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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

  • Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit: New from North America

    Graham Rice on 25 Aug 2011 at 08:03 PM

    Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners - www.provenwinners.comAfter a long time out of fashion, hydrangeas are again proving popular with many new varieties introduced in recent years. And not just new forms of the old favourites, the mophead and lacecap Hortensia types. Other species are being developed as well.

    Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' has been around for many years. It's a superb Award of Garden Merit winning shrub with spherical white flowerheads up to 13in/32cm across. Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1)' is, essentially, a pink flowered version.

    Reaching about 4ft/1.2m in height, this bushy shrub produces rounded heads of flowers up to 8in/20cm across from mid summer until the first frosts. Dark pink in bud, the impressive heads open in bright pink and then fade to pale pink. Expect up to a hundred flower heads over one summer on a mature plant, with up to 1200 florets in each head.

    Happy in sun or partial shade, and in any reasonable soil, Invincibelle Spirit flowers on new shoots so can be pruned hard in spring. In some situations, especially in shade, the flowers may prove too heavy for the stems and may lean over after heavy rain. In that case prune less severely and the result will be more flower heads but they will all be smaller and less heavy after the rain.

    Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1) was developed over many years by Dr Tom Ranney at North Carolina State University.

    You can order buy plants of Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit ('Ncha1) from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Heuchera 'Magnum': new, and with huge leaves

    Graham Rice on 22 Aug 2011 at 09:36 PM

    Heuchera 'Magnum', huge leaves. Images ©Thierry Delabroye.New heucheras just keep on coming and just when you though there were enough another outstanding new one arrives - and 'Magnum'  certainly looks impressive.

    The feature that stands out in this new introduction is the size of the foliage: each leaf is up to 10in/25cm across! With the whole plant reaching a spread of about 18in/45cm and a height of about 12in/30cm this is an impressive plant. The foliage itself is boldly lobed, deep reddish with dark veins and, at times, the silvery overlay we see in so many other varieties.

    'Magnum' appreciates partial shade and a fertile but well-drained soil. It would make a splendid container specimen in a sheltered spot and would also work well as specimen in a woodland garden.

    'Magnum' was developed at his nursery in northern France by Thierry Delabroye, who with his wife Sandrine, has created more than a dozen heucheras with more on the way. These include some of the best of recent heucheras including 'Caramel' (apricot caramel), 'Miracle' (chartreuse and red) and 'Tiramisu' (honey and plum). Their daughter Perrine (in the picture above, click to enlarge) shows the scale of the foliage.

    They have also developed a number of other perennials including many hellebores and Geranium 'Sandrine' and are developing other new perennials.

    I looked at some of Thierry Delabroye's earlier varieties on my RHS New Plants blog back in the summer of 2008.

    You can buy Heuchera 'Magnum' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Antirrhinum 'Eternal': New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 16 Aug 2011 at 02:08 PM
    Antirrhinum 'Eternal',variegated,snapdragon. Image © (all rights reserved)We've had variegated antirrhinums for years, although they were not always very stylish and some people took a dislike to them. Antirrhinum 'Eternal' is different, this new introduction is altogether more elegant.

    Almost all those we’ve seen in the past have been raised from seed, had narrow margins and often slightly twisted foliage. Only the rather weak 'Taff's White', with white flowers and white edges to slightly greyish leaves, had more panache but it was never strong.

    'Eternal', sometimes known rather mysteriously as 'Eternal Magenta (the flowers are not magenta at all) is definitely a cut above those seed raised types. Reaching about 12-14in/30-35cm in height and with rather an upright habit, the grey-green leaves are narrowly edged in cream. That margin is broad enough to be striking yet not so wide as to deprive the plant of so much chlorophyll that its growth is feeble.

    The flower buds are almost white, with a little pale pink haze, they open to rosy pink with the lip slightly darker than the hood, and with an orange haze at the top of the lip. Then the whole flowers darkens as if matures. It should flower well into the autumn and, if kept in a sheltered place and the winter is not too ferocious, perform again next year.

    Grow Antirrhinum 'Eternal' in containers, perhaps with the trailing bronze leaves of Ipomoea 'Blackie' or a sky blue trailing lobelia, ensure it does not dry out and feed it regularly in the same way you would feed other container plants.

    You can order Antirrhinum 'Eternal' from Thompson & Morgan and look out for it at the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley.


  • Two new clematis: from Thorncroft Clematis

    Graham Rice on 13 Aug 2011 at 12:06 PM
    New Clematis from Thorncroft Clematis. Images ©Thorncrtoft ClematisEvery year Thorncroft Clematis introduce new varieties and this year two of them are a little different from the usual run of large-flowered varieties. Both were seen first at this year's Chelsea Flower Show but with so many new plants launched this year, they may have got lost in the rush. Each has a very distinctive flower form.

    Queen Mother ('Zoqum') (above left, click to enlarge) is a beautiful Viticella Group clematis which features exciting bell-shaped flowers in mauve pink – darker on the outside and paler within, the pale colouring showing where the bell splits and the edges roll back.

    Blooming prolifically from June to November, the plant reaches 4-6ft/1.2-1.8m in height and, as is usual with this type, plants are pruned hard just as the buds are swelling in early spring. It was raised in Germany by clematis breeder William Straver in 2003.

    The other new clematis from Thorncroft Clematis with an intriguing flower shape is 'Sweetheart'. This is a non-clinging scrambler in the group derived from crossing a large-flowered hybrid withthe hardy perennial C. integrifolia. Each 3-4in/7.5-10cm flower has delightfully twisted petals in bright mauve pink with a dark streak along the centre of each petal.

    Reaching 4-6ft/1.2-1.6m high and flowering from June to September, this is ideal working its way into a mature shrub for support and early each spring can be cut back hard and all the old growth removed. It should also be good tumbling over a wall.

    Confusingly, there's already a clematis named 'Sweetheart' but a plant in very different style: it's a form of the evergreen C. x cartmanii with masses of small white flowers in early spring.

    You can order Clematis Queen Mother ('Zoqum') from Thorncroft Clematis.

    And you can also order Clematis 'Sweetheart' from Thorncroft Clematis.


  • Hydrangea Expression: New double rebloomer from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 05 Aug 2011 at 07:19 PM

    After many years of being unfashionable - dependable but never exciting - hydrangeas are enjoying a revival. This is partly because some of the best new varieties flower for far longer than the old ones, the ones still gamely flowering late every summer in your grandmother's garden.

    Now, we have an increasing range of reblooming varieties with a longer flowering season including this first rebloomer with double flowers, Expression ('Youmesix').

    Expression starts to open in late spring, and continues to late summer and into autumn. In our coldest climates where hydrangeas may not bloom at all if the winter cuts back the top growth, Expression should flower in late summer.

    With small creamy buds, each floret opens in the shape of a tiny water lily – in blue on lime-free soil and in pink on limy soils. The florets are packed into wide heads and held on upright stems so they won't flop over as many older varieties do, especially after rain. Flowering should continue until frosts.

    The plants are also more compact than those of many mophead hydrangeas, reaching about 1m/40in high and about the same across. They're idea for smaller gardens and also be grown in containers where their long flowering season will make especially valuable. If you soil s is naturally limey and you'd like to have blue flowers on your Expression hydrangea, use hydrangea colourant or plant it in container of ericaceous compost.

    You can order Hydrangea Expression (Youmesix') from Gardening Express.