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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

  • Aquilegia ‘Volcano: New from Touchwood Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Jan 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Aquilegia 'Volcano' yellow, double, columbine, red, orange. Image ©Touchwood Plants.There’s a lot happening in columbines these days and the latest innovation is red, orange gold and yellow doubles. And you can see from this first picture (click to enlarge)… They really are startling.

    Carrie Thomas, who runs Touchwood Plants near Swansea, is the holder of two Plant Heritage National Collections - Aquilegia vulgaris cultivars and Aquilegia hybrids. In her small garden in Wales she has a vast collection of aquilegias of all kinds and in all colours - and she is also the creator of Aquilegia ‘Volcano’.

    “I had no idea that the American red and yellow species were available as doubles until about 10 years ago,” she told me. “I'd had some mixed doubles seed from an American lady but could only grow on about six plants, assuming them to be things that I'd likely already have. Imagine my surprise when I saw red and yellow, and orange and yellow doubles! These gave me a good Aquilegia 'Volcano' yellow, double, columbine, red, orange. Image ©Touchwood Plants.seed-base from which to start to develop my 'Volcano' mix. I also have a hybrid that has very variable flowers in red and yellow. The offspring of this has given most of my current range.”

    Carrie is now working with new acquisitions from other sources to improve her fiery doubles and to produce varieties in single colours which are consistently stable. Scroll down her webpage to see the variety of doubles now available in these fiery colours. On the way through you’ll be able to get a sense of all the other columbines in her collections.

    You can order seed of Aquilegia ‘Volcano’ from Touchwood Plants.


  • Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 22 Jan 2010 at 03:29 PM

    Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, seed, first year flowering. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.When nurseries propagate delphiniums from cuttings it’s a slow business. Each plant only yields a few cuttings so it can take many years to build up sufficient stocks of new varieties so that they can be introduced. So, naturally, thoughts turn to raising them from seed.

    However, as with hellebores, only careful and painstaking hand pollination of selected parent plants will result in seed that produces plants which are true to colour. After all, if you want a purple delphinium for a special place in your border the last thing you need is for half the plants to have white flowers.

    The first of the Centurion Series of seed raised delphiniums from The Netherlands was introduced in 1997 and now with the arrival of ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, the total comes up to seven colours. It takes time to get it right.Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, seed, first year flowering. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.

    The bicoloured flowers of ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’ are soft lilac and pale blue with a clean white bee in the centre; the result is tall, well filled spikes in a lovely soft shade ideal for a pastel border. This variety is too new to have featured in the 2008 Wisley trial of delphiniums from seed, but its sister ‘Centurion Sky Blue’ was given an Award of Garden Merit.

    Sow the seed before the end of February and the plants should flower in late summer in their first year, though often not at their full height. Next year they’ll be majestic.

    You can order seed of Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’ from Thompson & Morgan Seeds


  • Brand new vegetable!

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2010 at 08:12 PM

    Over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog I've just posted about a brand new vegetable - a hybrid between kale and Brussels sprouts! Seed and plants are available. And... it'll be in the shops next week. Flavour reports would be welcome.


  • Delbard French roses: New from Mr Fothergill’s and DT Brown

    Graham Rice on 16 Jan 2010 at 01:36 PM

    Rose La Rose du Petit Prince Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.We see so many new roses launched every year, mostly through the familiar rose nurseries we see at the Chelsea and Hampton Court shows, that it's refreshing to see some good new varieties from a less familiar source.

    Delbard Roses in France has a long tradition of introducing fine varieties. They began breeding in 1954, makes 40,000 rose crosses every year and have introduced over 260 new varieties. Their roses have occasionally been available here in the UK before but this season sees the introduction of new varieties available by mail order from Mr Fothergill's and DT Brown. They're long flowering and disease resistant and fragrant - and they look gorgeous.

    La Rose du Petit Prince (‘Delgramau') (above) is a new Floribunda (Cluster Flowered) variety and another with a powerful fragrance and good disease resistance. The flowers are attractively loose in style, and its scent has overtones of citrus and verbena. It's also neat in growth, reaching just 2ft/60cm.

    Ma Normandie (‘Deljumb') is a deep pink Hybrid Tea (Large Flowered) rose specially selected for its resistance to powdery mildew and its intoxicating fragrance with fruity raspberry overtones. The flowers are large too, just a little less than 6in/15cm across. It's named (My Normandy) for the unofficial anthem of that region of France.Rose Soleil Vertical, climbing, Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.

    Soleil Vertical (‘Delsar') is a climber but it's not one of those climbing roses which soon disappears over the fence. It remains a manageable size and also tends to flower low down on the plant where many climbers have nothing but bare stems. Its name (Soleil = sun) tells you that each flower is a lovely warm yellow in colour and the old-fashioned shape is always appealing. It has good disease resistance too.

    It's unfortunate that Delbard have chosen this name for this lovely rose as Rose Ma Normandie Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.there's already a rose of this name - in rather similar colours - introduced back in the 1930s and still grown. This new La Parisienne (‘Delpartrico') is a Floribunda (Cluster Flowered) variety which opens in yellow then matures through orange to pink and for much of its life shows an intriguing mix of colours. Its fragrance has lemony hints.

    You can buy Ma Normandie (‘Deljumb') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.

    You can buy La Rose du Petit Prince (‘Delgramau') from Mr Fothergill's.

    You can buy ‘Soleil Vertical' (‘Delsar') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.

    You can buy ‘La Parisienne' (‘Delpartrico') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.



  • Cordyline Pink Passion: sparkling new container plant

    Graham Rice on 09 Jan 2010 at 08:45 PM

    Cordyline australis 'Pink Passion' - variegated, containers. Image ©Farplants. Do not reproduce without permission.Nurseries have been turning their attention to cordylines this last year or two, and both introducing brand new varieties and picking up existing varieties from other parts of the world and bringing them to British gardeners. One of them, ‘Southern Splendour', was introduced at Chelsea and there's also been another.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin'), which appeared for the first time in the latest RHS PlantFinder and is now turning up in garden centres and even on eBay. Time it got its mention here.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin') is, I have to say, rather a startling colour. Each long and slender leaf is a combination of greyish purple in the centre and pink at the edges with the addition of white and/or beige at the tip and on older leaves and with rich magenta tones. ‘Pacific Coral' may be thought to be similar, but has olive green foliage with pink edges. Spectacular as a container specimen, Pink Passion (‘Seipin') occupies a similar place at the dazzling end of the colour spectrum as the Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks' that I featured last time.

    Best used as a specimen in containers - although many cordylines are hardy in many areas, the variegated ones tend to be less hardy and after this week's weather... Containers can be moved into the porch, the conservatory or the garage in this fierce winter weather.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin') was found by Paul Hummel of wholesale growers Seiont Nurseries as a sport on a batch of the old favourite Cordyline australis ‘Red Star' at a tissue culture laboratory at Myerscough College in Lancashire in 2002.

    Cordyline australis ‘Pink Passion' is available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries, from and, as I write at least, on


  • Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 04 Jan 2010 at 03:33 PM

    Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' - new variegated fountain grass. Image ©ItSaul Plants.The African fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, is an elegant and attractive, but rather tender, ornamental grass most often seen in the form with burgundy red foliage – ‘Rubrum’. But now the first variegated form has been released.

    And it’s not a variegated form of the wild green-leaved version but of ‘Rubrum’ – so the leaves really are colourful.

    Reaching about  90cm/3ft in height, the attractive arching foliage is deep burgundy in colour in the central part of each leaf but pink at the edges. In the heart of the plant, where the foliage is shaded from full light, the foliage fades to green and white. The overall effect is dazzling. ‘Fireworks’ also flowers, in summer, the plumes opening in reddish-purple and turning light brown as they mature.

    Unlike the more familiar fountain grasses grown in perennial borders this is not a hardy grass. It makes a superb centrepiece in a large container and with the trailing lime-yellow foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ around it, or with orange calibrachoas (not for the faint-hearted!), it makes a stupendous summer display. Make sure it gets not only plenty of sunshine but is fed regularly and does not dry out.

    This new variegated form was found by Ron Strasko of Creekhill Nursery in southern Pennsylvania. He noticed a single variegated shoot on a container grown plant of P. setaceum ‘Rubrum’ on his nursery back in the spring of 2004. He separated it off, grew it on to prove that it was stable and a good grower as well as attractive. And now it’s available for the first time.

    You can order Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ from Thompson & Morgan


  • New hellebore breeding

    Graham Rice on 02 Jan 2010 at 04:53 PM

    The Garden, December 2009, hellebores. Images ©RHS.Last month I published two articles on recent and upcoming developments in hellebore breeding. Both are now available online at the RHS website.

    In the December issue of The Garden I wrote about hybrids between the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, and other hellebore species. Read it here.