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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

  • Heucherella ‘Redstone Falls’: New ground cover variety

    Graham Rice on 27 Oct 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Heucherella 'Redstone Falls', for containers or ground cover. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesFor many years we’ve had tiarellas, those delightful North American shade lovers, which spread out across the soil rather than stay in tight clumps. They make great ground cover plants.

    Now, the creeping tiarellas have been crossed with the tightly clump-forming but much more colourful heucheras to bring a whole new style of foliage effects to ground cover perennials. ‘Redstone Falls’ is the first of these. And it’s valuable not only as a ground cover plant, but as a trailing perennial for containers.

    Created by crossing creeping tiarellas with heucheras which feature such an impressive range of foliage colours, ‘Redstone Falls’, named for a waterfall in Wisconsin, and its sister varieties combine exceptional foliage colour with a creeping, ground covering habit.

    First, ‘Redstone Falls’ develops a mound of foliage. Then it sends out stems which creep across the soil or trail down from containers. The dark-veined foliage is coppery red in spring and matures to reddish and brown tones in autumn and winter. There’s also the bonus of white flowers in spring.

    ‘Redstone Falls’ is ideal as ground cover in a shaded corner which is not deeply dingy and also under shrubs. It will take more sun if the soil is consistently moist. In containers drying out is the danger, especially when planted in hanging baskets, but regular watering or drip irrigation can easily ensure a constant supply of moisture.

    xHeucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Strawberry ‘Fenella’: New and British bred

    Graham Rice on 23 Oct 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Strawberry 'Fenella' - new, tasty and British bred. Image ©MeiosisSome gardeners don’t really think very much about which strawberry varieties they grow. But in terms of appearance and yield and flavour and disease-resistance it can make an enormous difference.

    Many of our top strawberries - for gardeners, supermarkets and greengrocers - have been bred in Britain and the latest, ‘Fenella’, looks to be a valuable addition to our home-grown fruit range. This is a late season variety, cropping from late June to late July, so extending the strawberry season after most varieties.

    The vigorous plants are leafy and combine a compact habit with long stems holding the trusses of fruit so the fruits tend to be held outside the foliage so are easy to pick. ‘Fenella’ produces a heavy yield of large glossy, orange-red berries which are juicy and well flavoured. Another valuable feature is disease resistance, the plants have built in resistance to verticillium wilt and crown rot. They also have a rather waxy skin which is not easily damaged and will not be spoiled by thunderstorms.

    ‘Fenella’ was developed at East Malling Research in Kent, and is a cross between two of their unnamed strawberries. It was first selected in 2001 and has been undergoing extensive assessment and trialing before being introduced.

    You can order Strawberry ‘Fenella’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Sweet pea ‘Almost Black’: New for autumn 2011

    Graham Rice on 17 Oct 2011 at 09:04 AM

    Sweet pea 'Almost Black' - unique new colouring. Image ©Keith HammettFor over a hundred years, since the first heyday of the sweet pea, varieties with very dark flowers have been sought after. As long ago as 1898 the great Henry Eckford introduced ‘Black Knight’, described as having a “bold, upright dark bronzey chocolate standard; some say shiny marone, wings a little more purple…; one of the best, if not the best, of all the very dark varieties....”

    Since then new varieties have appeared both in the old fashioned Grandiflora style and in the ruffled style of the Spencer sweet pea. Now a leading breeder of sweet peas from New Zealand, Dr Keith Hammett, has created a new one with a unique background. Keith named it ‘Almost Black’, with the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, in mind.

    “What more appropriate colour could a Kiwi want?” Keith told me. “The flowers are small and unwaved like ancestral sweet peas, which adds to the intensity of colour. They do appear black under artificial lights and when used in a vase with other colours.” They are also sweetly scented.

    “The initial cross was made twenty years ago in the 1991/1992 season (Southern Hemisphere),” said Keith. “The female parent was 'Mrs Collier' and Lathyrus belinensis was the pollen parent. The resulting hybrid was crossed with wild collected L. odoratus.

    “In subsequent seasons two further crosses were made to different sweet pea cultivars, thus restoring desirable characteristics of the modern sweet pea while preserving the unique colouring. I released it as 'Almost Black', a most appropriate name here in New Zealand especially with the World Rugby Cup in full swing.”

    You can order sweet pea ‘Almost Black’ direct from its raiser, Keith Hammett, or from these seed suppliers: Chiltern Seeds, English Sweet Peas, Nicky's Nursery, Owl's Acree Sweet Peas, Roger Parsons, Sarah Raven and Unwins Seeds.


  • Euphorbia ‘Frosted Flame’: New this year

    Graham Rice on 14 Oct 2011 at 04:48 PM

    Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Frosted Flame’, a bright and colourful new foliage plant.Variegated and coloured leaved euphorbias have caught gardeners’ imaginations in recent years as fine foliage plants as well as plants for late winter and spring flowers.

    The colour range has developed from a selection of variegated forms - some of which, unfortunately, are rather weak and difficult to grow into impressive specimens – to some which feature deep red colouring, especially in the shoot tips and in winter. Now brighter forms are being introduced and Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Frosted Flame’ is one of the brightest of all.

    In summer, its grey green foliage is edged in cream. Then as temperature cools reddish colouring starts to be added, first in the shoot tips and then lower down the plant. Our picture (above, click to enlarge) was shot in April, in May and June the plant is topped with heads of chartreuse flowers.

    Reaching about 18in/45cm high in flower, and a little less wide, this is a fine plant to grow as a specimen in a well-drained container, in a sunny but sheltered position. In a pot with a blue glaze it should look stunning. ‘Frosted Flame’ will also thrive in rich but well-drained beds and borders and, again, it appreciates sunshine.

    You can order Euphorbia ‘Frosted Flame’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Iberis Absolutely Amethyst: First in this colour

    Graham Rice on 08 Oct 2011 at 01:57 PM

    Iberis,Absolutely Amethyst,'Ib2401',Photo courtesy of Proven Winners - www.provenwinners.comWe always think of Iberis, or perennial candytuft, as white. In fact its gleaming spring flower heads set against slender dark green foliage are one of the dependable highlights of the spring garden. We’ve also had a pinkish flowered form that never really grabbed gardeners’ attention, now we have new form with bright, lavender purple flowers.

    Iberis Absolutely Amethyst ('Ib2401') is a mound forming evergreen perennial reaching 10-12in/25-30cm high and 8-10in/20-25cm across. Its leaves are narrow and rich green, and in late spring each plant is covered in flowers.

    The domed heads are made up of a large number of small flowers, opening purple in the top and slowing fading to pale lavender lower down as the flowers age. Sparks of yellow are scattered all through the flower heads as the anthers open.

    This is a drought tolerant plant, ideal at the front of a sunny raised bed where it will slowly tumble over the edge. Absolutely Amethyst is also good in gravel gardens and planted alongside a stone path where it can spread out across the edge of the stones. It will also thrive in a container.

    Absolutely Amethyst needs no special care. Simply clip off the flower heads when they’ve faded to be left with an attractive mound of green foliage.

    Iberis Absolutely Amethyst ('Ib2401') is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Clematis Princess Kate: New Texensis Group clematis

    Graham Rice on 02 Oct 2011 at 03:45 PM

    Clematis, Princess Kate,‘Zoprika’,Thorncroft. Image ©J. van Zoest B.V.There’s an increasing range of new clematis appearing on the market these days and this latest variety sets itself apart from more familiar and traditional, large-flowered types.

    Princess Kate (‘Zoprika’) is a Texensis Group clematis reaching about 10-13ft/3-4m in height and flowering from June to September. The flowers are very distinctive and are lovely both in the garden and also when cut for the house.

    Each flower is shaped rather like the blooms of lily-flowered tulips and held upright in the same way. Each is about 2.5in/6cm long and about 1.5in/4cm wide across the tip, and coloured white on the inside and reddish purple with a white edge on the outside. The tip of each flower flares back to reveal the white inside and also show off the reddish purple stamens in the heart of the flower.

    This is one of the easiest types of clematis to grow, plants are pruned by simply cutting back hard to about 10in/25cm in spring. Princess Kate is ideal growing up a trellis or arch, or trained into an early flowering shrub like a forsythia where its flowers will brighten up the shrub’s dull summer foliage.

    The hybridisation that led to the selection of Princess Kate was done in Holland in 2003 at J. van Zoest B.V this variety chosen from the resulting seedlings in 2006.

    You can order plants of Clematis Princess Kate (‘Zoprika’) from Thorncroft Clematis.