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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

  • Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe it Rich’

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2009 at 08:44 PM

    Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe it Rich’ Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesEver since Blooms of Bressingham began exhibiting a spectacular terracotta pot of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola' at Chelsea years ago, and continued to do so year after year as the specimen grew more and more impressive, this has been a very popular grass. There were one or two others around, but ‘Aureola' got all the attention.

    In more recent years a number of other varieties have appeared - there are now nine in the RHS Plant Finder - forms with different patterns of variegation, with reddish tints and with gold leaves. The latest to appear, this year, is ‘Stripe it Rich', the first with golden leaves which are striped in white.

    ‘Stripe it Rich' is as vigorous as other forms, making a clump about 25-30cm/10-12in high and twice as wide with fine flowers fluttering amongst and above the leaves in late summer and early autumn.

    As with ‘Aureola', and indeed all the varieties of this indispensable grass, this is a lovely plant in a container and also as an accent in the shade garden. The bright gold leaves with their white stripes really light up shady areas, rippling in the breeze, and as Adrian Bloom used to make clear with his Chelsea display, treating it as a container specimen and allowing the plant to slow grow in size and impact is a good approach.

    ‘Stripe it Rich' is a sport of ‘All Gold' which arose amongst plants of ‘All Gold' which were being propagated in the laboratory by tissue culture at Terra Nova Nurseries, the prolific breeder of good new perennials in Oregon (no retail sales).

    Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe it Rich' is available from these four RHS Plant Finder nurseries.



  • Ajuga reptans ‘Dixie Chip’

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2009 at 01:04 PM

    Since the RHS trial of ajugas ended in 2001, a number of good new varieties have appeared. Which is just as well, as at the end of the three year trial it was decided that not one of almost forty entries was good enough to deserve an Award of Garden Merit. Many recent introductions have either been unusually large or unusually neat and compact in growth, the latest on the market is ‘Dixie Chip'.

    Ajuga reptans 'Dixie Chip' new in 2009. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc.‘Dixie Chip' has two features which are especially striking. First, its dwarf and compact habit. Reaching only 10cm/4in high it's one of the smallest bugles and with its slow spread it takes a few years to reach 25cm/10in. Being so tight in its growth, when it blooms in spring the short spikes of purplish-blue emerge so close together that they make a real impact even though they are so short.

    But it's the foliage which is the most striking. The short and slender leaves come in a delightful varying blend of green, cream and rosy purple - colours which set off the flowers beautifully.

    Of course bugles like shade and, with its unusually compact and neat growth, this is an ideal plant to grow in cracks in paving in shady places - and situation for which there are not too many candidates. Its dense weed suppressing habit makes it valuable in shady corners in small gardens and it's lovely in troughs in shady places.

    ‘Dixie Chip' is a sport of the equally compact A. reptans ‘Valfredda', which is known in the the United States as Chocolate Chip. It arose at ItSaul Plants, a wholesale grower in Georgia, which has created many of the hybrid echinaceas which have had such an impact in recent years. Dixie is the name used for the states in the south of the USA, including Georgia, which fought on the Confederate side in the American Civil War.

    Ajuga reptans ‘Dixie Chip' is available from Lodge Lane Nursery, owned by Sue Beesley who took over the nursery in 2007 after being chosen as BBC Gardener of the Year in 2006.


  • Buddleja Buzz Series

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2009 at 12:02 PM

    Buddleja 'Buzz Magenta', new from Thompson and Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & MorganIn my experience, most so-called "dwarf" buddlejas are nothing of the kind. Both ‘Pixie Blue' and ‘Nanho Purple', which are supposed to be dwarf, have reached almost 1.8m/6ft in my garden so some genuinely dwarf varieties would be very welcome.

    Step forward the new Buzz Series from Thompson and Morgan, the first two colours in the series have just been announced.

    Created at T&M's own plant breeding station by their multi-talented breeder Charles Valin, ‘Buzz Lavender' is a strong lavender purple in colour, while ‘Buzz Magenta' is a vivid magenta shade. They'll reach just 1.2m/4ft in height in the garden and half that in a pot.

    Buddleja 'Buzz Lavender', new from Thompson and Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & Morgan"The Buzz Buddlejas were developed after about 10 years of selecting for true dwarf habit, good branching and short internodes," breeder Charles Valin told me. "They are based on B. davidii and are perfect for growing in a pot in a patio or on the balcony. More colours are on the way."

    You can order the Buzz buddlejas from Thompson & Morgan.

    They sound excellent, but I have to point out one thing: T&M are announcing this series as "the world's first patio buddleja". Sorry folks, but ‘Blue Chip' from the USA has beaten you to it. Indeed it was a bit hit in last year's RHS trial of buddlejas at Wisley and was the second most popular buddleja in the visitor voting. In the garden it reaches 60-90cm/2-3ft but it's not yet available to British gardeners - so "Britain's first patio buddleja" would be fine!


  • Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise

    Graham Rice on 13 Jun 2009 at 11:46 AM

    Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise'. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comWe've seen a few new variegated sedges recently and with their slender variegated foliage they're undoubtedly appealing. Now we have another excellent new one, this time from New Zealand - Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise'.

    Of course it's the foliage which is so striking. The rich green leaves tend to arch as they mature and are striped lengthwise; the striping varies both in its positioning and in its colour. Some leaves are simply striped along each edge but others have four or five stripes of varying widths and their colour may be primrose, almost gold or various shades cream with greenish overtones. When grown in bright light the undersides of the leaves develop a slightly bluish haze. There are flowers too, chestnut brown spikes.

    This is an adaptable plant thriving in sun or partial shade and in most soils that are not permanently wet although good drainage is its preference. Reaching about 60cm/2ft in height, and 80cm/32in in spread as it matures, it makes a slowly expanding clump and doesn't run. This is a good partner for bolder hostas and to set against the foliage of spring flowering shrubs.

    The first ever variegated form of New Zealand native Carex trifida, ‘Rekohu Sunrise' was discovered as long ago as October 1992 when nurseryman Lindsey Hatch spotted one variegated plant in a batch of Carex trifida raised from seed on his nursery on New Zealand's North Island. He propagated the plant by division over eleven generations and it never reverted to plain green. Rekohu is one of the native names for the remote Chatham Islands, 800Km (500 miles) east of southern New Zealand.

    You can order Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise' from these four RHS Plant Finder nurseries.



  • Hosta 'Blue Ivory'

    Graham Rice on 07 Jun 2009 at 12:38 PM

    Hosta 'Blue Ivory'. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc.Hosta ‘Halcyon' is the most famous British-bred hosta and one of the most popular across the world. Its neat habit and intensely - often slug-resistant - blue leaves have made it a worldwide favourite.

    ‘Halcyon' has produced a number of variegated sports, shoots which differ from the original plant, and ‘June' is probably the best known with its yellow leaves retaining a margin of ‘Halcyon'-blue colouring. Now there's another - ‘Blue Ivory'

    You can see from the picture that this is a dramatic plant. At first the leaves are ‘Halcyon'-blue with a broad creamy white edge, then as summer progresses the creamy area becomes white and may develop a hazy green "blush" on young plants; the centre becomes a slightly greenish blue. The green hazing is much reduced as plants mature in the garden.

    Another valuable feature is the lavender flowers which are held clear of the foliage to make an effective display.

    Hosta 'Blue Ivory'. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc.There are other sports of ‘Halcyon' with creamy or white marginal variegation but `First Frost`, `El Nino`, and `Sleeping Beauty` all have margins that are half as wide as that of ‘Blue Moon'. The foliage of ‘Aristocrat` is more rounded, and also has narrower margins, while. `Tambourine` has a narrower margin closer to yellow in colour along with darker purple flowers and is less blue in the centre than `Blue Ivory`.

    ‘Blue Ivory' was found by American hosta collector Bill Meyer in a nursery in Connecticut. It was then spotted by Dutch perennial wizard Luc Klinkhamer in Bill's garden (amongst about 1000 other hostas!) and Luc has now ensured its availability on both sides of the Atlantic.

    I'm looking forward to growing this plant, Hosta ‘Blue Ivory' is now available from these two RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Choisya White Dazzler

    Graham Rice on 05 Jun 2009 at 02:43 PM

    Choisya x dewitteana White Dazzler ('Londaz'). Image: ©Peter MooreThis is a plant that takes choisyas to a new level. We all love the long flowering season and orange-blossom fragrance of Choisya ternata and then there was the yellow leaved ‘Sundance' and narrow-leaved ‘Aztec Pearl'. Now we have Choisya x dewitteana White Dazzler (‘Londaz').

    Another from the superb shrub breeding of former Hilliers propagator Peter Moore, now at Longstock Park Nursery, this is a three way hybrid resulting in a neat and dense growing evergreen shrub with small and slender foliage. In early spring and again in autumn it's covered with a vast profusion of fragrant white flowers.

    What's more, it's delightful even when it's not in flower and needs little or no pruning to make an attractive shrub for mixed borders, large containers or even as an informal hedge.

    Choisya x dewitteana White Dazzler ('Londaz'). Image: ©Peter MooreWhite Dazzler (‘Londaz') is a hybrid between Choisya dumosa, native to New Mexico and Texas, and Peter's earlier variety ‘Aztec Pearl' which is itself a hybrid of  C. ternata, from south west Mexico, and C. dumosa var. arizonica from Arizona.

    Peter Moore has brought these three different plants from different parts of the south west USA and Mexico together to create another in his succession of fine evergreen shrubs which are unexpectedly hardy considering the climate in which their parents are native.

    Choisya x dewitteana White Dazzler (‘Londaz') had only limited availability last year, though some Wyevale Garden Centres - it was Wyevale's Sue Jenkins who came up with the name. Now it's available in all major garden centre chains and good independent garden centres and from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’

    Graham Rice on 03 Jun 2009 at 02:27 PM

    Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’. Image: Blooms of BressinghamOK, normal service is resumed here at the RHS New Plants blog after the frantic flurry of coverage of all those new plants at Chelsea. Today's newcomer is a lovely new form of an old favourite.

    Slowly but surely, centaureas (perennial cornflowers) are creeping up the popularity charts. The yellow leaved ‘Gold Bullion' certainly made us take notice a few years ago and now we have new form in a unique flower colour.

    The name ‘Amethyst in Snow' describes it well for the heart of the flower is vivid amethyst in colour and the contrast with the snowy white petals is dramatic. Reaching only about 38cm/15in in height, this is a fine border plant, flowering around now, and this form in particular makes a captivating cut flower.

    Although thriving most heartily in limey well-drained soil in full sun, ‘Amethyst in Snow' is tolerant of less favourable conditions including even a little shade. Cut the whole plant back hard after flowering, soak well and you'll be rewarded with a fresh crop of attractive foliage and more flowers later.

    ‘Amethyst in Snow' was discovered by Dutch seedsman the late Kees Sahin back in May 2002 amongst a seed-raised planting of C. montana and its distinct colouring was instantly recognised.