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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

  • Sweet pea blends: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 30 Sep 2009 at 10:11 PM

    The range of colours available in both old-fashioned Grandiflora sweet peas and the modern Spencer sweet peas is simply amazing and for this new season Thompson & Morgan are releasing two exclusive blends that bring together a huge range of varieties.

    Sweet pea 'Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' - New from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & Morgan‘Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' (left) is exactly what it says on the packet: a blend of old-fashioned heirloom Grandiflora sweet peas, renowned for their exceptional scent, and all with bicoloured flowers. The blend includes the classic ‘Cupani', in maroon and mauve; ‘Painted Lady', in pink and white; ‘Lady Turrall, in magenta and lilac; ‘Butterfly', in mauve and white, and ‘Indigo King' in violet-maroon and violet and many more.

    T&M are also introducing ‘Sweet Dreams' (below), a blend of fifty one - yes fifty one - different varieties all chosen for the their fragrance, their exhibition quality blooms and their good garden performance. Many of the varieties included are award-winners and this blend comes with more than the usual number of seeds in the packet - sixty seeds rather than the forty five or even twenty five of many mixtures. Of course, with more than fifty Sweet pea 'Sweet Dreams' - New from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & Morgandifferent varieties included you still probably won't get a plant of every single one.... You'll just have to buy more packets!

    And don't forget: the best time to sow sweet peas is not in the spring but in the autumn. October and November are the best months so the time is right to sow these new sweet peas now. Let them get established in pots through the winter ready for planting out in spring at the time when you would otherwise be sowing seeds. It gives them a real head start.

    You can order seed of sweet pea ‘Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' and sweet pea ‘Sweet Dreams' from Thompson and Morgan Seeds.


  • Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy': New from Dobies Seeds

    Graham Rice on 30 Sep 2009 at 09:41 AM

    Rudbeckia 'Denver Daisy' - New from Dobies Seeds. Image: ©Dobies SeedsWe've seen some lovely rudbeckias appear in recent years but this one is a little bit special. Selected for planting all over the great American city of Denver, Colorado, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city, Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy' is now available in Britain from Dobies Seeds. And it's a very dramatic plant.

    Reaching about 60cm/2ft in height, the large single flowers are brilliant yellow with a dark chocolate zone at the base of each petal creating a zone of chocolate brown around a purple eye ringed with yellow anthers.

    Easily grown from seed as an annual, peak flowering is in mid summer but regular dead-heading will keep it performing well into the autumn. It's especially valuable as it does well in hot summers, in dry conditions, on windy sites and even in a summer deluge - it's altogether a tolerant variety which does not need rich soil or regular feeding to thrive. And, once established, it doesn't need much water either.

    Although ‘Denver Daisy' is a self-supporting variety, it's stems are long enough to cut and because the flowers are so large and dramatic you only need one or two in a mixed arrangement - although a whole jugfull would be spectacular. Cut them just as the flowers are starting to open, make sure there's flower food in their water and they should last about ten days.

    ‘Denver Daisy' is a hybrid of the American native Rudbeckia hirta which was developed in Germany.

    You can buy seed of Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy' from Dobies Seeds from 1 October.



  • Cosmos ‘Sweet Kisses’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

    Graham Rice on 25 Sep 2009 at 09:54 AM

    Cosmos 'Sweet Kisses', Image: ©Mr Fothergills SeedsCosmos seem to be enjoying a surge in popularity at the moment, I think that not only are gardeners realising what dependable flowers they are for the mixed border but are also beginning to value them as cut flowers. There are number of new cosmos from various seed companies this year, I'll look at some of the others another time.

    ‘Sweet Kisses', from Mr Fothergill's Seeds, is a lovely semi-double form with broad white petals edged in magenta pink with smaller petals emerging around the bright yellow eye. If you remember the old variety called ‘Picotee', it's the same basic colouring but with semi-double flowers and - unlike the last batch of ‘Picotee' that I grew - every plant will feature that lovely bicoloured look.

    An excellent mingler for mixed borders, if you like to pick cosmos for cutting cut them when the buds are showing colour - don't wait for the flowers to open fully on the plant. As soon as you bring them indoors they should open. The flowers should last seven to nine days if flower food is added to the water and it always pays to pick flowers every day, just to keep them coming.

    You can buy Cosmos ‘Sweet Kisses' by mail order from Mr Fothergill's Seeds.



  • Onion ‘Santero’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 19 Sep 2009 at 03:40 PM

    Disease-resistant Onion 'Santero' - new from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & MorganOnions are not the most difficult vegetables to grow but there's one problem which can destroy a whole crop in no time - downy mildew. So as we're all now so reluctant to spray our vegetables the arrival of the first onion variety which is resistant to downy mildew is quite a breakthrough.

    ‘Santero' is a ‘Rijnsburger' type onion with coppery, round to oval bulbs. It's an early maincrop onion for planting in spring as sets and compares well with other varieties of this type - with the addition of that invaluable disease resistance.

    Disease-resistant Onion 'Santero' - new from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & MorganResearch on creating a downy mildew resistant onion began in the 1980s. Natural resistance to downy mildew was found in a wild species of onion growing in rocky places in the Mediterranean region, Allium amethystinum, which is occasionally seen in gardens. Its resistance was transferred across into our familiar onions using traditional plant breeding techniques but it took a great deal of work to retain all the good growing and cooking qualities of our garden onions and only the disease resistance from the wild species.

    Fortunately, you can now order onion ‘Santero' from Thompson and Morgan for spring planting


  • Viola 'Allspice': New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 16 Sep 2009 at 08:18 AM

    Viola 'Allspice' - new scented trailing winter viola from T&M. Image: ©Thompson & MorganAs the new seed catalogues start to drop on to the doormat, the time is right to take a look at some of the new varieties appearing in the mail order catalogues for the coming season. So the next few posts here will concentrate on new seed introductions.

    Thompson and Morgan have a number of interesting newcomers this season, including some from their own flower breeder Charles Valin, and one of his most exciting new varieties is Viola ‘Allspice’.

    ‘Allspice’ is a prolific trailing viola for baskets and other containers. It comes in five sparkling colours and here’s the exciting thing – each colour has a different scent. T&M called in Suffolk wine expert Chris Heseltine, with forty years experience in the industry, to apply his expert nose to naming accurately the fragrance of each colour and he came up with these descriptions: white – “honeycomb”, yellow – ‘broom and pineapple”, purple with yellow eye – “woodland”, purple and yellow – “exotic” and pale mauve/pale yellow – “green tea and spring flowers”.

    Michel Perry, New Product Development Manager at T&M said: “It’s unique in that it brings fragrances in the depths of winter, a quality not often found in hanging basket plants. Each colour has a distinctly different fragrance. We’ve tried our best to give some idea of the scents, but customers may disagree and we’d love to hear about the fragrances detected!"

    You can order seeds of Viola ‘Allspice’ from Thompson and Morgan.


  • Alstroemeria ‘Mauve Majesty’

    Graham Rice on 04 Sep 2009 at 07:00 PM

    Alstroemeria 'Mauve Majesty' - bred at Cornell University. Image: ©Cornell UniversityMost of the altroemerias we see in gardens and as cut flowers were bred in Europe as are most of those in the current trial at Wisley. But over at Cornell University in New York, a breeding programme is developing some excellent varieties.

    ‘Mauve Majesty' is the first from the Cornell programme run by Dr Mark Bridgen who introduced a number of good varieties from his previous base at the University of Connecticut, including ‘Sweet Laura'.

    His newcomer reaches 60-75cm/2-2.5ft tall, ideal for both the perennial border and for cutting, with a long and prolific season of vivid mauve flowers, shading to cream in the centre, and boldly streaked in crimson. Derived from the familiar favourite Alstroemeria aurea and a large-flowered purple seedling that Dr Bridgen has never introduced, to ensure that the seed germinated the embryo had to be removed in the laboratory and grown on in sterile conditions before being moved into a pot.

    One other feature of Dr Bridgen's alstroemerias is that they are unusually hardy -‘Mauve Majesty' will tolerate winter temperatures down to -23C/-10F or even -29C/-20F with a deep mulch. We may never get winters that cold in Britain, but when some alstroemerias are noticeably tender it's comforting to be able to depend on this one.

    You can read more about Alstroemeria 'Mauve Majesty' in the Cornell University Chronicle.

    Alstroemeria ‘Mauve Majesty' is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.