Skip navigation.

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

  • Coreopsis ‘Unbelievable’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

    Graham Rice on 29 Sep 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Coreopsis,Unbelievable,Sahin,Mr Fothergill. Image: Mr Fothergill's SeedsThere’s been quite a flood of new coreopsis on the market in recent years, some for perennial borders and others for summer containers. But now comes a hardy annual mixture in a wide range of colours most not seen before in annual coreopsis.

    Coreopsis are annuals and perennials in the daisy family, until recently mainly seen in orange and yellow shades. Many are very prolific and easy to grow.

    ‘Unbelievable’ is the first annual coreopsis in the newer colours. Now I know not everyone likes mixtures, using mixtures always makes planning your borders a more unpredictable business. The colours include white, cream, primrose, pink, lavender shades, crimson and yellow but at least they all have the unifying factor of that dark eye. The colours are similar to some of the cuttings-raised Coloropsis Series developed for containers.Coreopsis,Unbelievable,Sahin,Mr Fothergill. Image: Mr Fothergill's Seeds

    And they’re not the dumpy little squibs that I’ve often complained about in new annuals. But ‘Unbelievable’ reaches about 1m/40in in height and as well as a colourful border planting, my preference would be to grow it in a row for cutting and to cut individual stems in colours that suit your latest bouquet. They'll be lovely in wild, cottagey harvestings.

    Tom Stimpson, Plant Product Manager at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds who have an exclusive on this variety, told me more about it: “It’s difficult to say how many individual colours there are,” he said, “but the mix does contain pinks and rusty colours, ones not really associated with seed raised coreopsis. The mix focuses on these more unusual colours with the more common colours selected out.  The flowers are around the size of a 2p piece.

    “This mixture was found by the Dutch seedsman the late Kaes Sahin and has since been developed and refined. We chose the name because ‘unbelievable’ was a frequent catch word Kaes used to use!”

    Coreopsis ‘Unbelievable’ is available only from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.


  • Echinacea ‘Magic Box’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2010 at 02:56 PM

    Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson and MorganReaders of this blog love echinaceas. It’s clear from the statistics that whenever I tell you about a new echinacea, the number of people who take a look at the blog goes up. So plenty of you will be excited about this new echinacea mixture for the 2011 season.

    ‘Magic Box’ is a new mixture which contains an amazingly wide range of flower colours. Not only are there the familiar purple, white and pink shades plus the newer yellow, orange and red shades - but there are also some attractive new bicolours. And there are new flower forms too. Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valins explained the background.

    Echinacea ‘Magic Box’ is the result of a breeding programme started in 1998. The colours produced now were achieved after years of ruthless selection. Now the mixture contains a kaleidoscope of colours, including the first bicolours for echinacea (right, click to enlarge) and some new flower shapes.Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan,bicolour. Image ©Thompson and Morgan

    “Many plants are strongly fragrant, they are a delight for bees and butterflies while in flower, and later the seed heads attract birds.

    “The mixture contains a broad colour range and also many special types, including bicolours, spider, and quilled flower types each in a small proportion. The spider types (below, click to enlarge) have curved petals, giving them a unique ‘windmill’ shape, the quilled types have fluted petals and look very different. There are also the first bicolours, including red and white, and red and orange while some can even be Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan,spider. Image ©Thompson and Morganspider and bicolour. All of them, from the standard to the special flower shapes, make a great cut flowers and colourful bouquets.” And they’re ideal in mixed borders, perennial borders and prairie plantings.

    But my advice would be to plant them in rows to begin with to cut for the house. And choose your favourites, divide them after a year or two and only move the best into borders.

  • Blackberry ‘Karaka Black’: New from Blackmoor Nurseries

    Graham Rice on 19 Sep 2010 at 02:58 PM

    Blackberry,Karaka Black,Blackmoor,meiosis. Image ©Blackmoor NurseriesOne of the plants I mentioned in my round up of new food plants at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in early July, has been lingering in my mind since then. I spotted it on the exhibit staged by Blackmoor Nurseries and it seemed so exceptional that I thought it well worth telling you more about it - especially as the show came just a little too early for it to reveal itself at its best.

    The new blackberry ‘Karaka Black’ looks to be a valuable new introduction. Firstly its flavour is the flavour of those wonderful hedgerow blackberries that those of us of a certain age used to gather when we were young. But its shape is very different, the berries are unusually long and ideal for dipping in cream (or natural yoghurt if you’re watching the calories). The fruits are firm, they last well both on the plant and after picking, and the yield is exceptional.

    ‘Karaka Black’ starts to crop in early-mid July and you should be able to keep picking until early September; the combination of earliness, high quality fruits, a fine flavour and a heavy yield really is valuable. The plant is a little thorny, though less thorny than some varieties, but the fruits are easy to pick as their stalks hold them away from the stems.

    Raised in New Zealand as part of a dedicated programme to develop better blackberries, in addition to its other qualities ‘Karaka Black’ shows some resistance to downy mildew and other blackberry diseases.

    You can order plants of blackberry ‘Karaka Black’ from Blackmoor Nurseries.


  • Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’: new this autumn

    Graham Rice on 14 Sep 2010 at 08:17 AM

    Allium,jesdianum,White Empress,’. Image © (all rights reserved)We tend to think of the bold drumstick alliums as being purple but there are some excellent white flowered varieties as well. First spotted on the Avon Bulbs exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show back in 2008, Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’ is now available by mail order and deserves your attention.

    The problem with some white forms of these invaluable alliums is that the stems are weak, and that the foliage is dying and curling up when the alliums are in flower. Not so with ‘White Empress’.

    Reaching about 30in/75cm in height, and flowering in May, the stems are stout enough to hold the 4in/10cm flowers and the foliage remains in fairly good condition at flowering time so doesn’t distract our attention from the full heads of starry white flowers.

    To be honest, I’ve not yet quite yet fathomed the origins of this plant. There seem to be two completely different stories, not helped by the fact that these alliums have been classified both as A. jesdianum and A. rosenbachianum.

    One version of its origins is that ‘White Empress’ is a sport of A. rosenbachianum – although most of the plants grown as A. rosenbachianum are actually A. stipitatum! The other version is that ‘White Empress’ is a sister seedling of the purple A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’, differing only in its flower colour – although ‘Early Emperor’ is listed in the PlantFinder as a hybrid. Got that? Me neither!

    Suffice it to say that A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’ is a fine white allium and well worth growing. It’s available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries.


  • Narcissus ‘Wisley’: new, and named for the RHS garden

    Graham Rice on 09 Sep 2010 at 11:01 PM

    Daffodil,Narcissus,Wisley. Image © (all rights reserved)There are a number of good plants named for the RHS Garden at Wisley – the excellent Clematis Wisley [‘Evipo001’] comes to mind – and now here’s another. It’s a superb garden daffodil.

    ‘Wisley’ came to prominence in the RHS trial of daffodils that was planted in 2005 and assessed in 2006 and 2007. It’s a bold bicoloured variety, reaching just over 20in/50cm in height and flowering relatively early: in 2007, for example, it flowered for thirty nine days beginning on 2 March.

    The stems are mainly upright in habit, the leaves too, and the flowers, one on a stem, face outward or even slightly upwards. The result is that the blooms make a good impact and don’t hang their heads.

    Each flower is just under 4in/10cm across, with a large frilly yellow cup and slightly swept back white petals. And not only did it flower for five and a half weeks, but each bulb produced an average of five flowers.

    The assessment panel awarded ‘Wisley’ an Award of Garden Merit saying: “An excellent garden plant, good flowers and persistent; stood up well to the weather; a good strong flower colour and plant; flowers held well above the foliage; has lots of flowers and superb impact.”

    This new daffodil makes an excellent plant in drifts in the garden – it was impressive at the Savill Garden at Windsor a year or two back – and with its capacity to bulk up and produce so many flowers it’s also ideal in clumps amongst early perennials. It would be good in containers too.

    Narcissus ‘Wisley is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow': new variegated euphorbia

    Graham Rice on 05 Sep 2010 at 02:18 PM

    Euphorbia,Ascot Rainbow,variegated. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved.Variegated forms of the handsome Mediterranean euphorbias are always tempting as they provide bright foliage colour for the whole year. But experience has shown that some are hardier than others.

    In the second of my looks back at the perennials I picked out as hot newcomers for 2010 right at the end of last year, Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow' stands out for its bright variegation and its winter hardiness.

    Reaching about 20in/50cm in height, and about as much wide, the narrow blue-green leaves are edged in yellow and, especially in cool weather, the shoots tips are tinged with pink. Even the heads of dark-eyed green flowers areEuphorbia, Ascot Rainbow,variegated. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved. tinged with yellow as they open the late winter and spring.

    Found originally in Australia as a sport on the familiar dark-green-leaved E. x martini, it soon proved it could take the Australian summer heat. On trial in much colder climates than ours it also proved it could take a harsh winter. In parts of the country with cool summers that winter pink tinting will never entirely disappear.

    An exceptional container specimen in a terracotta pot, ‘Ascot Rainbow' will also thrive in a sunny border in any soil that is well-drained; the two things it hates are all-day shade and wet feet.

    Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow' is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and selected garden centres across the country.

    Acanthus,Whitewater,TerraNova,variegated. Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries. All Rights Reserved.Still not in nurseries: Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ I picked this for its dramatic white variegated foliage, its white flowers on pink stems and its vigour. But, as far as I can tell, nurseries are less enthusiastic and it’s not yet available. Not to everyone's taste, it's true. But an opportunity for an enterprising nursery, perhaps…