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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

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  • New Plant Award winners

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2011 at 06:25 PM

    Dianthus,memories,Alzheimer. Image ©GardenPhotos.comNinety three plants were entered for New Plant Awards at this week's second annual National Plant Show. The judges picked a winner, and the visitors also picked their favourite.

    The Best in Show award went to Dianthus 'Memories'. This pure white garden pink was raised by Whetman Pinks in Devon, the world's leading breeders of new Dianthus, and is said to be one of the most fragrant they've ever raised. Unfortunately, after two and a half days in an exhibition hall it had entirely lost its fragrance, as had the other scented plants in the competition.

    The pure white flowers are fully double, the edges of the petals are prettily drilled, and the flowers keep coming from April to September above blue-grey leaves. A charitable contribution of 25p from each plant sold will go to the Alzheimer’s Society to raise money and awareness.

    Dahlia,Mystic Haze,new plant. Image ©GardenPhotos.comThe visitors voted for a different plant, Dahlia Mystic Haze ('Dark Side of the Moon') came out top. This is a very dark leaved dahlia with large single flowers. The foliage is a slightly glossy mahogany black in colour while the flowers are orange to apricot in colour with yellow highlights; new flowers are more highly yellow tinted.

    Mystic Haze was raised in New Zealand by the eminent dahlia breeder Keith Hammett who has produced an impressive range of dark leaved dahlias.

    The National Plant Show is a show for the horticultural trade and stocks of these new varieties are still being propagated. Both plants should be on sale in nurseries and garden centres next year but I thought you'd like to get an advance look at them.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Five final finalists

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2011 at 08:44 PM

    Streptocarpus, Phalaenopsis, RHS, Chelsea, Plant of The Year, Brachyscome, Sarracenia, Nepenthes. Images © Carol Sheppard/RHSThis is the last of my looks at the finalists for the 2011 Plant of The Year award, given at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, with four indoor plants and a bright container plant.

    From Australia comes the neat and bushy Brachyscome 'Magenta Delight', the first of its kind in such a vivid shade of magenta pink. The latest in fifteen years of development of brachyscomes, it was created by RHS Veitch Memorial Medal holder Roger Elliot. It's a prolific plant to hang over the edge of container anywhere in a sunny position.

    Named in honour of Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, Nepenthes 'Princess' is a hybrid pitcher plant developed in the Sri Lankan nursery of Rob Cantley of Borneo Exotics. He crossed two species he'd collected in the wild, legally of course, and selected this plant from the resulting seedlings for its bright red-lipped pitchers which are spotted in red. 'Princess' can be grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill but appreciates humid conditions.

    Developed in Taiwan, Phalaenopsis Ming - Hsing Eagle represents the increasingly popular large flowered, pastel coloured phalaenopsis with the delicate rosy pink patterning in its petals being especially appealing.

    Sarracenia 'Johnny Marr' was developed at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants. A hybrid made in 1999, the plant first flowered in 2003 and was selected for colour, its vigour and the fact that its pitchers are so long lasting. The pitchers are very striking in colour, a bright copper shade in spring maturing to dark burgundy later in the season. Named for the guitarist formerly with The Smiths and The Cribs.

    Finally, another streptocarpus from Dibleys whose 'Harlequin Blue' was the winner of the inaugural Plant of The Year award last year. 'Sioned' flowers for most of the year, its creamy booms boldly patterned in magenta pink with orange tones in the throat. A good windowsill plant, it is best kept slightly dry.

    Click on the links below to see posts on the other finalists:
    The Winner
    The two runners up
    Heucherella and Lewisia finalists
    Three lily finalists
    Three container plant finalists
    Two shrubs and an ornamental grass

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


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Three more finalists

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2011 at 07:19 PM

    RHS,Plant of The Year,Chelsea,Rhododendron,Hydrangea,Uncinia. Image © Carol Sheppard/RHS.Continuing my run down of all the finalists for the 2011 Plant of The Year award, given at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, we come to shrubs and an ornamental grass (above, click to enlarge).

    Hydrangea Avantgarde ('Hedi') is a traditional mophead hydrangea – but with three special qualities. First of all the flower heads, and also the leaves, are unusually large so the impact is impressive. Also, the flowers change colour intriguingly as the age, opening white, they mature to pink (blue on acid soils) then finally to green. Finally, other special feature of Avantgarde is that it not only flowers in the usual hydrangea season, but also flowers again later in the season.

    From one of the world's leading rhododendron hybridisers, Hans Hachmann, comes 'Rabatz'. The culmination of a breeding programme begun as long ago as the 1970s, 'Rabatz' features clusters of good deep red flowers which open wide to show off their delicate dark freckles. In this variety, unusually, that rich colouring is combined with a cast iron constitution, 'Rabatz' will take colder winter temperatures than other varieties in a similar shade.

    Finally, a very striking evergreen ornamental grass discovered in New Zealand. I wrote it up here back in February. Uncinia rubra Everflame ('Belinda's Find') is a colourfully variegated form of the familiar U. rubra found by the dispatch manager of a wholesale nursery near Auckland. Its purplish green foliage is brightly striped in pink shades and it keeps its colour all year in sun or light shade as long as the soil is not too dry.

    Click on the links below to see posts on the other finalists:
    The Winner
    The two runners up
    Heucherella and Lewisia finalists
    Three lily finalists
    Three container plant finalists

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



  • Chelsea Plant of The Year finalists: Three container plants

    Graham Rice on 15 Jun 2011 at 01:18 PM

    Chelsea,Plant of The Year,Begonia,Lobelia,Petunia. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHS.Some creative plant breeding went into the development of the three container plants (above, click to enlarge) chosen as finalists for his year's Chelsea Plant of The Year.

    Begonia 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' was developed by Charles Valin at Thompson & Morgan, who also produced the third placed Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. His aim was to add fragrance to the very popular trailing 'Illumination Apricot Shades' and he achieved this using a plant selected from the well-scented 'Aromatics' with salmon pink flowers and a plant chosen from the less widely grown 'Niagara Yellow Red'. After four years and growing almost 4,000 seedlings 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' is the result.

    The flowers are fully double, and can be quartered almost like an old-fashioned rose. The petals are light apricot with an orange reverse, and the fragrance is a sweet rose and honey scent with notes of citrus.

    Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' is probably the most dramatic of the recent basket lobelias intended to be raised from cuttings rather than seed. These cuttings-raised types tend to be more resilient in dry conditions, more intensely bushy and have larger flowers than the familiar seed-raised types.

    'Waterfall Blue Ice' features brilliant blue flowers, each with a large bright mark at the centre. The contrast is bolder and brighter than in other bicoloured lobelias. The plants have a very bushy, semi-trailing habit.

    Finally, a genuine innovation – the world's first black petunia. I wrote it up on my RHS New Plant blog in October of last year.

    From Ball Horticultural in the USA, who also developed Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice',  Black Velvet ('Balpevac') is a semi-trailing petunia with flowers which really are absolutely black – not purple or crimson – although the backs of the petals do show some purple tints.

    Derived in part from a lime-green flowered petunia found on a small nursery in Minnesota – yes, really – this is a neat and compact plant for pots and window boxes rather than hanging baskets.

    Look out for Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' and Petunia Black Velvet ('Balpevac') in garden centres now. All three will be available from mail order suppliers for next season.

    You can find details of the winner, the two runners up, and two other batches of other shortlisted plants here on my RHS New Plants blog. And look out for a more detailed account of every shortlisted plant in the September issue of The Plantsman.

    Thank you to Carol Shppard of the RHS for the images.

  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Three lily finalists

    Graham Rice on 10 Jun 2011 at 03:28 PM

    lily,Chelsea,Plant of The Year,H W Hyde. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHSContinuing my look at all the plants shortlisted for the 2011 Chelsea Plant Of The Year award, we come to three new lilies all entered by H. W. Hyde and Son.

    'Firebolt' (above left, click to enlarge) is a new Oriental hybrid lily from Holland. Bred as a cut flower, its sultry deep red flowers are unusual in their rich colouring and are carried in elegant, well-balanced heads on extra strong stems. Set off by orange anthers, each petal is deep red at the edges and a slightly fierier red in the centre.

    'Lankon' (above centre, click to enlarge) is the world's first hybrid between the familiar Easter lily, L. longiflorum from Japan, and the Chinese L. lankongense to become available to gardeners. I wrote it up a few weeks ago here on my RHS New Plants blog. New techniques, and persistence, have led to the creation and availability of this hybrid which combines the vigour and pure white colouring of L. longiflorum with the delicate speckling of L. lankongense.

    Finally 'Julie Fowlis' (above right, click to enlarge), an Oriental lily crossed with a Trumpet lily and the result crossed back to Oriental lily. Named for the Scottish folk singer of whom the Dutch breeder is a big fan, its large very well scented, dark vivid pink flowers are a little darker towards the centre of each petal and towards the base. Especially easy to grow in any rich but well drained soil, although developed as a cut flower lily it will also thrive in the garden.

    All three lilies -  'Firebolt', 'Lankon' and 'Julie Fowlis' - are available from H. W. Hyde & Son.

    You can find details of the winner of the Chelsea Plant of The Year award, the two runners up, and other shortlisted plants here on my RHS New Plants blog. And look out for a more detailed account of every shortlisted plant in the September issue of The Plantsman.

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


  • Chelsea Plant of the Year: Heucherella and Lewisia finalists

    Graham Rice on 05 Jun 2011 at 04:43 PM
    Plant of The Year,Heucherella,Lewsisia. Images © Carol Sheppard/RHSThe Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 went to Anemone 'Wild Swan', which I looked at here recently, and last time I took a look at the two runners up – Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' and Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. Now let's see some of the other finalists.

    Lewisia 'Little Mango' (above, click to enlarge) is the latest in a series of compact, easy-to-grow lewisias created in Germany by Jelitto Perennial Seeds, it was entered for the award by D'Arcy and Everest. Georg Uebelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Perennial Seeds, explained. “I was first introduced to Lewisia ‘Little Plum’ at Inshriach Alpine Plants at least twenty years ago. We first bred that true from seed, and later ‘Little Peach’ and crosses with these and ‘Pinkie’ and other fine lewisias resulted in exciting new colors. Breeding these true from seed is a challenge but can and will be done."

    'Little Mango' is the third in the series, and he also confirmed that all have proved to be excellent garden plants and do not rot at the base or suffer from rust as many other lewisias do.

    Plantagogo had two new heucherellas from America amongst the finalists. These are hybrids between the often sun-tolerant Heuchera and the shade loving Tiarella and come in some unexpected foliage colours. ‘Solar Power’ features yellow leaves patterned in red and turning darker in autumn and is wider than it is tall, 50cm/20in wide but just 12in/30cm high.

    ‘Brass Lantern’ makes a much larger plant, with the same spread but twice the height, with summer foliage in glossy gold with a brassy sheen and reddish tones, and becoming richer and deeper in colour later in the year. Both were bred in Oregon by Janet Egger of Terra Nova Nurseries who's created a wide range of perennials including new heucheras, tiarellas, pulmonarias, corydalis, agastaches and campanulas.

    You can order plants of Lewisia 'Little Mango' from D'Arcy and Everest

    You can order plants of x Heucherella 'Brass Lantern' from Plantagogo.

    You can order plants of x Heucherella 'Solar Power' from Plantagogo.