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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

  • Agastaches: Two new varieties from Jelitto

    Graham Rice on 31 Mar 2011 at 01:03 PM

    Agastache,Bolero,Tango,Jelitto,Georg Uebelhart, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.
    For a quick display of masses of flowers in a sunny place you can’t beat agastaches. Although they’re perennials, many flower so quickly from a spring seed sowing that they will flower in their first year. There’s still plenty of time to sow seed, even sown in May they will flower in September.

    This season Jelitto Perennial Seeds, the international seed company whose British headquarters is near Cambridge, have two impressive new agastaches, ‘Bolero’ and ‘Tango’. Georg Uebelhart, Jelitto’s General Manager, told me about them.

    “Our new agastaches are more vigorous than existing seed varieties and they are also selected for their dense flowering spikes. They have a compact habit and good branching, and a short production time – they’re first year flowering but remain perennial. They are also less expensive than varieties propagated vegetatively, from cuttings, but just as high in quality.

    “‘Bolero’ is compact, about 14in/35cm, and richly branched and has abundant brilliant rose-purple tubular blooms with purple calyxes and bronze colored, aromatic foliage. The outstanding bronze colored foliage comes 98% true from seed! The similar ‘Heather Queen’ has about 40% bronze foliage and is also taller and branches poorly.

    ‘Tango’ has abundant, brilliant, fiery orange flower spikes with attractive, pleasantly aromatic, grey-green foliage. It’s compact and richly branched and is more vigorous than the similar ‘Apricot Sprite’ which is also more variable in colour, less well-branched and needs more growing time to flower.”:

    More colours involving a range of species are in development but Jelitto intend only to introduce a limited number of the best, not more than half a dozen.

    You can order Agastache ‘Bolero’ and also Agastache ‘Tango’ from Jelitto Seeds.


  • Salvia ‘Madeline’: New bicoloured form

    Graham Rice on 28 Mar 2011 at 02:06 PM
    Most hardy perennial salvias are blue or purplish. A few are white or pink but very few are bicolours – the tall and late flowering Salvia uliginosa comes to mind but nothing much in a smaller, more adaptable style with a really bright contrast between the colours.

    Now the garden designer and plant breeder Piet Oudolf has come up with a sparkling new salvia hybrid which, after very limited mail order availability last year, will be available in garden centres soon.

    Reaching about 2ft high/60cm high and about 20in/50cm wide, Salvia ‘Madeline’ features tall branching spikes carrying clusters of flowers from June and July - deadheading will prolong the display. Each flower has a violet blue hood and a white lip delicately edged in the same violet blue as the hood and also features a long white, blue-tipped stigma stretching out of the flower. The plants are self supporting, even in windy conditions, and the foliage is aromatic.

    ‘Madeline’ is the result of a chance cross between Salvia hians and another unknown salvia in the summer of 1999 at Piet Oudolf’s nursery in The Netherlands. Having sown the seed from S. hians he picked out this plant from the resulting seedlings in 2000. It is sometimes, wrongly, listed as a form of S. pratensis.

    As is clear, the plant was assessed for some years before being made available and it proves to be a strong and vigorous, with a compact and upright plant habit and it flowers freely. ‘Madeline’ enjoys sun and any reasonable well-drained soil.

    Salvia ‘Madeline’ is available from Southon Plants and also, in April, from Squires Garden Centres.


  • Three double hellebores: New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Until recently, almost all the improvements in hellebores came from Britain. But now good new varieties are coming from Germany and, in particular, hellebore specialists across the Atlantic are also making their mark.

    For it’s now the Americans, or rather one American in particular, who is leading the way with double flowered hellebores and her varieties are now becoming available in Britain. Known as the Winter Jewels™ Series, three of the best in various pink shades, all double, have just become available here in Britain from Gardening Express.

    The flowers of ‘Peppermint Ice’ (left in the picture) are pale pink with a crimson picotee edge and with the veins picked out in crimson. ‘Cotton Candy’ (centre) is pale pink, with slightly darker picotee edges, and some of the flowers have a crimson heart, some have a green heart and a few may be dusted with speckles. ‘Berry Swirl’ (right) comes in a range of pink shades, from rose pink to pale pink with dark picotee edges to dark pink with smokey overtones.

    These gorgeous double hellebores are all raised by Marietta O’Byrne who, with her husband Ernie, runs Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. Marietta is one of the world’s leading hellebore breeders, specialising in the double forms of Helleborus x hybridus that so captivate gardeners whenever they see them. All her varieties are derived from premier British plants with which she began work many years ago and her latest three varieties are now available from Gardening Express.

    All are happy in the same conditions that other hellebores enjoy: a rich soil and part or light shade suits them just fine.

    Order plants of ‘Berry Swirl’ from Gardening Express
    Order plants of ‘Cotton Candy’ from Gardening Express
    Order plants of ‘Peppermint Ice’ from Gardening Express


  • Osteospermum Flower Power Doubles: New from Suttons

    Graham Rice on 15 Mar 2011 at 05:16 PM

    Osteospermum,Flower Power,Double,Suttons. Image ©Selecta KlemmWe’ve grown to appreciate the cheerful daisies of osteospermums in recent years. So many bright colours creating eye-catching summer displays on bushy plants which are the ideal size for a container. And their deep dark foliage sets off the flowers beautifully.

    But until now all osteospermums have featured single flowers in the traditional daisy style. Here we see the very first doubles, the Flower Power Doubles (above, click to enlarge). Well, actually, to be more precise: these are not doubles in the usual sense, they’re what are often called anemone-centred and feature a sort of ruff of short tubular petals in the centre of each flower instead of the small dark eye.

    The result is flowers which are more intriguing, which repay a closer look than other kinds, but which retain the intense colours and the long flowering season. Also, because of that additional petal tissue in the middle of the flower, the blooms close up less tightly in the evening than other osteospermums so they still provide a little colour as dusk falls.

    Reaching about 12in/30cm in height, grow them in containers or soil that is not soggy, and give them plenty of sunshine. They’ll flower through the summer - especially if dead-headed.

    The Flower Power Doubles are from the same stable as three other impressive osteospermum series. Three varieties of Flower Power Doubles are now available in a collection from Suttons.


  • Nemesia Fragrant Lady Series: New from Simply Seeds and Plants

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2011 at 01:53 PM

    Nemesia,Lady,Scented,Vanilla,Sweet,Simply. Image ©Simply Seeds and PlantsPatio plants combining exquisite colouring, a long and prolific season and a lovely fragrance would seem to meet just about everyone’s requirements. So take a look at the Fragrant Lady Series of nemesias (left, click to enlarge).

    The plants in the series each reach about 12-15in/30-38cm in height, perhaps more, with an upright habit and a tendency to relax at the edges so the plants trail just enough to mask the edges of their pots.

    There are three colours in the series. ‘Sweet Lady’ has delicate pink and white flowers, with a yellow lip; ‘Vanilla Lady’ is pure white with a yellow lip and ‘Scented Lady’ is two-tone pink/purple with a yellow lip. All are fragrant.

    Richard Massey of Simply Seeds and Plants, who are listing the three varieties as a collection, told me: “They are UK bred and are certainly the best I’ve seen. I grew all three at home last year they were a mass of flower from June to early November and very fragrant. It doesn’t seem to matter if you cut them back or not – either way they just keep coming! Big flowers too.”

    I saw them at the National Plant Show last summer, where ‘Vanilla Lady’ won a Silver Medal, and was impressed by the mass of flower they produced. The plants were developed by Jimmy Jones of Penhow Nurseries, in Wales, who are well known for their Chelsea and Hampton Court nemesia exhibits.

    You can order all three varieties in the Nemesia Fragrant Lady Series from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Viola ‘Tinkerbell’: New from Victorian Violas

    Graham Rice on 05 Mar 2011 at 09:35 AM

    Viola,Tinkerbell,Victorian,Violas. Image ©GardenPhotos.comAt last year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show I noticed a lovely little viola called ‘Tinkerbell’ (left, click to enlarge) on the corner of the Victorian Violas stand. Unfortunately, plants were not available as stocks were still being built up. Now, I’m pleased to say, plants can be ordered.

    I found ‘Tinkerbell’ especially appealing because of its delicate coloring - the flowers open cream and mature to silvery-blue-lilac - and its mass of flowers on a small plant. Rob Chapman, who runs Victorian Violas, selected ‘Tinkerbell’. He told me about it.

    “This little beauty "flew into the nursery" during the summer of 2008,” he explained. “Each year I plant groups of selected named Viola varieties and allow Mother Nature to take control. The 'Tinkerbell' seedling soon blossomed as the front runner in the group.

    “She produces blooms en masse for the entire summer, she seems happy in bowls and pots or in a sunny spot directly into the garden border. Only this week (mid-February) I noticed fresh, vigorous, healthy growth on my garden specimen, after such a severe winter it is a most heart-warming feeling.

    “To sum up we have a fully winter hardy variety of extreme vigour, bloom-full of pale silver blue and dusky primrose cornuta type flowers continuously from April to September.”

    You can order plants of Viola ‘Tinkerbell’ from Victorian Violas.