is the first more subtle form.

    Petunia - name this plant competition. Image: SuttonsToday's other bicoloured petunia doesn't yet have a name. With blue flowers edged in green, and a very dark throat, the flowers are carried not on vigorous trailing but on plants with a neater, neater, bushier habit. Customers of Suttons who buy plants can enter a competition to name this new variety. This is a love-it-or-hate-it colour combination, let me know what you think.

    Petunia ‘Raspberry Blast' will be available in good garden centres in the spring. You can also order plants now from Dobies, Elm House, Gardening Direct, Mr Fothergiils, Suttons, Thompson & Morgan


  • Colourful and aromatic new sage

    Graham Rice on 03 Feb 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'. Image: Proven WinnersToday’s new plant, a yellow leaved form of the pineapple sage, combines a wide range of attractions.

    * The foliage is bright yellow, with a green tint, but rarely seems to fade to completely green
    * The foliage is intensely pineapple scented
    * Scarlet flowers appear late in the season
    * It’s vigorous and fairly upright, though not straggly
    * It’s ideal in large containers
    * For fiery summer tropical-style displays it’s superb
    * It roots easily from cuttings
    * It’s happy in most reasonable soils in sun or partial shade