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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

  • National Plant Show - all the New Plant Awards

    Graham Rice on 30 Jun 2010 at 07:17 PM
    NemesiaSugarFrosted4486HTA The first National Plant Show has just closed at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry. This show is geared towards professional plantspeople but we’re all interested in the New Plant Awards. Time to wrap up the coverage.

    I ran through the Gold Medal winners late yesterday and highlighted the Best in Show earlier yesterday. So let’s have a quick recap and then look at the Silver and Bronze awards.

    Best in show
    Begonia 'Glowing Embers'

    Gold Medals
    Begonia 'Glowing Embers'
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053)
    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’
    Nemesia ‘Blueberry Ripple’
    Nemesia ‘Framboise’

    Silver Medals
    Gazania ‘Apache’ Large plants and large flowers which are red with yellow petal tips LeucanthemumRealGalaxy4541HTA
    Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer Twist ‘n’ Shout’ The latest in the repeat flowering series
    Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’ Greenish white flowers on compact plants
    Leucanthemum ‘Real Galaxy’ (Right, click to enlarge) Large eyed flowers with a mass of frilly creamy petals
    Nemesia ‘Vanilla Lady’, Prolific, white and heavily vanilla scented
    Rosa ‘Joie de Vivre’ Rose of the Year, neat, compact, prolific, disease resistant

    Bronze Medals
    Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’, glossy bronze foliage with a red centre
    Gerbera Garvinea Series, Very hardy gerberas for the open garden
    Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ Very long flowering with soft orange flowers
    NemesiaMirabelle4563HTA Nemesia ‘Mirabelle’ (Left, click to enlarge) Slightly smoky blue purple flowers in great numbers
    Nemesia ‘Sugar Frosted’ (Top, click to enlarge) Misty pink flowers and very brightly variegated leaves
    Salvia eigii ‘Christopher Fairweather’ Vivid pink hooked flowers on vertical stems
    Sambucus nigra
    ‘Black Tower’ very upright with almost black leaves

    Book next year's National Plant Show in your diary - 28 and 29 September 2011.

    [Cross posted from my Transatlantic Plantsman blog]



  • Gold Medal winners at the National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2010 at 06:19 PM
    Clematis,Guiding Light,Evipo053,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved) [Cross posted extra from my Transatlantic Plantsman blog.]

    So here’s more on the New Plant Awards at the first National Plant Show (last day tomorrow). Sponsored by ProVar, the non-profit agency that markets new plants, yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the awards – which were announced this morning. So here’s the full roster of Gold Awards
    Begonia Glowing Embers, which I told you about this morning;
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053), the latest from Raymond Evison;
    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, a dwarf shrub in brilliant colours;
    Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple', an amazingly prolific bicoloured nemesia;
    Nemesia ‘Framboise’, also prolific and a wonderful fruity colour.

    We gave the Best in Show award to Begonia Glowing Embers, for its combination of sultry chocolate bronze foliage and its many orange single flowers.
    Coprosma,Tequila Sunrise,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053')  (top, click to enlarge) is the latest from ace clematis breeder Raymond Evison. It’s short, reaching just 0.9-1.2m/3-4ft, so is ideal sprawling through a low shrub and produces masses of six-petalled blue-purple flowers with dark centres in early summer and then again in late summer and autumn.

    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (right, click to enlarge) originated in New Zealand as a sport of Coprosma ‘Yuanne’ and its very glossy,  wavy, evergreen green leaves are edged in rusty orange in summer turning red in winter. This looks to be a fine plant to use as a container specimen.
    Nemesia,Blueberry Ripple,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)
    Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple' (left, click to enlarge) stood out from across the hall. A mass of scented blueberry and white flowers, the two colours separated by a yellow lip, keep coming on bushy plants all summer.

    Nemesia ‘Framboise’ (right, click to enlarge), five nemesias gained awards in all, I liked this one for its rich fruity colouring and the way the foliage stayed even and compact and the flowers all stood up above it. Nemesia,Framboise,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)

    I’ll tell you about the other award winners tomorrow. These are all new in Britain and just starting to become available in garden centres and soon by mail order. Look out for them.

    Finally, without naming names, it was interesting to see that a number of entries simply failed to follow the rules. Following the rules is absolutely basic.
    For example:
    Five plants of each entry were required, so don’t submit just one.
    Don’t turn up two hours after the deadline, when judging is almost complete, and expect your entry to be accepted.
    If the main feature of a plant is its flowers, enter plants which are actually flowering!


  • Best in Show at the National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2010 at 01:13 AM

    Begonia,Glowing Embers,Allensmore,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved) Yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the New Plant Awards at the very first British National Plant Show.

    We started out with almost sixty entries, and, after much careful deliberation, we gave the award for the Best New Plant in the Show to a new begonia exhibited by Allensmore Nurseries called Glowing Embers (left, click to enlarge). The other judges were: David Clark, formerly Managing Director of Notcutts Nurseries; David Gilchrist of the Horticultural Trades Association; Kate Lowe, editor of the trade magazine Horticulture Week; and Caroline Owen, Managing Director of Scotsdales Garden Centre near Cambridge, one of the country's largest independent garden centres.

  • National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 25 Jun 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Heuchera,Autumn Leaves,National Plant Show,Terra Nova Nurseries. Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries Next Tuesday sees the opening of the very first National Plant Show. Held at Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry in the English Midlands, on June 29 and 30. Over a hundred nurseries and seed companies will be exhibiting their plants. No patio furniture, no mock-stone containers, no plastic turf, no Christmas holiday gifts, no barbecues, no novelty hand tools, no cure-all pesticides, no cheesy lighting and no plastic anything.

    Just plants.

    Intended for garden centres, retail nurseries, florists, landscape and garden designers, and other industry professionals of all kinds – the National Plant Show does what so many of us have always wanted a show to do. It forgets everything else and focuses on the plants. Hundreds and hundreds of plants - trees, shrubs, perennials, patio plants - everything, as long as it's a plant.

    Plus. There are also seminars from the likes of Raymond Evison (Guernsey Clematis), Andy McInroe (Hillier Nurseries) and Sarah Raven.

    I’m honoured to be one of the judges for the New Plant Awards, the winners will be announced on the morning of June 29, and I’m looking forward to seeing the best of what the British plant trade has to offer. Like Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’ (above, click to enlarge), a star in the making, perhaps, from America’s Terra Nova Nurseries.

    You can sign up as a visitor online here.


  • Rose Claire Marshall: New from Harkness Roses

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2010 at 05:13 PM

    Rose,Claire Marshall,Harunite,Harkness. Image: ©Harkness Roses.New roses appear every year and at the forthcoming Hampton Court Palace Flower Show there will be a flood of newcomers. But one of the most interesting of this year’s new introductions was launched at Chelsea and short listed for the Chelsea Plant of the Year Award.

    Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) is a Floribunda (Cluster-flowered) rose, reaching just 2ft/60cm in height, and is a gorgeous colour, a rich plummy shade evoking the classic old roses. Its heavy fragrance, too, is reminiscent of the old roses.

    Carried in clusters of seven, the flowers are large with the central flower in each cluster being as much as 4in/10cm across. The flowers keep coming all summer and the combination of colour, fragrance, manageable height and repeat flowering make this an ideal rose for small gardens or even containers. But Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) has another important feature: disease tolerance.

    “As far as health is concerned, we haven't used any fungicides on our new rose testing or trials since 1994/95 season," Philip Harkness told me. “So any new varieties that emerge have to show good tolerance to disease and, should they suffer, also have a constitution that enables them to regrow and recover without the plant suffering. Claire Marshall has good resistance in most situations although under stress or overcrowding she will succumb to some disease.”

    The rose is named for the daughter of Jim Marshall, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Malmaison Carnations. It’s the result of a cross pollination made back in 2003, so it has been assessed over quite a few seasons. It includes blood from four different roses: ‘Anne Harkness’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Miss Dior’ and ‘New Age’.

    A donation of 80p from the sale of each rose will be donated to *** Cancer Care.

    You can order the rose Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) from Harkness Roses.


  • Creating a new plant – the story

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2010 at 03:44 PM

    Alcea 'Mars Magic',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto. Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.Back in March, I wrote here about the impressive new Spotlight hollyhocks that had recently become available - like the ‘Mars Magic’ seen here on the road to its release.

    Now, over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog, I have the full story of the many years of work that went into their creation – starting with seeds sent to the international seed company Jelitto by a customer.

    And it’s not just about hollyhocks – the story typifies the years, sometimes decades, of work that goes into creating the new varieties which add new colour and textures to our gardens.

    Take a look at the story of the Spotlight hollyhocks.


  • Trailing pansies: The first ever from cuttings

    Graham Rice on 20 Jun 2010 at 04:59 PM

    Viola,pansy,Balconita,Cheeky Yellow. Image: ©David Kerley.Pansies are probably the most popular of all spring container plants: sparkling colours, tough, and easy to grow. For decades all the varieties were tight and compact; then we had trailing types from seed. Now, we have the final step: trailing pansies grown from cuttings.

    We’ve had trailing violas from cuttings, but these British-bred Balconita pansies have much larger flowers, in much brighter colours and instead of hanging down in sheets like the early Surfinia petunias they develop a much more elegant habit. And why from cuttings? Because they’re guaranteed uniform, no off colours and no variation in how – or if – they trail.

    Developed by British plant breeder David Kerley, he also created the Tumbelina double petunias and the Belarina double primroses.Viola,pansy,Balconita,Meridian Blue,Friolina. Image: ©David Kerley.

    “We started to breed the trailing pansies in 2000,” David told me, “but it proved difficult to incorporate the trailing habit… It was four seasons before we saw the first signs that we were on the right track and by then we were perilously close to giving up. In the end I think we grew around 80-90,000 plants to get these first four varieties and the three we have in the pipeline.

    “The habit is fairly horizontal initially, then hanging as the stems elongate. They are not the “grow upright and fall over” type, that’s not really trailing at all. The challenge was to produce a compact plant in a pot which looked attractive and was easy to manage in the garden centre but still trailed well after planting.”Viola,pansy,Balconita,Deep Red. Image: ©David Kerley. The picture above (click to enlarge) shows 'Balconita Meridian Blue' with the trailing viola 'Friolina Blue White Cascadiz' and the buy-in-the-garden centre stage.

    Those first four in the Balconita Series are ‘Cheeky Yellow’ (top, click to enlarge), ‘Deep Red’ (left, click to enlarge), ‘Meridien Blue’, and ‘White Surprise’ but at the moment they are only available in a mixture.

    You can order Trailing Pansy 'Balconita Mixed' from Thompson & Morgan. The plants will flower in the autumn, but the main display will come in spring.


  • Apple Redlove® Era®: New from Suttons

    Graham Rice on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:53 PM

    Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.What do we want from a new apple variety? Flavour must be first, and good texture as well. Disease resistance is a big help. It must crop heavily… It helps if it stores well… If it’s a good cooker as well as being a good eater straight off the tree, that’s great… And I always like an apple that simply looks tempting.

    Redlove® Era®, new from Suttons today (!), has all this and more. It also has long-lasting deep pink flowers and the flesh of the apples is red too! It even keeps its colour when it’s cooked. Think of it, pink apple pie.

    This variety is so new that you can’t even buy it in the supermarket or the greengrocer. It was raised in Switzerland by ace apple breeder Markus Kobelt who spent many years developing it. It’s the first of a series of red-fleshed apples, the Redlove® Series. Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.

    Starting with parents which were disease-resistant and with sweet firm flesh, he spent many years of careful pollination and selection before choosing this unique variety. After all, think how long it takes an apple to go from a germinating seed to a fruit you can taste. And if you’re a plant breeder you may well have to go through this time and again before you get something really good.

    The round, medium-sized fruits of Redlove® Era® have a lovely deep red skin. The firm, crisp and juicy red flesh has a hazy white marbling and its flavour has a good balance of sweetness and acidity with berry overtones. The flowers are Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.unusually long lasting and deep pink in colour and Redlove® Era® is also highly resistant to apple scab – a feature which, which in my garden, is invaluable. It’s ready to eat from the tree around mid September and will store till Christmas.

    Redlove® Era® is supplied on an M9 rootstock and will produce an easily managed tree up to about 2.5m (8ft) tall.

    It’s red on the outside, red on the inside, the flowers are red and it’s red when it’s cooked! Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to try it.


  • Coreopsis ‘Redshift’: New for 2010

    Graham Rice on 10 Jun 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Coreopsis, Redshift,Big Bang,Darrell Probst. Image: ©Walters GardensThere’s been quite a flurry of new coreopsis appearing in nurseries and mail order catalogues recently. Some, like the Coloropsis Series and Punch Series, are intended for summer containers and are not hardy. But others like the Big Bang series are tough as anything – as tough as our old friend C. verticillata. And they come in some exciting new colours. Latest on the scene in the Big Bang series is ‘Redshift’.

    The Big Bang series was developed over many years by intercrossing a range of species collected in the wild in the southern USA by plantsman and breeder Darrell Probst (better known, up to now, for his work on epimediums). Back in Massachusetts in the north east, where it’s a lot colder than here, he worked on bringing exciting new colours to hardy coreopsis. The plants in the Big Bang Series can take temperatures down to -20C/-5F. Yes, they’re tough. The cool yellow ‘Full Moon’ was the first, ‘Redshift’ is the next.

    When they first open in summer the flowers of ‘Redshift’ are creamy yellow with a bold deep red zone around the eye. Then, as autumn approaches and temperatures begin to cool down, the red colouring seeps along the length of the petals until the whole flower is deep red. It’s like having two different varieties growing together. The flowers are about 5cm/2in across (not 4in/10cm as one catalogue states!), and the plants reaches 60-75cm/24-30in in height.

    All the varieties in the Big bang Series have cosmological names. First there was ‘Full Moon; ‘Redshift’ (not ‘Red Shift’) is named for the optical effect caused by the expansion of the universe which makes distant objects take on a red colouring. Others on the way include ‘Galaxy’, ‘Cosmic Eye’, ‘Half Moon’, ‘Star Cluster’ and ‘Venus’.

    You can order plants of Coreopsis ‘Redshift’ from Hayloft Plants and also from Dove Cottage Nursery.


  • Golden rosemary: New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 03 Jun 2010 at 08:56 PM

    Rosemary,Rosmarinus,Wilma's Gold. Image ©Gardening ExpressForms of rosemary with colourful foliage are few and far between. There are three variegated forms around but you hardly ever see them in nurseries and almost never in garden centres. And variegation on a leaf as narrow as that of a rosemary is not always very effective. But now there comes a golden leaved form.

    ‘Wilma’s Gold’ is a prostrate type – it comes under the Prostratus Group, making arching, semi-trailing growth. The leaves open bright yellow then become a little less vivid as they mature and the plants are dusted with pale blue flowers. Its habit and bright colouring make ‘Wilma’s Gold’ ideal as a specimen in a container or it will trail effectively at the front of a raised bed.

    Like all forms of rosemary, ‘Wilma’s Gold’ appreciates plenty of sunshine and a well drained, though not impoverished soil.

    Found on a small family run Dutch nursery by Wim Timmermans, it is thought to be a sport of ‘Capri’. He named it in honour of his wife.

    You can order rosemary ‘Wilma’s Gold’ from Gardening Express.