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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

  • Petunia Corona Series: New from Mr Fothergill’s

    Graham Rice on 30 Nov 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Petunia 'Corona Amethyst' - new, stable, British-bred bicolour. Image: ©David KerleyBicoloured petunias are amongst the most colourful of all petunias for summer containers but in most varieties the colouring is unstable, ruining the display. The British-bred Corona Series, from Mr Fothergill's, changes all that. (Click the pictures to enlarge them.)

    So often the picture in the catalogue is nothing like what you see in the garden because changing weather causes the neat bicoloured patterns to revert to a single colour.

    But ace British petunia breeder David Kerley, who introduced ‘Priscilla' and the many other Tumbelina petunias as well as the Fanfare Series, has spent the last eleven years creating the Corona Series - whose colours are stable.Petunia 'Corona Rose Rim' - new, stable, British-bred bicolour. Image: ©David Kerley

    "These varieties give an extra bright display by virtue of the contrasting rings of lighter or deeper colour surrounding the centres of the flowers," David told me, "and the colour does not vary all season. The ring pattern is stable in many different environmental conditions, unlike many bicoloured petunias.

    "Compact and blooming profusely all summer, all the varieties are early flowering when compared to Surfinia. The habit is mounding and semi-trailing, which means the top of the plant does not become bald -  there are always flowers in the crown of the plant, not just at the ends of the stems


  • Two double hellebores: New for 2010 from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 23 Nov 2009 at 07:35 PM

    Helleborus Winter Jewels® 'Onyx Odyssey' - New from Hayloft Plants. Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesThe first double flowered hellebores were developed in Kent and in Germany but the best currently available are probably the Winter Jewels® Series developed across the Atlantic in Oregon. And two of these, ‘Golden Lotus' and ‘Onyx Odyssey', are now available to order here in Britain. (Cick on the pictures to enlarge them.)

    ‘Onyx Odyssey' features double flowers ranging in colour from black to deepest purple or deepest crimson, all with a golden green centre. Not only is the colouring fabulous, but the flowers retain their colour as they age and do not fade to green. This ensures that they remain a valuable feature in the garden for much longer than many other hellebores.

    Helleborus Winter Jewels® 'Golden Lotus' - New from Hayloft Plants. Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesAlso available to order for the first time now is ‘Golden Lotus'. In rich yellow and golden shades, some of the flowers are pure in colours, some have red speckles and some feature a slender red picotee.

    Both these new double hellebores were developed by Marietta O'Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. Staring with stock from the best European hellebore breeders, and in particular Ashwood Nurseries, in recent years she's introduced many superb strains - both singles and doubles.

    If you'd like to get a taste of her plants, take a look at galleries of her single-flowered varieties and also her double-flowered varieties although unfortunately many of these are NOT yet available to order here in Britain. You should also know that Northwest Garden Nursery does not sell by mail order - to Britain or anywhere else.

    But ‘Golden Lotus' and ‘Onyx Odyssey' are now available to order here in Britain. But note that plants will not be sent until May of next year. However, ordering now should ensure you get your plants when they become available.

    You can order ‘Onyx Odyssey' from Hayloft Plants

    You can order ‘Golden Lotus' from Hayloft Plants


  • Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts’: New this year

    Graham Rice on 21 Nov 2009 at 02:48 PM

    Dicentra 'Burning Hearts'. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc.Dicentras have always been valued as colourful shade plants, often with good foliage as well as good flowers. But new introductions from Japan have taken them a big step further.

    ‘Burning Hearts' combines the virtues of D. peregrina and D. eximia to create a plant whose spectacular flowers and beautiful foliage make a superb combination.

    The foliage is bright blue-grey and unusually finely dissected to create the look of a shimmering silvery blue fern. Set against the lovely leaves are the flowers. Opening from rich red buds, they emerge deep red flowers edged in white.

    Grow ‘Burning Hearts' in any partially shaded place in humus-rich soil - but make sure the soil does not dry out in summer or become waterlogged in winter. Good woodsy, shade-garden soil should be ideal.

    Developed in Japan by Akira Shiozaki, he used pollen from the widely grown, robust and vigorous D. eximea, which grows in the woods of the eastern United States, to fertilize flowers of D. peregrina, a mountain species from China and eastern Siberia (sometimes growing on the sides of volcanoes) with tight tufts of silver foliage dissected almost into threads.

    From this a series of plants with intense blue-grey foliage has been developed, ‘Burning Hearts' is the latest - following ‘King of Hearts' and ‘Candy Hearts' - and there are still more to come.

    Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts' is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries.



  • Mahonia ‘Cabaret’: New from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 15 Nov 2009 at 11:48 AM

    Mahonia 'Cabaret' - new from Image: © all know what wonderful shrubs mahonias are. They're statuesque, making imposing plants in the garden; their bold evergreen foliage is invaluable all year round; their long strings of dainty yellow flowers brighten any winter garden; and finally those flowers are followed by long strings of blue berries.

    The only problem is that they only come in yellow. And they get quite tall if you don't prune them. And wouldn't it be good to extend the season a little? Not possible - until now.

    The flowers of ‘Cabaret' are, actually, yellow (I have to say) but they emerge from furnace-red buds which for many weeks transform the colouring of the plant. And the foliage develops red tints as well. I'll let Peter Clay of Crocus, who are introducing this excellent shrub to Britain, tell you more:

    "‘Cabaret' has fabulous colouring: with those glowing beads of molten steel on dark green holly-like leaves trimmed with red. But what we like most is that it flowers from August through to November. Most mahonias are winter flowering but this would be a valuable addition to a hot autumn border. It's nice and compact, so suitable for most people's gardens and would look great with rudbeckias or tall red (annual) salvias and grasses such as Anementhole leesonia (Stipa arundinacea as was) or dahlias like 'Ragged Robin'.

    "In fact, it is a pretty good all rounder. During the spring and early summer it's architectural foliage provides a structural foil for more flamboyant neighbours. In late summer it starts it's valuable pyrotechnics and during winter it develops attractive bluish grey berry-like fruits that stand out well against the foliage."

    You can order Mahonia ‘Cabaret' from Crocus.



  • Verbena ‘Strawberry Kiss’: New for 2010

    Graham Rice on 10 Nov 2009 at 01:12 PM

    Verbena 'Strawberry Kiss' - new for 2010. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comI first saw this gorgeous new fragrant verbena on The Sun's exhibit at this year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. I wrote it up in my Hampton Court coverage of new plants. It was tucked away in a corner, and I have to say, it didn't look too happy. But for colour and fragrance and sheer charm this is a special plant. And now it's available to order.

    The way the flowers on this lovely bicolour are held creates a ring of dark colour around the centre of each flower head with skirt of paler colour below. It's a very pretty combination.

    'Strawberry Kiss' is a trailing variety, raised from cuttings. It's not one of the stocky little verbenas which are more often raised from seed. The stems hang downwards but the flower heads themselves turn to face upwards. ‘Strawberry Kiss' is ideal for tubs and hanging baskets by the front door, on the patio or by gates where you can enjoy the bicoloured flowers and especially rich fragrance.

    Just one thing: In my Hampton Court piece I mentioned the striking similarity of ‘Strawberry Kiss' to an older variety, ‘Pink Parfait'.  I still haven't managed to resolve this with any certainty - but if ‘Strawberry Kiss' should be sold out, try ‘Pink Parfait' instead.

    You can order plants of Verbena ‘Strawberry Kiss' from Mr Fothergill and Unwins. It's also available in a Verbena collection from Thompson and Morgan.

    You can order Verbena ‘Pink Parfait' from Thompson and Morgan.



  • Hostas ‘Color Festival’ and ‘Border Street’: New from Bali Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 05 Nov 2009 at 01:16 PM

    Hosta 'Color Festival' - new from Bali Hai Nursery and Sue Proctor Plants. Image: ©Bali Hai NurseryLast time I looked at an old American hosta coming to Britain for the first time. Now two brand new hostas from Belgium, both raised by Danny van Eechaute.

    ‘Color Festival' (left, click to enlarge) is a very dramatic hosta in spite of its medium size. It features rich, deep green foliage, a little over 6in/15cm long and 3in/7.5cm wide, with a bold cream central splash tinted with green as each leaf unfolds and which matures into bright white with rich creamy yellow and greeny cream flashes at the edge. The contrast between the consistently deep green edge and the bright centre is very striking and made more stylish by those neat flashes and the slight variability of the central splash.

    Maturing to a clump about 21in/53cm across by about 131/2in/34cm high, pale lavender tubular flowers are held above the foliage in mid summer.

    ‘Color Festival' is a sport of ‘Enterprise' registered in 2007.

    Hosta 'Border Street' - new from Bali Hai Nursery. Image: ©Bali Hai Nursery‘Border Street' is a bold variegated hosta with a very attractive pattern of harmonising tones. The green rippled foliage, about 10-12in/25-30cm long and 8-10in/20-25cm wide at maturity, with a slight bluish tint and edged with a variable margin of cream, is bold without being too garish. It also has tubular pale lavender flowers. The plant itself matures into a clump about 40in/1m  across and 24-28in/60-70cm high .

    ‘Border Street' was raised from open-pollinated seed of a streaked seedling of ‘Lakeside Roy' and registered just last year.

    You can order ‘Color Festival' from Bali Hai Nursery and also from Sue Proctor Plants. You can order ‘Border Street' from Bali Hai Nursery.


  • Hosta ‘Big John’: New from Bali-Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 03 Nov 2009 at 12:35 PM

    Every year new hostas arrive on the scene. You'd think that with so many being grown already - there've been almost two thousand listed in the RHS PlantFinder over the years - that we wouldn't need any more.

    Hosta 'Big John' - the hosta with the largest leaf, new from Bali Hai Nursery. Image: ©Bali Hai NurseryWell, some perhaps we truly don't need. But as hosta enthusiasts bring together new combinations of size, leaf shape, colour and pattern - not to mention flowers - valuable new types are appearing.

    Bali Hai Nursery in Northern Ireland make a point of bringing many new hostas to British gardeners. But they also bring over from the United States varieties which have somehow been ignored over here.

    ‘Big John' has been around in the States for some time (it was registered in 1986) but it's not been available here before. And it really is big. Mark Zilis, writing in his superb Hosta Handbook, says: "'Big John' is synonymous with "huge" in hostas. Not only does the mound of foliage become massive, but the individual leaves are the largest of any hosta, narrowly beating out ‘Sum and Substance' for that honor. The record breaking 21in x 163/8in (53.3x41.6cm) leaf was measured in 1988... Since then no leaf I have measured (probably more than 5,000) has exceeded those dimensions."

    Setting aside what we'll charitably call the "dedication" of someone who measures over 5,000 leaves of just one variety of hosta - that really is an impressive plant.

    ‘Big John' reaches a massive 32in/81cm high by 6ft/1.8m wide! The leaves are bluish green at first, becoming dark green by early summer and have the puckered look of H. sieboldiana parentage; in fact ‘Big John' is a seedling of H. sieboldiana ‘Mira'. It also features bell-shaped white flowers striped in lavender which are held just about leaf level in summer.

    If your garden is large enough to feature such an impressive plant, or you have a huge container, you can order Hosta ‘Big John' from Bali Hai Nursery.

    Two more new hostas next time.