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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

  • Linaria 'Freefolk Piccolo' - New from Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Jul 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Linaria,Freefolk Piccolo,Hardy's,Mini Me. Image © (all rights reserved)One of the most striking new plants I came across at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this month was a new linaria. I’d spotted it on the Twelfth Night garden, tucked up against a pink bee hive, and wondered what it was, it didn’t look familiar and there was no label. Then in the floral marquee, Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants showed it to me.

    It proved to be an unusually dwarf form of Linaria purpurea, reaching only about 18in/45cm in height. Rosy had spotted it in the gravel on their Hampshire nursery, and it caught her eye not only because it was a lot shorter than the usual form – less than half the height – but was also unusually bushy with side shoots appearing all the way up the stem. It also seemed to be sterile (one reason it was so prolific), with none of the infuriating seedlings that the usual form produces and which you then have to weed out. Its colour also seemed a little softer, perhaps a little more blue.

    Linaria,Freefolk Piccolo,Hardy's,Mini Me. Image ©Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants (all rights reserved)On her exhibit, Rosy had it labelled simply Linaria purpurea “Dwarf” – not such a catchy name, really, so I urged her to choose something better. Later, she told me they’d decided to call it ‘Mini-Me’. I wrote it up in my New Plants selection in the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show coverage and included it in my video covering much of the same ground.

    But that wasn’t then end of the story. After the show Rosy sent me an email. It wasn’t possible to call the plant ‘Mini-Me’ as one of the big international plant breeders had registered Mini-Me as a Trade Mark for any horticultural products. They use it for a series of petunias, for example. So Hardy’s came up with a new name – ‘Freefolk Piccolo’ (the Freefolk part of the name comes from the name of the Hampshire hamlet where the nursery is located: Freefolk Priors). So, finally, this breakthrough new linaria is called Linaria purpurea ‘Freefolk Piccolo’.

    Such has been the interest that the nursery has now sold out. But check the Hardy's website so see when it’s back in stock.


  • Pelargonium 'Quantock Double Diamond': first double Angel from Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery

    Graham Rice on 23 Jul 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Pelargonium,‘Quantock Double Diamond’,Fir Trees,Ken Dymond,Derek Lloyd Dean. Image © (all rights reserved)It was back in 1913 that the first Angel Pelargonium was created. It was developed from the scented-leaved Pelargonium crispum and an old Regal Pelargonium called 'The Shah' by Arthur Langley-Smith, a headmaster by profession, as revealed in the fascinating display by Derek Lloyd Dean at the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

    In recent years two breeders have continued to take Angel Pelargoniums forward: Mervyn Haird, whose varieties all have the Cottenham Prefix, and who sadly passed away in 2004, and Ken Dymond, whose varieties all have the Quantock prefix.

    And it was from one of Ken Dymond’s Quantock varieties that the first ever double-flowered Angel arose. It’s taken almost a hundred years.

    Five years ago a double flowered shoot arose on a plant of ‘Quantock Ultimate’ at Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery. ‘Quantock Ultimate’ is a semi-trailing type with deep maroon blooms edged in white. The name indicates how good it is.

    Pelargonium,‘Quantock Double Diamond’,Fir Trees,Ken Dymond,Derek Lloyd Dean. Image © (all rights reserved)Named ‘Quantock Double Diamond’, the new double form features the same gently trailing habit, the same maroon petals edged in white – but every flower is double. And because its flowers are sterile they just keep on coming. I thought it was one of the stars of the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show where it was unveiled. It would make a splendid specimen in a patio container.

    Angel pelargonium ‘Quantock Double Diamond’ is available exclusively from Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery (scroll down). And they’ve clearly worked hard to build up stock because, as I write, it’s still available.


  • Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’: New from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

    Graham Rice on 18 Jul 2010 at 04:04 PM

    Geum,Totally Tangerine,Walberton,Crowther,Hardy'. Image: FarPlantsSometimes a plant breeder sets out with an aim in mind - and ends up creating an entirely different plant. That was the case with this dramatic new geum. Plant breeder Tim Crowther tells the story.

    “What I was looking for in 1988 was a compact free flowering clone that I could take further and use to create plants in a range of colours. To achieve this I crossed Geum coccineum with G. rivale to reinforce the compactness. Then I crossed the best resulting seedlings with G. chiloensis expecting colour breaks - but most of the resulting offspring were dull with rather a lot of plants having small petals like those of G. rivale.

    “However, I selected three of interest but found that two were too similar to existing cultivars. The remaining one, ‘Totally Tangerine’, ended the line as it was sterile and so could not be used as a parent -  not at all what I intended so in a way it could be classed as a failure.

    “But ‘Totally Tangerine’ proved to be an excellent plant. Its main attributes are robustness, length of flowering season, number of flowers, sterility, vigour and colour. It was doing its best to flower in late January, in spite of the snow, and will continue flowering until November. In its second year it produced well over two thousand blooms counted from the seed heads.”

    So instead if creating a compact and free flowering plant, Tim produced an unusually tall and free flowering plant.

    Geum,Totally Tangerine,Walberton,Crowther,Hardy'. Image: 
FarPlantsThe flowers are a lovely soft tangerine orange, and plants usually start flowering well at about 60cm/2ft in late April or early May. They then continue flowering October or even November by which time the plant may reach an astonishing 1.4m/41/2ft. Growing happily in most soils in a sunny position, the plant I saw in the autumn a couple years back was really impressive.

    Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ has been introduced by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants.


  • Hydrangea Twist-n-Shout: new re-blooming variety

    Graham Rice on 15 Jul 2010 at 07:01 PM

    Hydrangea,Twist-n-Shout,Twist,Shout,Endless Summer,Piihm-I. Image: ©Endless Summer Collection.Hydrangeas that flower all summer are a relatively new innovation but they are now being grown more widely. The Endless Summer Collection started it all off and there’s a new addition to the series now available.

    The trick with these repeat flowering hydrangeas is that they flower on both the old growth from the previous season, which produces the earlier flowers, and also the new growth from the current season – this produces the later flowers.

    The first of these was simply called Endless Summer ('Bailmer'). It’s a hortensia (mophead type) and like most hydrangeas it makes a rounded plant 0.9-1.5m/3-5ft high and across. Not only does it flower all summer but the large heads are crowded with flowers and there’s also bronze autumn colour.

    Next came ‘Blushing Bride’ with semi-double white flowers blushing as they age. And now we have the latest in the series, Twist-n-Shout (‘Piihm-I’).

    Twist-n-Shout is the first lacecap in the Endless Summer series. Its broad lacecap heads are delightful and it has another very attractive feature – the stems are red, a colouring it derives from one of its parents ‘Lady in Red’.

    The story of these re-blooming hydrangeas began in 1998. Dr. Michael Dirr, America’s leading woody plant expert, was visiting a nursery in Minnesota when a hydrangea caught his eye. It had been picked out by one of the nursery’s staff but since then had been largely ignored. Dr Dirr took cuttings back to his base at the University of Georgia where the plant proved to be perpetual flowering. That was the original Endless Summer.

    As with all these hydrangeas, the flower colour largely depends on the soil – acid soil gives blue flowers, alkaline soil gives pink flowers.

    You can order Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • New Clematis at Hampton Court

    Graham Rice on 08 Jul 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Clematis Amethyst Beauty™ (‘Evipo043’). Image © (all rights reserved)Four of the most impressive new plants at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show are the four new clematis raised by Raymond Evison. In my coverage of the plants at the Show I mentioned two of them in my choice of ten new flowering plants and one of those featured in my new plants video interview. But let’s take a look at the other two.

    Amethyst Beauty™ (‘Evipo043’) (top, click to enlarge), on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery stand, is a deep and sultry colour, rich dark purple and then adding dark bluish tones as the flowers mature; in the centre of each flower is a cluster of red anthers. The flowers start to open in June and continue into September.

    Reaching just 1.8m/6ft in height, like many of  the clematis from Raymond Evison it’s much more manageable than most traditional varieties. Just cut the whole plant back to 15cm/6in in spring.

    Clematis Reflections™ ('Evipo035'). Image © (all 
rights reserved)Also on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery exhibit is Reflections™ ('Evipo035') (left, click to enlarge). This has such cool and subtle colouring, it was much admired. The semi-double flowers are lilac blue in colour but fade gently as they age so the result is that when in full flower the plant presents a harmonious blend of shades that is really captivating. Like Amethyst Beauty, Reflections reaches about 1.8m/6ft and can be cut back to 15cm/6in each spring.

    Over in my Hampton Court plants coverage you can read about the two other new clematis. Shimmer (‘Evipo028’), with a similar harmonious blend of colouring in slightly bluer shades, also features on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery exhibit. Rather shorter, at 1.2m/4ft, is Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo53’), with slim, wavy purple blue petals.

    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo53’) will be available soon. The other three clematis are available from Taylor’s Clematis Nursery.

    The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show closes on Sunday, tickets are still available.


  • New plants at the Hampton Court show

    Graham Rice on 07 Jul 2010 at 08:48 AM

    Rose,Claire Marshall,Harunite,Harkness. Image: ©Harkness Roses.I’ve again been checking up on the new plants released at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which runs till Sunday.

    So far there are two batches of choices on the RHS website:

    New Roses – with the focus on healthy varieties.
    New Flowers – climbers, perennials and annuals

    And coming soon is my pick of the new food plants and also a short video featuring some of the most interesting new plants at the Show. Check back here for the links in a day or two.

    I've also been looking at some other aspects of the plants at the show, start here for links to them all.