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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

  • Eucomis comosa ‘Oakhurst’: New from Urban Jungle

    Graham Rice on 31 Aug 2009 at 02:11 PM

    Eucomis comosa 'Oakhurst' - New from Urban Jungle. Image: ©TerraNova NurseriesFor a combination of drama and fascination, you can't beat Eucomis, the pineapple lily. And this newcomer from California looks to be a real winner, from the moment the leaves emerge in spring to its late summer floral glory.

    The long strap-like leaves emerge from the large bulb in spring in a deep, almost blackish purple. They're erect at first, then as the flower spike starts to emerge they tend to lower themselves closer to horizontal. And even though the young bulbs may not flower, the foliage alone has enough impact to make growing ‘Oakhurst' worthwhile. As the foliage matures it becomes less vividly purple and takes on some green tints.Eucomis comosa 'Oakhurst' - New from Urban Jungle. Image: ©TerraNova Nurseries

    Then in summer the flower spike emerges. Huge numbers of starry purple-pink flower flowers surround the purple stem up to 80cm/32in tall, and there's the usual tuft of foliage, purple of course, at the top.

    Found in a nursery in San Diego, where it had been growing for almost twenty years, ‘Oakhurst' is said to be shorter and more vigorous than the similar ‘Sparkling Burgundy' and to hold its purple colouring until later in the season. It's ideal as a specimen in a large pot, grown in rich but well-drained compost in a sunny place. Water and feed regularly. It's better not grown in a pot with other plants but moved into a focal position amongst other containers for maximum impact.

    You can order Eucomis comosa ‘Oakhurst' from Urban Jungle.


  • Dwarf tulips: New from de Jager

    Graham Rice on 24 Aug 2009 at 04:14 PM

    Tulip 'Double Toronto' - New from de Jager. Image: ©de Jager.The Dutch tulip trade is a strange beast. Varieties developed and propagated in Holland seem to come and go unpredictably, as far as retail sales are concerned. They seem to appear in garden centres for a season then disappear again, or are easy to find in one country and not in others.

    So none of these four new dwarf tulips in the de Jager mail order catalogue are actually sparkling brand new. But they look good, and they've not been available from an RHS Plant Finder supplier before. All are hybrids of the dwarf and early-flowering in T. greigii, reaching about 20-25cm/8-10in high, and all feature prettily purple-streaked foliage.

    ‘Double Toronto' (above) is the double-flowered version of the Award of Garden Merit winning ‘Toronto'.  In a juicy watermelon shade, instead of the usual six petals there are about fifty slimmer petals giving the flowers more impact and a longer season.

    Tulip 'Showtime' - New from de Jager. Image: ©de Jager.‘Showtime' (left) features carmine red outer petals with a white edge - a really dramatic combination - and white inner petals with a few carmine streaks. First seen as long ago as 1987, it's strange that this colourful little tulip has not been easier to buy. ‘Marie Jose' has lemon yellow flowers with slight pinkish tinge.

    Finally there's ‘Pink Sensation', in azalea-pink flowers streaked in bright red. Listed as part of their Pink Bulb Range, 10% of the sales price will go to *** Cancer Campaign.

    You can order all four of these Greigii Hybrid tulips from de Jager: ‘Double Toronto', Marie Jose', Pink Sensation', Showtime'.


  • Daffodils: New from Walkers Bulbs

    Graham Rice on 18 Aug 2009 at 11:45 AM

    As bulb planting season approaches, it's time to highlight some new bulbs for the coming season and first off here are two new daffodils from Walkers Bulbs. Walkers, you'll remember, are responsible for that stunning daffodil display at Chelsea every year.

    Narcissus (Daffodil) 'Signor' - New from Walkers Bulbs. Image: ©Walkers Bulbs.Two of their new introductions for the coming season particularly caught my eye, one raised in The Netherlands and one from the United States.

    From the renowned Dutch hybridiser W F Leenen comes ‘Signor'. This is a bold and bright large-cupped daffodil with an unusual colour change. The petals are creamy yellow but as they age they become whiter and so make a bolder contrast with the large, slightly frilly orange-yellow cup which features an orange rim when young. As has been said, the cup "stands out like a megaphone".
    This is a mid-season variety, usually flowering in April, reaches 40-50cm/16-20in in height. It's an ideal plant for a spring container and makes an outstanding clump in the border.

    W L Leenen grow over 15 hectares/37 acres of daffodils in The Netherlands and export to countries as far afield as Brazil and Australia


  • Clematis Forever Friends: New from Thorncroft Clematis

    Graham Rice on 13 Aug 2009 at 05:12 PM

    Clematis Forever Friends ('Zofofri’) - new from Thorncroft Clematis Nursery. Image: ©J. van Zoest B.V.Clematis ‘Jackmanii' is perhaps the most famous clematis of all. It's that more or less indestructible, very prolific, vivid purple variety (usually with just four petals) that flowers in summer and autumn and which you can easily prune simply by cutting it back hard every spring. Now, we have a white-flowered form.

    If you've seen the name ‘Jackmanii Alba' you might believe that a white form already exists but in fact ‘Jackmanii Alba' is a big frilly double. So bring on Forever Friends ('Zofofri').

    As prolific as ‘Jackmanii', this clematis has flowers which nod slightly or look right out at you horizontally and which are made up of five or six petals more often than the four of ‘Jackmanii'. Each flower is 6-9 cm/2 -3½in across and pure with a rich texture which you can see in the pictures (click to enlarge) and a distinctive reddish eye. You might also notice an occasional faint pink or violet tinge but the mass of white flowers is what is so striking. It reaches about 3m/10ft.

    Clematis Forever Friends ('Zofofri’) - new from Thorncroft Clematis Nursery. Image: ©J. van Zoest B.V.Raised in The Netherlands by the renowned clematis breeder Wim Snoeijer, the plant is named in memory of his father Piet Snoeijer - and it's always a good sign when a plant breeder has a plant he knows is so good that it deserves to carry the name of one of his parents.

    This is an ideal plant to train through stout shrubs and small trees, as well as established climbing roses, and just needs the usual clematis care - and a hard prune in spring.

    You can order Clematis Forever Friends ('Zofofri') from Thorncroft Clematis Nursery for delivery in September.


  • Hosta ‘Vulcan’: New from Bali-Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 08 Aug 2009 at 11:41 AM

    Hosta 'Vulcan' - new from Bali-Hai Nursery. Image: ©Bali-Hai NurseryBack in 1999, Kirk Brill, a hosta breeder over in Iowa (most new hostas come from the USA) introduced a sport of the old favourite ‘Gold Standard'.  ‘Gold Standard' is almost completely yellow with a narrow green margin, the new sport has a wider margin and a brilliant yellow centre making a dramatic contrast. It's thought to be a tetraploid (with double the number of chromosomes of most hostas) as so is more vigorous and with thicker foliage.

    Kirk Brill is a Trekkie, a fanatical Star Trek fan, so he named his new hosta ‘Captain Kirk'. A few years later another hosta breeder, Mark Zilis of Illinois, noticed a sport on a plant of ‘Captain Kirk' which had a white centre instead of a yellow centre and he called it ‘Enterprise'. He also spotted a form which is, in effect, ‘Captain Kirk' in reverse - green centre, yellow edge - he called it ‘Starship'. Get the drift?

    Now we have another new sport derived from ‘Captain Kirk', also with a white centre and a green edge, called ‘Vulcan'. This is from another noted American hosta breeder, Hans Hansen of Minnesota and is similar to ‘Enterprise' with the same brilliant colouring and robust leaf substance which tends to deter slugs. It also features yellow streaks around the boundary between the white centre and green edge which gives it extra style.

    It's interesting that these breeders have all honoured the original by sticking to the theme. So now you can - to coin a cliché - boldly go where no one has gone before and plant a whole Star Trek hosta garden.

    You can order Hosta ‘Vulcan' from Bali-Hai Nursery.



  • Strawberry ‘Albion’

    Graham Rice on 02 Aug 2009 at 08:06 PM

    What do we want from a new strawberry variety? My top two features would be flavour and freedom from disease and a new variety from California called ‘Albion' - now available from the RHS Online Plants Plant Shop - looks to fit the bill.

    Strawberry 'Albion' - disease resistant and full of flavour.‘Albion' has long conical fruits which are pillar-box-red on the outside - and, I'm told, the same colour all the way through. Don't you just hate it when you bite into a strawberry and it's white and puffy in the middle? They're sweeter than other strawberries and the overall flavour is outstanding, especially for an everbearer.

    And that's what ‘Albion' is, an everbearer. It should usually start cropping around the last week of May, peaking in late June and July, tailing off a little then peaking again in late August, then again fading a little and peaking yet again in mid-September. That gives you a rough idea, it partly depends on when the plants are planted.

    Now, what about disease resistance? Well, the plants you buy will be virus-free, that's guaranteed. But ‘Albion' is also resistant to verticillium wilt and phytophthora crown rot and also shows some resistance to anthracnose crown rot.

    ‘Albion' was bred by the University of California, where they assess 12,000 potential new varieties every year - and discard almost all of them. ‘Albion' the latest in a succession of excellent varieties and is already the most widely grown strawberry in California. One tip comes from trials here in Britain: you can increase the yield by25% by nipping off all - yes all - the runners.

    Strawberry ‘Albion' is now available from the RHS Online Plant Shop for delivery in November. It's also available from Thompson & Morgan.