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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 ‘Phantom’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 22 Oct 2010 at 04:24 PM

    Petunia,Phantom,black. Image ©Thompson and MorganWell, no sooner have I written up Petunia ‘Black Velvet’, the first ever black petunia, and mentioned that two more black petunias were on the way - than one of them is listed.

    As you can see, Petunia ‘Phantom’ is black with a yellow star pattern and this colouring might well prove easier than pure black to integrate in containers with other plants as it will be possible to make colour connections with both the black and the yellow tones.

    Raised by the same breeder as ‘Black Velvet’, Jian Ping Ren of the American breeding company Ball FloraPlant who've raised so many of the petunias and other patio plants we grow, it has the same bushy rather than trailing growth and is ideal for mixed containers.

    That just leaves the third of their black varieties, ‘Pinstripe’, as still unlisted here in Britain. This is actually more of a deep purple, with a creamy or rosy stripe. When it’s available to order, I’ll let you know.

    You can order Petunia ‘Phantom’ from Thompson & Morgan


  • Petunia ‘Black Velvet’: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 19 Oct 2010 at 01:09 PM

    Petunia,Black,Black Velvet,Ball Horticultural. Image ©BallHort.comYes, the first ever black petunia. And it’s not just dark purple, it really is black with just a hint of purple in some conditions. Launched with the catch line “Black goes with everything”, this is a breakthrough from one of the world’s leading petunia breeders; they’ve bred many of the varieties we already grow.

    Almost everyone loves black pansies and now, for an unmistakeable summer display, we have a black petunia.

    This is not a variety that’s raised from seed, like the Surfinia petunias ‘Black Velvet’ is raised from cuttings. And this is a relatively upright petunia, ideal for mixed containers but less suitable for hanging baskets. It’s easy to grow, treat it like any other petunia, and plants branch freely without the need for pinching; in fact pinching will only cause flowering to be delayed for about two weeks.

    Petunia,Black,Black Velvet,Ball Horticultural. Image ©BallHort.comPetunia ‘Black Velvet’ is being promoted as the equivalent of the Little Black Dress or the black leather jacket: it goes with anything, the breeders say. Well, that’s a matter of opinion, I suppose, I'm not sure that a black leather jacket goes with everything. But with dainty white bacopa, with lime green coleus as a background or with Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ snaking through it, or with other petunias in yellow, deep red or white – there are plenty of options. Personally, I like the idea of choosing a coleus as a companion in a shade that you think goes well with the black.

    From the same stable as ‘Black Velvet’ are ‘Phantom’, black with a gold star pattern, and ‘Pinstripe’, deepest purple with a slim pink star. These are on their way, but are not yet available to order. I'll tell you when they are.

    Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ is available from Unwins and also from Mr Fothergills.


  • Potato ‘Sunrise’: New from D. T. Brown

    Graham Rice on 13 Oct 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Potato,Sunrise,Valor,Cultra,DT Brown. Image ©DT BrownWe’ve seen a number of new potatoes recently, many from France and other parts of mainland Europe, but here’s a new potato from closer to home, from Scotland.

    The first variety bred by Zella Doig on her farm near Perth, in sight of the Loch Lomond hills, ‘Sunrise’ is an early maincrop with a rich traditional flavour and is suitable for baking in its jacket, roasting, mashing, wedges and chips - a true winter spud. It stores very well through the winter and has oval to round, yellow fleshed tubers with white skin and red eyes.

    ‘Sunrise’ is also a high yielding variety, it shows valuable resistance to late blight on both foliage and tubers and very high resistance to virus - much appreciated by all potato growers and by organic gardeners in particular. This variety is so new that tests on other pests and other diseases are still being completed.

    To create her new variety, Zella crossed the familiar eelworm and blight resistant ‘Valor’, highly valued for roasting and chips, with the multi-purpose ‘Cultra’, which also shows valuable pest and disease resistance and is superb for chips.

    The result is an excellent all round potato – named by Zella as she awoke one morning and saw the rich red sunrise over her farm.

    Potato ‘Sunrise’ is available from D. T. Brown.


  • Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 09 Oct 2010 at 03:18 PM

    Zinnia,Zahara,Double Fire,Plants of Distinction. Image ©BallHort.comThe number of gardeners who enjoy the vibrant colours of zinnias has been almost outweighed by the number who’ve found them less easy to grow than they imagined they would be.

    But in recent years a wide range of smaller flowered, easy-to-grow zinnias has appeared and this year sees the arrival of the most brilliantly coloured of all.

    ‘Zahara Double Fire’ is the first double form of the Zahara™ zinnias which have proved so successful in recent summers. The plants are much bushier and more rounded than those of many traditional zinnias and the flowers are smaller but produced in large numbers all summer.

    Reaching about 14in/35cm high and across, sometimes larger, the plants are covered in medium-sized double flowers in vivid scarlet orange. ‘Zahara Double Fire’ brings together the qualities of the tall, traditional, double flowered zinnias until recently known as Zinnia elegans and the daintier, small-flowered types, Z. angustifolia, which are so much easier to grow. The result is prolific, disease-resistant, easy to grow varieties in a wide range of colours.

    Zinnia,Zahara,Double Fire,Plants of Distinction. Image ©‘Zahara Double Fire’ is the winner of Gold Medal for 2010 from Fleuroselect, the European flower trialing organisation and it’s also a winner of the American equivalent, it’s been named an All-America Selection. Plants do not win these awards unless they perform outstandingly well in a wide range of conditions.

    There’s also a pale cherry flowered version, ‘Zahara Double Cherry’, which narrowly missed out on a Fleuroselect Gold Medal but which is also an All-America Selection.

    Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’ and ‘Zahara Double Cherry’ are available from Plants of Distinction (scroll down)


  • Anemone Pretty Lady Series: new dwarf Japanese anemones

    Graham Rice on 02 Oct 2010 at 01:31 PM

    Anemone,Pretty Lady,Diana. Image ©plantnovelties.comA series of four new Japanese anemones is new this autumn. The Pretty Lady Series includes four new introductions, two single and two double, and all are shorter and more prolific than most varieties so are ideal for the front of the border or even in containers.

    Reaching only about 60cm/2ft in height, many Japanese anemones grow to twice that height, the four varieties in the Pretty Lady Series start flowering in late summer then continue through the autumn.

    The two single flowered forms are ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ (above, click to enlarge), with soft pink single flowers with a contrasting golden boss of stamens in the centre, and ‘Pretty Lady Susan’ with flowers in a darker pink, again with a bright golden centre. The two forms with semi-double flowers are ‘Pretty Lady Emily’ (below, click to enlarge) in deep pink and ‘Pretty Lady Julia’ in pale pink.Anemone,Pretty Lady,Emily. Image ©Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

    Raised as part of a large development programme in Japan, and now becoming available in Britain for the first time, with their neat foliage, short growth and a tendency to spread less than older varieties, plants in the Pretty Lady Series will provide good companions for hardy chrysanthemums, the shorter perennial asters and other late perennials.

    Their short growth brings one particular advantage. Taller Japanese anemones tend to be weighed down by autumn rains but their tall slender stems are difficult to support without the supports being more obvious than the flowers. These short forms do not need staking.

    The Pretty Lady Series is available in garden centres now in distinctive blue pots. Two of the four, ‘Pretty Lady Emily’ and ‘Pretty Lady Susan’ are also available by mail order from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.