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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

  • New perennials from a new supplier

    Graham Rice on 29 Dec 2011 at 05:34 PM

    Five new perennials from Simply Perennials. Image ©Simply Seeds and Plants
    A new supplier of hardy perennials has just launched, with a whole range of new varieties. Simply Perennials is the latest in a series of opportunities provided by Simply Seeds and Plants. They began with sweet pea plants, added fuchsias, continued with chrysanthemums and vegetable plants – and now they’ve added hardy perennials.

    But instead of starting with perennials which are the popular favourites, the varieties we all know and which you can buy anywhere, they’ve partnered with the American supplier of new perennials, Terra Nova Nurseries, who create more new varieties of perennials each year than anyone else.

    Almost half the initial batch of thirty four varieties are new to Britain. And this is just the start, there are more on the way. In fact I’ve just noticed that they’ve added more since I began writing this piece!

    There are new echinaceas, new kniphofias, an impressive new hosta, bright new penstemon, rudbeckia, coreopsis….

    Those in the picture (click to enlarge) are:
    Corydalis curviflora ‘Blue Heron’ (left) has very dark blue flowers, on bright red stems with dusky blue-green foliage.
    Echinacea ‘Quills and Thrills’ (centre, top) has pink rays, which are darker at the base and flatten out at the tip. Great for cutting.
    Coreopsis ‘Ruby Frost’ (centre, bottom) has white tipped, deep red flowers on tall, prolific and bushy plants.
    Kniphofia ‘Papaya Popsicle’ (right, top) has these vivid spikes – this is one plant, not cut stems from three!
    Viola ‘Heartthrob’ (right, bottom) has these beautifully marked flowers and small pink flowers in spring.

    You can take a look the full range at Simply Perennials from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Broccoli ‘Rioja’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 20 Dec 2011 at 04:33 PM

    Sprouting broccoli 'Rioja'- a new multiseason variety. Image © Elsoms SeedsSprouting broccoli is not a crop that excites every vegetable gardener but, as with so many traditional vegetables, new developments have made sprouting broccoli much more appealing to the home veg grower.

    ‘Rioja’ is a new bred-in-Britain, purple sprouting broccoli which is more flexible in its cropping season, an ideal feature for home gardeners who can make two or three sowings from one packet of seed for crops at different seasons.

    Keeley Watson of Elsoms Seeds in Lincolnshire, who developed this variety, told me: “Rioja could be planted at the same time as ‘traditional’ purple sprouting broccoli, in July and August, and it will produce spears in late February and March. It can also produce spears in October and November from earlier plantings but the spears are not of such a high quality.”

    Another valuable feature of ‘Rioja’ is that its spears are noticeably outward facing which made them especially easy to pick and they also snapped off easily. The plants are also less tall, at about 28in/70cm, so are more manageable in the garden and less likely to fall over under the weight of snow, but their early vigour is just right for cropping so soon after winter.

    By the way, broccoli not only contains more Vitamin C than oranges, but is also a significant source of glucosinolates, compounds which help liver function and are also said to have anti-cancer properties.

    Seed of sprouting broccoli ‘Rioja’ is available from Plants of Distinction.


  • Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’: New from Simply Fuchsias

    Graham Rice on 16 Dec 2011 at 04:08 PM

    Fuchsia 'Pour Menneke' is a trailing Triphylla fuchsia for baskets. Image ©Simply Fuchsias.Fuchsias are amongst the most impressive of summer flowers for hanging baskets but many trailing varieties tend to have big and blowsy flowers which can be battered by the weather. ‘Pour Menneke’ (left, click to enlarge) is more resilient – and more stylish.

    This is a Triphylla fuchsia, with three leaves at each leaf joint instead of the usual two. Another feature of the Triphyllas is that the flowers are long, slender and pendulous and are gathered in prolific clusters.

    The tall and upright ‘Thalia’, with its bright orange flowers, is the most familiar fuchsia of this type but is not suitable for baskets. Richard Massey of Simply Fuchsias from Simply Seeds and Plants told me: “’Pour Menneke’ has a more lax habit than ‘Thalia’ so is good in baskets and window boxes as well as in tall pots. Its flowers are approximately 50% longer and also come in a softer orange. It seems to like a sunny position.”

    In a basket ‘Pour Menneke’ develops an almost flat habit, the from reddish shoots arching over the sides. The long tubes are daintily slender and the very tip of each petal fades to pale green setting of the soft orange colouring beautifully.

    The origins of ‘Pour Menneke’ are uncertain, although it seems to have originated in Belgium. Other than that… Richard Massey found it on one of his plant hunting forays and knew he was on to a winner.

    You can order plants of Fuchsia ‘Pour Menneke’ from Simply Fuchsias from Simply Seeds and Plants. It’s only available in limited numbers this season.


  • Quince ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’: New from DT Brown

    Graham Rice on 11 Dec 2011 at 01:12 PM

    'Sibley's Patio Quince' - new dwarf variety Image © Will SibleyQuinces have been out of fashion. Perhaps because these days people don’t quite know what to do with the fruits, perhaps because some varieties can get a little large for the borders in today’s gardens. But a couple of things have happened which should help us appreciate quinces much more.

    In the December issue of The Garden Ian Hodgson has written about quinces and how to grow them, and on the RHS website Mary Berry has provided some delicious quince recipes. This is a big help. But there’s also a new variety intended for patio containers.

    ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ (left, click t enlarge) was developed by fruit grower and breeder Will Sibley who for many years has been working on fruit trees for the home gardener. Will told me: “The fruits are about the size of a tennis ball, quite round and yellow with a full bloom over the whole fruit. They are very sweet for a quince and make superb jelly or can be used in traditional fruit pie recipes.”

    The tree develops into a neat standard on a short leg and is ideal for patio containers especially as early in the season there are pinkish flowers. It remains this neat size because not only is the variety itself dwarf, but it’s also grafted on to a dwarfing rootstock so the result is a dwarf tree which also begins to crop when still young. It’s very productive too, and after only three years should be producing around fifty fruits, and ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ is also resistant to mildew. Sounds like a great combination of features.

    You can order plants of ‘Sibley’s Patio Quince’ from DT Brown.


  • Geranium ‘Havana Blues’: Long flowering new cranesbill

    Graham Rice on 06 Dec 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Geranium 'Havana Blues' - a new long-flowering hardy geranium. Image © Marco van NoortWith new hardy geraniums appearing constantly - twenty newcomers in the 2011 RHS Plant Finder alone to add to the many many hundreds already available – it’s understandable when gardeners are cautious about yet another new one.

    But when one of the world’s top breeders of new hardy geraniums introduces a new variety we should pay attention and in ‘Havana Blues’, Dutch breeder Marco van Noort looks to have a winner.

    “‘Havana Blues’ is special because it has big and nice blue flowers with dark veins,” Marco told me. “At first the plant sprouts with greenish yellow leaves and that is unusual for this type of plant. It starts to flower around May/June and doesn't stop until the first frosts come. It likes sun to half shade and grows 30-40 cm tall and 40-50 cm wide. I can't compare it with another Geranium, it’s is not a look-a-like of anything else”.

    Marco explained that every year since 1993 he has raised seedlings of forms of Geranium wallichianum and selected the very best. He is especially interested in plants with a very long flowering season and is also looking for new forms involving G. sanguineum and G. cinereum. He is also working on new varieties of echinacea, astrantia and other hardy perennials.

    Geranium ‘Havana Blues’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and is also available from Hayloft Plants.


  • Mangetout pea ‘Shiraz’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 01 Dec 2011 at 01:04 PM

    Mangetout pea 'Shiraz' has flat purple pods and is resistant to mildew. Image © ElsomsMany gardeners may find it difficult to get excited by a new variety of pea but this British-bred variety really is something new and different – and has value both as an ornamental and in the kitchen. ‘Shiraz’ (left, click to enlarge) is the first modern purple-podded mangetout pea.

    Developed in Lincolnshire by one of Britain’s top vegetable seed breeders, ‘Shiraz’ features long-lasting, flat purple pods which stay in top condition for an unusually long time on plants of a manageable size. Also, importantly, it’s resistant to powdery mildew.

    Purple-podded mangetout peas have occasionally been seen before, but the quality of the old heirloom types has been unpredictable. They’ve also been almost impossible to buy and often suffered from mildew.

    “In response to demand for unique products, we first started breeding for ‘Shiraz’ in 2000 and that was followed by eight years of painstaking breeding and testing,” said John Constable, Crop Manager at Elsoms who developed the variety. “So it is great news to finally produce a marketable variety with a quality purple pod, good plant height and yield combined with resistance to powdery mildew.”

    Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, its attractive two-tone purple and pink flowers are followed by a heavy yield of deep wine red pods whose seeds are exceptionally slow to develop so allowing the pods to remain flat and tender. First seen in a limited number of Marks & Spencer stores last year, seed is now available for the first time.

    With attractive flowers and pods, ‘Shiraz’ is one of an increasing range of vegetables that both look good and taste good. “They're a very striking colour, really eye-catching and pretty,” said Colin Randel of Thompson & Morgan who are listing ‘Shiraz’ for the first time. “They're best enjoyed raw or in stir fry, where their colour will really stand out. They might even help kids think vegetables are a bit more fun,” he said.

    Seed of mangetout pea ‘Shiraz’ is available from Thompson & Morgan.