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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

  • Hollyhock ‘Halo Mixed’: New bicoloured mixture

    Graham Rice on 23 Sep 2011 at 05:47 PM

    Hollyhock 'Halo Mixed, Alcea. Image © Thompson & Morgan Most gardeners love hollyhocks. They’re quintessential cottage garden plants and while new varieties come along every few years, especially doubles, there are few that are both genuinely new and that also retain the spirit of traditional types. ‘Halo’ seems to do just that.

    The flowers of ‘Halo’ single, but all are bicolours - they all have a ring of contrasting colour round the yellow heart of the flower. The Halo Series was developed by Thompson & Morgan breeder Charles Valin whose new varieties, including Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’, have featured on this blog before. He told me how the ‘Halo’ hollyhocks came about.Hollyhock 'Halo Cream',Alcea. Image ©Thompson & Morgan



  • Buddleja Miss Ruby: New award-winner from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 18 Sep 2011 at 08:45 PM

    Buddleja,Miss Ruby,NC2003-22. Image ©www.provenwinners.comIn each of the three years of the recent Wisley trial of buddleias, visitors to the trial were invited to vote for their favourite. Miss Ruby (‘NC2003-22’) won by a mile. The RHS experts who assessed the trial agreed, they were unanimous in giving it an Award of Garden Merit. And now it’s finally available.

    This is an interesting hybrid buddleia and is the closet to a true red that we have so far. In fact the flowers are a unique, rich and vivid pink and are carried in rather fat spikes about 41/2 in/11cm long and 11/4in/3cm wide. Each spike lasts about three to four weeks.

    Reaching about 61/2ft/2m in height, and about the same width on the good Wisley soil, Miss Ruby is not too large for small gardens – some of the other entries reached an unmanageable 10ft/3m high and up to 13ft/4m wide!

    Another appealing feature of Miss Ruby is that its sets almost no seed, so the irritation of self sown seedlings coming up in the cracks in the patio paving or in the mortar of walls is largely avoided. And an experiment in dead-heading during the trial showed how dramatically Miss Ruby benefits from having the old flowers snipped off. Not only does this encourage a longer and more prolific flowering season, but the greyish foliage is fresher and more attractive too.

    Miss Ruby is a hybrid involving B. davidii, B. globosa and B. fallowiana and it was created by Dr Denis Werner of the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina where he is continuing to develop more exciting new buddleias.

    Check out the comprehensive report on the Buddleja trial.

    You can order Buddleja Miss Ruby from Gardening Express.

    Photo courtesy of Proven Winners -

  • Muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 15 Sep 2011 at 04:22 PM

    Muscari,Pink Sunrise,Hayloft Plants. Image © Visions-BVWe always think of grape hyacinths, Muscari, as coming in various shades of blue or sometimes perhaps white. Now, we have pink.

    The flowers of Muscari 'Pink Sunrise' (click the picture to enlarge), crowded into a tight spike in the same way as the more familiar blue-flowered types, are a very pale shade of pink. In fact the unopened flowers are white, as they open they turn pale rose, then as they age they mature close to white again. The result is a delightful, harmoniously coloured and very appealing spike of flowers.

    Flowering in April and May on plants abut 6-8in/15-20cm high, ‘Pink Sunrise’ makes a fine container plant, with white or pale blue violas perhaps, and sited by a door or path or gateway visitors will surely appreciate this lovely colour break. It also looks good near the front of the border, especially against a dark mulch.

    Always plant in clumps rather than scattering the bulbs more thinly, and never in rows when they will not look at all natural. In clumps the flowers will make the most impact. Give them a liquid feed every two weeks after flowering until the dark green leaves start to fade away and this will help the bulbs bulk up and flower well the following year.

    You can order Muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’: New from Australia

    Graham Rice on 10 Sep 2011 at 08:24 PM

    Savia,Wendy's Wish,new. Image ©PlantHavenThere are about nine hundred species of salvias around the world, from annuals to perennials to shrubs. So there’s are plenty of opportunities to create interesting new hybrids. And that’s exactly what Australian gardener Wendy Smith did back in 2005 when created this long flowering and drought tolerant new salvia, ‘Wendy’s Wish’.

    This is a borderline hardy salvia, probably best grown as a tender perennial plant in mixed borders and large containers. Get your order in now for delivery next spring, or buy one now and keep in protected from frost through winter.

    Reaching about 3-4ft/90cm-1.2m in height and bushing out nicely, reddish stems carry long magenta pink flowers each bursting out of a tawny to pink calyx. With between thirty five and sixty five of these vivid flowers on each tem over a long period, this is a not a plant for the faint-hearted who only grow flowers in delicate pastel shades. The flowers have a citrus scent but, strangely, not the foliage.

    ‘Wendy’s Wish’ arose as a seedling amongst plants of Salvia buchananii and what was said to be Salvia chiapensis ‘Purple Majesty’ growing in Wendy Smith’s Australian garden. Salvia buchananii is familiar to many gardeners and is thought to originate in Mexico though is not known in the wild. Salvia chiapensis ‘Purple Majesty’ is something of a mystery – the plant known as ‘Purple Majesty’ is not a variety of S. chiapensis but is itself a hybrid.

    However, setting that aside, this is a dense, bushy, and prolific new salvia flowering from summer through to the frosts.

    You can order Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Hosta ‘Captain’s Adventure’: new three-coloured variety

    Graham Rice on 05 Sep 2011 at 01:48 PM

    Hosta 'Captain's Adventure','Captain Kirk'. Image ©Heemskerk Vaste PlantenThere’s a whole series of hostas derived from the variety ‘Captain Kirk’, and they all have more or less Star Trek related names. There’s ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Voyager’ and ‘Vulcan’ – and now there’s ‘Captain’s Adventure’. I have to say, the name ‘Captain’s Adventure’ is a bit of a let down… What about ‘Deep Space Nine’ or ‘Klingon Warrior’?

    Anyway… It goes like this. First there was the bluish Hosta fortunei var. hyacinthina and from that came ‘Gold Standard’, with green edged gold leaves. This produced ‘Captain Kirk’, with a wider green margin to the heavier leaves and generally a better and more vigorous garden plant. And from ‘Captain Kirk came ‘Captain’s Adventure’.

    ‘Captain’s Adventure’ is very distinct as not only is each leaf noticeably narrower than its predecessors but each leaf features three different colours. In the centre is a yellow streak; this is bordered on each side by a narrow green zone and then the outer edges of the leaf are cream. It’s similar to its forbears in having pale lavender flowers in mid summer. Expect it to reach about 24in/60cm in width and about 40cm/14in high.

    Especially valuable as a container plant, site it by a shady pathway or door where its unusual colouring can best be appreciated.

    Found and introduced by Heemskerk Vaste Planten in Holland, you can order Hosta ‘Captain’s Adventure’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Pear Humbug: New from Ukraine

    Graham Rice on 02 Sep 2011 at 02:19 PM

    Pear Hunbug ('Pysanka') Image ©Pomona FruitsUnusual pears are becoming more popular – Asian pears, for example, are much more widely grown than they were just a few years ago. Now, from eastern Europe, comes a new pear called Humbug ('Pysanka') – and it's striped.

    As you can see from the picture (click to enlarge) each fruit - in the traditional pear shape, not round like an Asian pear - is pale green striped in pale yellow from top to bottom, with each yellow stripe stained in pink. And then the whole fruit is delicately spotted in pale-centred green spots. It's a very pretty fruit. Not only that, the young shoots are also striped.

    Originating in the Ukraine, in eastern Europe this pear is stored through the winter and then used as a table decoration at Easter to celebrate the new spring. The fruits can be eaten raw, they're delightfully sweet and juicy, or cooked and although the skin is thick, this helps the fruits store well through the winter. The tree also shows good disease resistance.

    Like most pear varieties Humbug needs a pollinator to set fruit. It's a Group C variety which means that popular varieties like 'Conference' and 'Williams' Bon Chrétien' are will make good pollinators. But remember that this does not mean that the pollinating variety must be in your own garden. If one of your neighbours has the right variety in their garden the bees will do the job and your tree will set fruit.

    You can order the pear Humbug ('Pysanka') from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.