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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

  • Chelsea Plant of the Year: The runners up

    Graham Rice on 31 May 2011 at 12:47 PM
    Chelsea, Plant of the Year,Saxifraga,Verbascum. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHS.The Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 went to Anemone 'Wild Swan', which I looked at here last time. Now, let's take a look at the two runners up. In second place, close behind Anemone 'Wild Swan', the members of the RHS plant committees voted for Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' (above left, click to enlarge) entered by Kevock Garden Plants, based south of Edinburgh.

    'Anneka Hope' is an encrusted or silver saxifrage, so called because its silver rosettes are encrusted with deposits of lime. To botanists, it belongs to the section Ligulatae. The mass of huge sprays of white flowers above neat green rosettes edged in silver is very impressive, especially as the flowers are held on red stems. The plant was at its peak for the show.

    Reaching about 12in/30cm in height, it thrives in gritty, well-drained soil, especially with some added limestone, and is ideal in a raised bed.

    'Anneka Hope' was raised by Matthew Ruane of Brynhyffryd Nursery and is a selection from his range of hybrids derived mainly from S. callosa and S. longifolia and one of a number of plants raised by Matthew Ruane marketed by Kevock Garden Plants. It is named after the granddaughter of Stella and David Rankin who run Kevock Garden Plants.

    Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' will be available from Kevock Garden Plants when sufficient stocks have been built up.

    In third place came Verbascum  'Blue Lagoon', which I wrote up here on the RHS New Plants blog back in January.

    'Blue Lagoon' is the first genuinely blue garden verbascum, with spikes of small bright blue flowers on noticeably upright plants about 75cm/30in in height. It's the result of some creative plant breeding and expert propagation under the eye of Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valin, who has created so many interesting new plants in recent years.

    Verbascum  'Blue Lagoon' is available from Thompson & Morgan. Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.

    Look out for details of more Chelsea Plant of the Year finalists here over the next few weeks, and for more extensive information about all the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year finalists in the September issue of the RHS magazine, The Plantsman.

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.


  • Anemone ‘Wild Swan’: 2011 Chelsea New Plant of the Year

    Graham Rice on 27 May 2011 at 04:58 PM

    Plant of the year,anemone,chelsea flower show. Image ©Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants (all rights reserved)The winner of the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 was announced earlier this week. Members of all the RHS specialist plant committees chose the winner from the finalists nominated by the RHS Plants Advisory Committee, I listed the twenty finalists here a few days ago. The winner was a lovely new hardy perennial, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’.

    Reaching about 16-18in/40-45cm high, and blooming from May to November, each pure white flower is shaded and banded with blue on the backs. The result is that, in morning and evening when the flowers nod and half close, the blue backs are revealed, then for the rest of the day the 2-3in/5-7.5cm pure white flowers open wide.

    It grows best in partial shade in humus-rich soil where it would look lovely in a drift after earlier flowering shade plants have passed their peak.

    ‘Wild Swan’ was selected from a group of seedlings derived from five or six different parents which included Anemone rupicola. The precise parentage is difficult to pin down but involves both early and late flowering types. ‘Wild Swan’ was chosen as the pick of a small group of seedlings by Elizabeth MacGregor at her nursery in Kirkcudbright, between Dumfries and Stranraer in south west Scotland, where it has been on trial for ten years.

    Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ is available for delivery next year from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, who entered the pant for the Chelsea Plant of the Year award, from Elizabeth MacGregor’s nursery, and also from Hayloft Plants.


  • Chelsea Plant of the Year winner

    Graham Rice on 24 May 2011 at 12:32 PM
    Chelsea,Plant of the Year,Graham Rice

    This year's Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award has been won by Anemone 'Wild Swan', raised by Elizabeth MacHregor and entered by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. Second place went to Saxifraga ‘Anneka Hope’ (above centre) bred by Matthew Ruane and available from Kevock Garden Plants, and Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’ (above right) bred and available from Thompson & Morgan was third.

    “This year’s competition was extremely interesting with a great range of new plants,” said Raymond Evison, Chairman of the Plant Advisory Committee. “The award has been given to a marvellous performing new perennial plant. Not only does it exhibit a long flowering habit but it is also an exciting flower.”

    “I am absolutely thrilled that ‘Wild Swan’ has been voted plant of the year,” says Jim Gardener, Director of Horticulture RHS. “This plant is going to be a great addition to the boarder with its subtle shades and longevity of flowering.”

    I'll be looking at these plants, and some of the other finalists, here on my RHS New Plants blog over the coming weeks.

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.


  • Australian irises: New at Chelsea from Claire Austin Hardy Plants

    Graham Rice on 20 May 2011 at 01:34 PM

    Iris,Claire Austin,'Louisa's Song','Spice Lord','Wearing Rubies',Chelsea. Images ©Claire Austin.

    Irises are a regular feature at the Chelsea Flower Show and this year Claire Austin expects to have ten new tall beared irises including three from top Australian iris breeder Barry Blythe.

    On her blog post about her latest visit to Barry’s farm in Victoria, Claire says: “Barry has become one of the world’s most important iris breeders…. his irises always break the accepted mould of what is currently accepted. They are always interesting…”

    Barry’s family has been in the nursery trade for five generations, he’s related to the Prichards who gave us Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety' and Geranium ‘Russell Prichard’, and he specialises in irises in unusual colour combinations.

    If the weather is kind, Claire expects to have ‘Louisa’s Song’, 'Spice Lord' and ‘Wearing Rubies’ at the show. All have noticeably ruffled flowers.

    The strongly scented ‘Louisa’s Song’ features unusually large, heavily ruffled flowers in rosy purple with paler standards and a matching pale ring around the falls. The beard sparks in orange in the throat.

    'Spice Lord' displays ruffled cinnamon brown standards, and chocolate brown falls centered in white with attractive stippling in the zone where the two shades meet. It also, I’m told, has a chocolate scent.

    Finally, the rather sultry ‘Wearing Rubies’ has pinkish purple standards and rich velvety textured burgundy falls highlighted by an orange beard.

    Look out for these, and Claire’s other new irises, see them on her Chelsea Flower Show exhibit in the Great Pavilion (stand GPE6), fingers crossed. To see more of Barry Blyth’s irises, take a look at his latest introductions on his website.

    You can order the irises ‘Louisa’s Song’, 'Spice Lord' and ‘Wearing Rubies’ from Claire Austin Hardy Plants

  • Lilium ‘Lankon’: New at Chelsea from H. W. Hyde

    Graham Rice on 18 May 2011 at 03:58 PM
    ”Lily,lilium,lankon,longiflorum,lankongense. Images:=The lily displays at the Chelsea Flower Show are some of the most colourful and stylish of all, and there are always good new plants on display. This year, H. W. Hyde & Son will have two rather special new features.

    Of particular interest, they have the first hybrid between two lovely species, Lilium longiflorum and L. lankongense. Lilium longiflorum, the Easter Lily, (left in the picture, click to enlarge) grows wild on a number of Japanese islands. It’s the familiar and widely grown fragrant trumpet flowered white lily. Lilium lankongense (right in the picture, click to enlarge) comes from Yunnan in China, and carries open heads of rosy red, turk’s-cap flowers which darken with age and which are generously spotted.

    Richard Hyde says that this is the first hybrid between these two species that is available to gardeners. Until recently it was not possible to raise seedlings from a cross between these species, but using laboratory techniques it has now been accomplished. It was raised in Holland by Erwin Hoogendijk.

    ‘Lankon’ carries features from both parents and the shape of the flowers is intermediate. It is also nicely fragrant, easy to grow reaching about 4ft/1.2m and the flowers are carried on strong stems.

    Accompanying this breakthrough hybrid will be a range of lilies developed by amateur breeders, including the vivid pink ‘Julie Fowlis’, named for the Scottish singer. This is a vigorous hybrid – an Oriental lily crossed with a Trumpet lily and the result crossed again with an Oriental lily. This results in large flowers, exceptional fragrance and enthusiastic vigour.

    Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show can buy bulbs of both these lilies from the H. W. Hyde & Son exhibit in the Great Pavilion (stand GPE12) if reservations are made in advance, by email to H. W. Hyde and Son. If stocks last, they will also be available at other shows. For more details visit the H. W. Hyde & Son website.


  • Dianthus Fire Star: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 11 May 2011 at 01:36 PM
    “Dianthus,Whetman,FireFor many years now Whetman Pinks, in Devon, have been the leading producers of new pinks – in the world. They’ve developed new pinks in a range of styles, from traditional types to miniatures and Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’), one of the best of their recent introductions, is now available.

    It was outstanding in the continuing trial of pinks at the RHS Garden at Wisley, planted in 2006 and gaining an Award of Garden Merit in 2009. I noticed it in 2007 when its deep, two-tone red colouring stood out.

    The flowers are dark scarlet red with a deeper red eye shading to a touch of purple deep in the throat. The edges of the petals are prettily toothed. The flowers open from early May and continue through the summer, set against well-coloured grey-green foliage. The flowers are, of course, attractively scented.

    The plants are vigorous but neat and compact, not reaching more than 13in/32cm, even on Wisley’s rich soil. They would be ideal at the front of a sunny border, or in containers.

    Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’) is was selected in 2000 from plants grown from seed collected from an earlier Whetman variety, ‘Neon Star’. You could say that is a larger, brighter and more vigorous version of the old favourite ‘Fusilier’.

    You can order plants of Dianthus Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’) from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas': New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 07 May 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Filipendula.Red Umbrellas. Image: ©Plant Delights NurseryIn the end, I decided to continue my look at the plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries with just one more: Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas'. Top of the list was Actaea pachypoda ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and then Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'.

    This is an impressive and very hardy perennial which combines attractive foliage (left, click to enlarge) with colourful heads of flowers.

    Both new and mature growth is boldly veined in red, sometimes more fully than seen in the picture. The colour stands out brightly against the paler younger growth then, as the leaves mature and develop, both colours darken to give a deep red pattern on dark green leaves. In summer the flowers emerge, flattish rose pink heads bringing a whole new season of colour (below, click to enlarge).

    Filipendula,Red Umbrellas. Image: ©Bjørnar OlsenHere I should say that I have revised this blog post and changed it from when I first posted it. Soon after I originally posted this piece I received an email from Norwegian plantsman and nurseryman Bjørnar Olsen who gave me the full story about this plant. This is the great thing about blogging. If you get it wrong, or don’t tell the full story, someone will put you right. Thanks Bjørnar.

    It was not, he tells me, “developed in Holland” as I first thought. This plant has been passed around and sold from Norwegian and Swedish nurseries for years,” he told me, “most commonly under the erroneous name "Filipendula palmata 'Nana'", although I'm almost positive it's pure F. multijuga. No one seems to know where it originated, but my own guess would be that it's something brought back by a Scandinavian botanical garden from a collection trip to Japan, there were several during the second half of the last century.”

    He also tells me that it's happy in shade, even in southern Norway where the sun is less powerful than farther south, and that it's also relatively drought resistant. Expect it to reach about 16in/40cm in height. And it looks to me like a great plant.

    You can order Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Thank you for images to:
    Foliage: Plant Delights Nursery
    Flowers: Bjørnar Olsen