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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

  • Dahlia 'Twyning's Revel': Dark leaves and vibrant flowers

    Graham Rice on 26 Nov 2011 at 05:45 PM

    Dahlia 'Twyning's Revel', a vivid new dark leaved dahlia. Image © (all rights reserved)Dark-leaved dahlias have become increasingly popular recently, and a number of new ones have appeared this year. One of the most striking is 'Twyning's Revel'.

    Reaching about 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m tall, with finely divided, almost ferny, dark foliage 'Twyning's Revel' makes a bold impression from early in the season. Then in summer and autumn, right through to the frosts, the plant is covered in vibrant single flowers.

    Each flower has about twelve pointed petals, each a lovely shade perhaps best described as coral orange then fading streakily to yellow around the dark-centred orange eye. Occasionally a petal may be slightly malformed, and this was perhaps why this variety was denied an Award of Garden Merit - it came close. The assessment panel judging the Dahlia trial in 2009 noted its masses of flowers held just above the foliage and also remarked that the flowers, stems and foliage created a lovely combination. It was also voted joint favourite amongst visitors to the trial.

    In very rich conditions the flowers may be slightly masked by foliage which can become too lush, but the prolific flowering and the unique flower colouring set against that elegant dark foliage make this a really special dahlia.

    It was raised in Cornwall by Mark Twyning, who’s developed a range of varieties all with his name as the prefix coupled with a brand of chocolate or dessert. His best known is the white ‘Twyning’s After Eight’, also with dark foliage.

    Mark created ‘Twyning’s Revel’ back in 2007 by crossing ‘Magenta Star’, with single magenta flowers and dark foliage, and ‘Karma Fuchisana’, a pink and orange, green-leaved Decorative dahlia from Holland.

    You can read more about Mark Twyning and his work with dahlias in the September 2010 edition of The Garden.

    Dahlia ‘Twyning’s Revel’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Marigold ‘Kees Orange’: New for fiery summer borders

    Graham Rice on 21 Nov 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Tall African Marigold 'Kees Orange'. Image © Mr Fothergills SeedsWe know that African marigolds can be some of the most vivid of plants. The problem is that so many of them have been modified by plant breeders into such short, dumpy and inelegant plants.

    This has been done partly because they believe gardeners are only interested in dwarf plants and partly because if plants are dwarf, growers can fit more shelves on to those vertical trolleys they use to deliver plants to the garden centre.

    But integrating plants like footstools into today’s mixed borders is difficult, they just look so out of place. So the arrival of ‘Kees Orange’ (left, click to enlarge), which reaches about 2ft/60cm, is very welcome especially as it’s such a rich colour.

    The flowers are about 2in/5cm across, rather like carnations in form, held on vigorous and well-branched plants and are far more intense in colour than other orange marigolds. Because they’re taller than most African marigolds, they will integrate well into mixed borders, and especially with other hot-coloured summer and autumn plants like cannas and dahlias.

    Treat ‘Kees Orange’ as a half hardy annual and sow seed in heat from February to April, or sow outside where they are to flower a little later; being so vigorous they should flower well outside when treated like a hardy annual and sown in May.

    ‘Kees Orange’ was developed in Holland by the prolific plant breeder Kees Sahin who developed a wide range of annual and perennial flowers. This was one of his last projects before he passed away a couple of years ago.

    You can order seed of African marigold ‘Kees Orange’ from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.


  • Kniphofia ‘Elvira’: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 16 Nov 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Kniphofia 'Elvira' is new fiery poker. Image ©Hayloft PlantsKniphofias have been catching our attention recently. The Wisley trial that was completed last year highlighted many fine plants, there were ten newcomers listed in the 2011 RHS Plant Finder and a number of new varieties from the USA should be with us next year.

    But one vividly coloured newcomer, which really does justify the old common name of red hot poker, is ‘Elvira’. As the picture reveals, its colouring is extraordinarily bright and fiery.

    Tall and upright in growth, the slender rich green foliage makes a mound about 70cm/28in high, with the upright spikes reaching to about 1m/39in. Flowering continuously from July to September, each spike carries between 70 and 100 individual flowers, each lasting last for about ten days, so in all each spike lasts about 18 days. And one important point, the dying flowers drop off leaving a clean looking spike, they don’t hang on looking brown and grubby.

    Now, the colour… Vivid hot orange, with the new flowers slightly richer and redder in colouring and the older flowers not fading too much before dropping off. So the result is a bright and harmonious mass of colour with nothing to detract from the display.

    Like all kniphofias, ‘Elvira’ enjoys a well-drained soil in full sun and dislikes wet soil in the winter.

    You can buy Kniphofia ‘Elvira’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Fourberry: More than just a new fruit

    Graham Rice on 12 Nov 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Fourberry 'Black Gem' and 'Black Pearl'- multiseason fruits from Suttons, Dobies and Lubera. Images ©SuttonsThe blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries that we grow in our gardens are all derived from different wild species of Ribes. But, in all, there are around 150 different wild Ribes and others are also well worth growing including, of course, the flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.

    Now another species comes to the fore, R. odoratum (usually grown in gardens as R. aureum) and long prized for its attractive fragrant spring flowers. Two new varieties are being launched this autumn, ‘Black Gem’ and ‘Black Pearl’, both selected from several thousand seedlings for their combination of colorful flowers, fragrance, autumn foliage colour and, of course, high quality fruit. These four features give them the common name of Fourberry.

    Developed in Switzerland by a family fruit nursery that began as long ago as 1889, their Lubera brand specialises in new fruit varieties of all kinds. Their RedLove apple was launched last year.

    In April and early May, the distinctive yellow flowers of Fourberries hang along the length of the previous year’s branches in long strings. Each has a distinctive red ring around the centre of the flower and a delightful fragrance. In summer the black berries ripen, they can be eaten fresh or used for juice or in jam. Then, finally, in autumn the foliage turns vivid red. In today’s smaller gardens, any plant that brings us four separate features at different times of year by is especially valuable.

    Both varieties reach 1.2-1.5m/4-5ft, ‘Black Gem’ has slightly smaller berries and ripens from the end of July to mid August while ‘Black Pearl, with its larger berries, ripens earlier, from mid July into early August. Grow both for the longest season.

    You can buy Fourberry ‘Black Gem’ from Suttons, and you can buy Fourberry ‘Black Pearl from Dobies.


  • Chrysanthemum: Virus-free exhibition varieties

    Graham Rice on 06 Nov 2011 at 03:51 PM

    Virus free exhibition chrysanths Images ©Chrysanthemums Direct

    This post about new plants is a little different. This time it’s not the varieties that are new but the way in which the plants are produced.

    When growers produce new plants of their exhibition chrysanthemums themselves, there tends to be a loss of vigour over the years. Often this is the result of virus infection which is transferred to healthy plants by aphids or sometimes on the knife or secateurs used to take cuttings. This infection may not produce obvious visible symptoms so reduced vigour and slow rooting can be overlooked.

    Martyn Flint at Chrysanthemums Direct, Gold Medal winners at shows all over the country again this year, recognised the problem and has worked with chrysanthemum growers to choose the top exhibitors’ varieties and produce them by micro-propagation in the laboratory. As part of this process, virus diseases are eliminated. The resulting clean and healthy plants are known as Nuclear Stock. They perform much better for the gardener and grower.

    Many many plants are now produced in the laboratory from roses to heucheras and hostas to petunias, and chrysanthemums produced for cut flowers are often propagated in this way. Now it’s the turn of exhibition varieties.

    Twenty three varieties are being produced as Nuclear Stock and will be available from January 2012. Supplies will be limited, so it pays to order early.

    Nuclear Stock of these exhibition chrysanthemums is available from Chrysanthemums Direct.

    In the picture (click to enlarge):
    Top Row (left to right): ‘Chempak Rose Purple’, ‘Courtier Apricot’, ‘John Wingfield Pink, ‘Fairweather Peach’.
    Bottom Row (left to right): ‘William Florentine’, ‘John Hughes Yellow’, ‘Roy Coopland’, ‘Lyn Johnson’


  • Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’: Supersized silver ground cover

    Graham Rice on 01 Nov 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Lamium maculatum 'Ghost', new ground cover. Image © (all rights reserved)Lamiums are valuable and easy-to-grow evergreen perennial ground covers which thrive in most shady and partially shaded places. Their green and silver, or sometimes almost entirely silvered, foliage is topped by two-lipped spring flowers in reddish or pink shades, or white. They light up dark corners and fill round the base of shrubs very effectively.

    ‘Ghost’ is a newcomer which is bigger and bolder than earlier varieties and which makes an even more effective ground cover.

    Reaching 10-12in/25-30cm in height, significantly taller than older varieties, at 1.5in/4cm the leaves are fully twice the size of the leaves of most varieties. Each leaf is almost completely silver and so the resulting mass of very bright growth smothers weeds efficiently and also hides the dying foliage of daffodils and other spring bulbs. The pinkish purple flowers, held just above the foliage, contrast effectively with the silvered background.

    As well thriving as shady places, including dry shade, ‘Ghost’ will also do well in full sun as long as the soil does not dry out. It would also make a good winter container plant which can then be planted in the garden in spring to develop to its full size.

    Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’ was discovered at Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Illinois, an American nursery well known for its new introductions.

    You can order Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.