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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

  • Headlines from the new RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 30 Apr 2011 at 02:29 PM

    Iris,Rio Rojo,Claire Austin, Image: ©Claire Austin.Today, in my last piece highlighting the plants new to the latest edition of the RHS Plant Finder, I’m taking a step back to view the bigger picture.

    In recent weeks I’ve featured the five plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and finally the fifth most popular is Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'. I’ll be picking more of the most interesting and significant newcomers over the next few months but now I’m taking a broader look.

    So which genera are the most popular overall, which feature the most new introductions?

    Of the 3,508 new entries in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder (up from 3,434 last year) there are 237 new irises (199 last year), with Claire Austin Hardy Plants leading the way. Many of the 210 new primulas (111 last year), most of which are auriculas, come from the Welsh auricula specialist Les Allen whose nursery is new in the Plant Finder this year. Mickfield Hostas and Bali-Hai Nursery Hosta,Lakeside,Paisley print,Bali-Hai, Image: ©Bali-Hai Nurserymake big contributions to the 149 new hostas (71 last year) while another Plant Finder newcomer from Wales, Abacus Nurseries, has played a big part in the 131 new dahlias included (55 last year). Last year’s leader was hemerocallis with an amazing 400 new arrivals (just 74 this year).

    Janet Cubey, Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Plant Finder, says: “We’re used to seeing high numbers of new introductions of hostas and irises each year, reflecting the amount of breeding work in these areas, particularly in America, but it’s interesting to see the rise in primula and, especially, dahlia introductions this year. This reflects the increase in demand for dahlias from the gardening public and highlights the growing popularity of these flowers that we’ve seen at our shows, including the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in the last couple of years.”

    You can order the new RHS Plant Finder from the RHS online store, or find it free online.


  • Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior': New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 27 Apr 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Echinacea'Magnus,Superior,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.I’m continuing my look at the plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and today it’s Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'.

    Back in the 1990s the RHS ran a trial of echinaceas at Wisley. Most of those raised from seed were poor, in particular the plants were very variable so when they flowered you never knew quite what to expect. But one stood out, ‘Magnus’, and it was the only one to be given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

    Now, twenty five years after it’s original introduction, it’s been upgraded. Georg Uebelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Seeds, told me about ’Magnus Superior’.

    “We have been working on an improvement of ‘Magnus’ for over ten years,” he said. “When ‘Magnus’ became the Perennial Plant of the Year in the United States in 1998, demand for seed multiplied ten times from when it was introduced back in 1985 and demand increased again in 2003 with the AGM. We could not keep up with production and this caused other seed houses to produce seed of lesser quality but still with the name ‘Magnus’. As every one knows it’s our variety, we received a lot of the complaints.

    “We did everything we could to fight this, to keep the ethics at high a standard and not let the money do the talking. So one big reason to introduce ‘Magnus Superior’ is to set the standard again. We will be discontinuing “regular” ‘Magnus’ in a couple of years,’ said Georg, “and will only supply ‘Magnus Superior’.”

    '‘Magnus Superior’ features slightly darker carmine red flowers, even more consistent growth, larger cones in the centre of the flower, and all purple stems (‘Magnus’ had a few plants with green stems).

    Seed of Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior' was available from Jelitto Perennial Seeds last year, now plants raised from this seed are available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’: New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 20 Apr 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Chasmanthium,River Mist,Plant Finder,RHS. Image ©ItSaul Plants

    I'm continuing my look at plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’ and today it’s Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’.

    Chasmanthium latifolium, sometimes called Northern sea oats or oat grass,  is a popular ornamental grass grown for its attractive, oat-like sprays of flowers, its broad foliage which develops bronze tones in autumn and its ability to thrive in the shade.

    ‘River Mist’ (click the image to enlarge) is a new variegated form with its broad foliage striped along its length in white, the leaves often emerge almost entirely white, and develop green stripes as they mature. The late summer flower heads are also distinct, being silver in colour rather than the usual green.

    Reaching about 30-36in/75-90cm in height with a spread of 24-36in/60-90cm, in general it resembles an elegant and extremely refined bamboo – but without the all-too-vigorous drawbacks of many bamboos. And with its tolerance of shade it makes a fine but manageable specimen, creating a bright splash in the shade garden where it looks good with other shade plants, in particular blue leaved hostas. Its flower heads turn coppery in the autumn and can be dried for the winter.

    ‘River Mist’ also makes a fine container plant and, as well as thriving in light shade, will also grow in sun in soil that does not dry out.

    This variegated form was found as a single plant amongst five hundred green leaved plants growing in pots on a nursery in Georgia, USA in July 2004.

    You can order plants of Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Erodium ‘Freedom’: New in the 2011/2012 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 17 Apr 2011 at 04:31 PM

    Erodium,Freedom,Future,Darwin. Image ©FuturePlants.comContinuing my look at plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’ and this week it’s the dwarf and prolific sun-lover Erodium ‘Freedom’.

    One year old plants reach just over 10in/25cm in height, and develop a tight crown with the foliage also spreading out to just over 10in/25cm in width after twelve months. Each prettily dissected dark green leaf is split into nine triangular leaflets and makes a fine background for the flowers.

    Carried on top of the plant from May to October, flowers are gathered in a mass of clusters with about eight blooms in each. Individual flowers are just over an inch/2.5cm across, pale pink in colour with magenta veins and a dark blotch at the base of the upper two petals which are also more brightly veined. Expect the plant to be covered in flowers.

    Erodium ‘Freedom’ is happiest in full sun and a well drained soil and is ideal at the front of a sunny border, in a raised bed or even in a large trough.

    It was selected in The Netherlands as part of an erodium breeding programme. Seed was collected from an uncommon Erodium hybrid, ‘France Choice’, pollinated by an unnamed Erodium hybrid and this plant chosen from the resulting seedlings.

    Erodium ‘Freedom’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’: New in the 2011/2012 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2011 at 01:59 PM

    Geranium,Midnight,Clouds,Klinkhamer. Image ©



  • New Plant Finder now out

    Graham Rice on 11 Apr 2011 at 07:10 PM

    RHS,PlantFinder,2011/2012Yes, the new edition of one of the most important garden books ever published, the RHS Plant Finder, is now out – both in its print edition and online.

    This – I hardly need remind you – is the book that does two very important things. Firstly, it tells you which nurseries stock which plants. In this new edition there are 69,972 plants stocked by 566 nurseries! So whatever plant you’re looking for, the RHS Plant Finder tells you who sells it. And this latest edition contains 3,507 new entries! Plenty of material for this blog!

    It’s also the most comprehensive reference to correct names of garden plants published anywhere – in the world. The team of RHS botanists, and their contacts all over the world, cautiously update the names as botanical science advances. All are carefully cross-referenced, of course, and in the online version all the plants that ever featured in previous editions are also included making it uniquely comprehensive.

    Need I say more? Yes – don’t rely on an old edition, it’s guaranteed out of date. You'll get the plant names wrong and different nurseries may now sell the plants you want.

    You can buy the print edition of the RHS Plant Finder at a discount from the RHS online shop.

    And you can also check the online edition of the RHS Plant Finder. This is free to anyone, an invaluable free service from the RHS.


  • Penstemon 'Margarita BOP': New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 05 Apr 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Penstemon,Margarita BOP,Las Pilitas Nursery. Image used with permission of (all rights reserved) Hayloft Plants are well known for their comprehensive penstemon collections but the vast majority of them have been raised close to their Worcestershire nursery. Now, they’ve introduced a prolific, but more dwarf, and more spreading variety discovered in California.

    Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' reaches 18-14in/45-60cm in height, with a similar spread, and from late spring into late autumn is covered with spikes of sky blue flowers which take on more purplish tones as they mature. It’s ideal in gravel, or tumbling down a low bank or over a low wall.

    It was found in the early 1980s by Bert Wilson of California’s Las Pilitas Nursery, the name 'Margarita BOP' is a combination of "Margarita" in reference to Santa Margarita, California, where Las Pilitas Nursery is located, and the acronym BOP for "Bottom Of Porch", where the chance seedling was discovered.

    On his nursery’s website Bert Wilson explains: “It is a hybrid between Penstemon heterophyllus and Penstemon laetus. Every year it would flower and be gorgeous, clear sky blue, fading to purple, at the bottom of our front porch. We've never watered it nor maintained it. Every year we talked about how beautiful, neat, clean it was. The bicycles, skateboards and dogs had run over it tens of times but it still looked good at the Bottom Of the Porch, it still looked young after 7-10 years.”

    The original plant only died, after 14-18 years, when it was covered in 2in/5cm of cement during renovations!

    Happy in any sunny and well-drained site, this is a remarkably tough plant. It’s drought and heat tolerant, but also hardy down to -12C/10F. If it can take these conditions at Las Pilitas Nursery, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it will thrive in Britain as long as the soil is not too wet.

    You can order Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' from Hayloft Plants.