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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

  • The new RHS PlantFinder is out this week

    Graham Rice on 29 Mar 2010 at 01:21 PM

    RHS,PlantFinder,2010/2011This is such an exciting time of the year. Not just because it’s spring at last, but because on Thursday (1 April) the new RHS PlantFinder will be published. As well as over 73,000 plants in all (almost 2,000 more than last year) and over 600 nurseries, the brand new 2010/2011 edition includes an amazing 3,424 new plant entries.

    I’ll be looking at some of the most interesting newcomers over the next few weeks but they include one hundred and ninety nine new irises, over a hundred new Narcissus, over a hundred new primulas (mainly auriculas), seventy three new pelargoniums, seventy one new roses, almost seventy new rhododendrons, over fifty new dahlias and over fifty new salvias, over forty new fuchsias, but only twenty six new hardy geraniums. There are also almost four hundred – yes, not forty… four hundred - new day lilies. And just two new verbascums.

    Even if you have last year’s edition you should still go and buy this year’s version. All those new plants are a temptation, of course. But the team of horticultural botanists who work on the RHS PlantFinder have also updated all the names so the book serves as the most comprehensive up-to-date reference on correct plant names.

    But I see that some people making comments on the 2009 edition's page on are less than thrilled by the book.

    “The limitation is that the RHS often uses trivial names rather than the botanical name.” No, this is complete rubbish. The truth is the exact opposite. The whole book is based on the correct botanical names for the plants. (Is this person looking at the right book?!)

    “…has grown like a noxious weed and is in desperate need of culling… A useful buy every ten years, more often than this and your shelf will be over stuffed with too much useless and unworthy information.” No. It’s important to buy the latest edition as after one year, let alone after ten years, some of the names will be out of date and plants may well no longer be stocked by the nurseries mentioned. And of course every year there are thousands of new plants added.

    So, that’s that got out of the way.

    “Another must have edition of this amazing book,” says another comment on That’s more like it.

    The 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder will be published on Thursday, 1 April.

    Order it now from the RHS

  • Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star': New in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2010 at 06:07 PM

    Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star',variegated,wallflower. Image: ©FarplantsLast time I highlighted some new seed-raised perennial wallflowers, this time a new variegated perennial wallflower. And it’s a stunner.

    For many years my two favourite perennial wallflowers were the old favourite ‘Bowles Mauve’, which we all know, and the less well known ‘Bredon’. With its rich dark green leaves, bright buttery flowers and lovely fragrance ‘Bredon’ is fine plant.

    Then came Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’), a seedling of ‘Bredon’ raised by David Tristram, who in recent years has raised a number of fine plants. This is more vigorous, has slightly greyer foliage, larger flower spikes, deep chocolate purple buds and large deep yellow well-scented flowers. It’s a superb plant.Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star',variegated,wallflower. Image: ©Farplants

    Now, in another step forward, there’s a variegated form of Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’), it’s called ‘Walberton’s Fragrant Star’ and its appearing for the first time this spring.

    Basially, it’s similar to Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’) but each leaf has a narrow creamy margin. The result is a plant that is colourful when it’s not in flower and then when the flowers come the variegation and the flower colour are in harmony. And unlike some other variegated wallflowers, it doesn't revert to plain green.

    Like all perennial wallflowers it enjoys plenty of sunshine and is best in a fertile but well drained soil. Plant some short, sunloving campanulas around it to create a lovely plant picture. It will also grow well in a container and is superb as a specimen in a terracotta pot, perhaps with trailing campanulas around it.

    Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star' will start to become available next week from The RHS plant centres at Wisley, Harlow Carr, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall, from Haskins, Notcutts, Stephen H. Smith, Squires and Strikes garden centres and from The Potted Garden in Maidstone, Kent.


  • Erysimum ‘Plant World Rainbows’: New from Plant World Seeds

    Graham Rice on 18 Mar 2010 at 07:34 PM

    Erysimum 'Plant World Rainbows',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldPerennial wallflowers are always popular especially ‘Bowles Mauve’ which combines a tight habit, good greyish foliage and almost year round flowering… But what happens when you cross ‘Bowles Mauve’ with other wallflowers? You get some real treats.

    Ray Brown of Plant World in Devon tried it more than once. Now he’s done it again and is releasing some seed. Here’s what he says about ‘Plant World Rainbows’.

    “Years ago I crossed erysimums including 'Bowles Mauve', E. linifolium and E. scoparius (from seeds I collected high in The Canary Islands) with the familiar dwarf wallflowers,” Ray told me by email. “Truth be told the bees did it! I tried but I’d never succeeded and so finally planted them all together in a tight patch. Let the bees get on with it and then simply harvested the seed. I was told that the receptivity of the flowers was measured in hours and only the bees knew when!!

    “Many of these hybrids have been named (not just by me),” he continued, “and are now sold worldwide! We are now releasing a few more valuable, individually hand-collected seeds from these lovely hybrids (they only set a few seeds!).

    “All habits from compact to leggy, and all colour combinations will appear so expect some surprises. The more compact ones give an absolutely stunning statement, often of bi-coloured flowers, in April, May and June before returning to their quite tidy overwintering state of a green dome!  The nicest ones are best re-propagated from cuttings every 3 or 4 years to perpetuate  their compact habit. They do best on a hot dry bank obviously.”

    Need I say more? Only that as well as the colours in the picture expect primrose, orange and shades of purple.

    You can order seed of Erysimum ‘Plant World Rainbows’ from Plant World Seeds.


  • Daphne odora Rebecca: New in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 14 Mar 2010 at 01:00 PM

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’),Farplants,RHS,Wyevale,Hayes,RHS. Image: ©FarPlantsMany daphnes with their colourful flower clusters and their sumptous scent are invaluable garden plants. And then there are those with variegated foliage which, if they retain the vigour of their green-leaved counterparts, are amongst the finest of all garden shrubs. Now step forward an improvement on one of the most popular variegated daphnes.

    Daphne odora has the colour and the scent. ‘Aureomarginata’ features the addition of a very slender yellow edge to every leaf and, strangely, has proved hardier than the green-leaved original.

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) has the flower colour, the fragrance and is blessed with a much broader yellow edge to the leaf so that the foliage colour really makes an impact. It flowers at a valuable time of year – January to March – and then its foliage brings colour to the garden till the end of autumn.Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’),Farplants,RHS,Wyevale,Hayes,RHS. Image: ©FarPlants

    Found in Devon as long ago as 1989 by nurseryman Steven Watson, there is uncertainty as to exactly how this plant was discovered. It is said that he first noticed a branch on a plant of ‘Aureomarginata’ that had a much broader yellow margin to the leaf and that he propagated it in 1993. It is also said that he spotted the plant in a pot on a market stall and bought it. (If I get a definite answer, I’ll let you know.) Either way, it’s taken till now for enough stock to be created so that it can be made available.

    Basically, its broad and colourful yellow edge to the leaf is the only way in which Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) differs from ‘Aureomarginata’. But that extra coloring makes real impact. The plant is modest in size, 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m, so with its three impressive appeals – flower, fragance and foliage - it’s an ideal plant for small gardens.

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) is available from the Plant Centre at RHS Garden at Wisley, and from Strikes, Squires, Wyevale these garden centres.


  • Diervilla sessiliflora Cool Splash: New from Crocus and selected garden centres

    Graham Rice on 04 Mar 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Diervilla Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’),Cornell,new Image: ©John Woods Nurseries.Diervillas are not normally thought of as top ten garden shrubs but this new variegated form will certainly ensure a lot more people grow them. Sometimes known as dwarf honeysuckle or bush honeysuckle, diervillas are related to honeysuckles but are best thought of, perhaps, as rather like yellow-flowered weigelas. They’re tough and easy-to-grow shrubs happy in a variety of garden situations.

    Diervilla sessilifolia is probably the pick of the four species with the largest clusters of flowers – and now we have the first one with variegated leaves.

    In Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’) (above, click to enlarge) each green-centred leaf is edged in almost white, the border on the opening foliage is creamier in colour. Individual leaves look a little like those of a variegated border phlox, but seen on a well branched, bushy shrub the effect is dramatic.

    Cool Splash was found by Dr Peter Podaras, a plant breeder at Cornell University in New York working on the landscape plant breeding project begun there 2003. He spotted a variegated shoot growing on a plant of Diervilla sessilifolia, propagated it, and grew it for a few years to ensure that it was stable. And now it’s available here in Britain.

    It makes a dense twiggy bush reaching only about 1m/40in high and as wide in five years. Happy in full sun to partial shade, the clean bright variegated foliage develops best in a little shade and really lights up dim corners. It’s also said to thrive in dry shade. Cool Splash also has the advantage of holding its leaves later into the autumn than many shrubs, the clusters of yellow flowers are produced in late spring.

    Diervilla Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’) is available by mail order from Crocus. Plants may also be found in Notcutts, Wyevale, Bridgemere, Blooms and other garden centres with wider availability in May.