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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

  • Skimmia ‘Temptation': new self-fertile variety

    Graham Rice on 29 Mar 2012 at 09:15 PM

    Skimmia 'Temptation' - new self fertile varietySkimmias are valuable evergreens with two seasons of interest: spring flowers and winter berries. But, mostly, they come in male and female varieties so that you need two different plants, one of each, to ensure that those bright scarlet berries are produced on just one of them.

    ‘Temptation’ is different. The plants are self-fertile, only one plant is needed for the fruit to develop, so all plants of ‘Temptation’ produce berries without another plant nearby for pollination.

    The other problem with some of the older varieties is that although they may srat small, they eventually become uncomfortably tall for many modern gardens. ‘Tempation’ is shorter, and more bushy, so makes a more effective garden plant. Its root growth is strong, unlike the other self-fertile form, S. japonica subsp. reevesiana, and its berries are a much brighter red.

    ‘Temptation’ is the result of more than twenty years of careful selection at Wageningen University in Holland where it was picked out by breeder Margaret Hop in 2005.

    ‘Temptation’ is sufficiently compact to make a good two season container plant, and also thrives in any fairly well-drained garden soil in sun or partial shade.

    You can order Skimmia ‘Temptation from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries and from Hillier Online.

    You can find out more about the shrub breeding of Margaret Hop in the June 2009 issue of the RHS magazine The Plantsman.

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  • Top plants in the new RHS Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2012 at 01:08 PM

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') - new in the 2012/2013 Plantfinder
    The new edition of the RHS PlantFinder will be out very soon and this year the most useful plant reference book of them all includes some very appealing new introductions.

    Here’s a quick look at the most popular of the new plants appearing in the RHS Plantfinder for the first time this year, these four new plants are each being introduced by seven nurseries.

    Anemone 'Wild Swan'
    This is the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year for 2011 but it’s been available only in very limited quantities for most of the time since then. It’s a lovely hybrid anemone which was a very popular winner. I wrote up Anemone 'Wild Swan' last May.

    Clematis Alaina ('Evipo 056') (below, click to enlarge)
    The latest in the Boulevard Collection from Raymond Evison, this short variety is ideal for containers. The rich pink flowers fade to pale rose.

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') (above, click to enlarge)
    A colourful variegated daphne with fragrant pink and white flowers. It looks to be a fine small garden shrub.

    Pulmonaria 'Blake's Silver'
    From Ireland comes this pink pulmonaria noted in particular for the fact that the pink flowers have hardly a hint of blue.

    Next most popular are five plants which are available from six suppliers: another clematis from Raymond Evison, a geum, a yellow Shasta daisy, a shrubby potentilla and a rose from David Austin.

    The eleven plants being listed by five suppliers include three more roses from David Austin, the two Irish primroses I wrote up here recently, two heucheras and a heucherella, and epimedium and a hydrangea.

    I’ll be looking at all these plants in more detail over the next few months.

    You can order the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder now for delivery as soon as it’s available, it’s published on April 11. The updated online version of the Plantfinder goes live soon. I’ll let you know when, check back here or follow me on Twitter.
    Clematis Alaina ('Evipo 056') - new in the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder

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  • Name-the-new-plant competition winner

    Graham Rice on 22 Mar 2012 at 01:56 PM

    Eschscholzia ‘Pacific Fire’ - named by a reader of this blogI’m delighted to announce that the winner of our competition to name Thompson & Morgan’s bright new California poppy is Radojka Harris from North Saanich, in British Columbia in Canada. Congratulations, Radojka.

    Radojka’s suggested name was ‘Pacific Fire’. Michael Perry from T&M and I especially liked the name as it combined both the flower colour, and a reference to the native habitat of the original wild California poppy along America’s Pacific coast. And I thought the name had an air of excitement about it.

    Radojka will soon be receiving her prize, and when seed becomes available everyone who entered will receive a free packet.

    Thank you everyone for your entries, there were some great names that didn't quite win.

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  • Courgette 'Sunstripe': New attractive yellow striped variety

    Graham Rice on 19 Mar 2012 at 02:22 AM

    Courgette 'Sunstripe': New attractive yellow striped variety. Image ©Thompson & MorganHere’s a lesson in the wisdom of choosing exactly the right variety.

    So many of the veg gardeners I’ve known over the years just glaze over when faced with a page and half of different courgette varieties in a catalogue or two rows of varieties on the garden centre seed rack. At least the colour of the British-bred ‘Sunstripe’ stands out - and that’s not all.

    But that colour is unique: the golden yellow fruits are brightly striped in white. The flavour and texture are both excellent, the yield is good too, though perhaps not up to the best of the green-fruited types, and you can sow from May to July for cropping from July to October. The good people at Which? Gardening tested ‘Sunstripe’ last year and harvested an average of 24 fruits from each plant. So you don’t need many plants, and the rest of the seed will keep in the back of the fridge till next year.

    Here’s another good thing: the plants are bushy, so they won’t take over the garden as some older varieties do. They’re also completely spine free, so no scratches when you’re picking them. And all the fruits are pretty much the same shape which is very helpful for some dishes.

    One final point: even the leaves have yellow markings and although some people find this disconcerting, I like a little brightness in the veg plot.

    Courgette ‘Sunstripe’ is available from Thompson & Morgan.

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  • Competition: Name this new plant

    Graham Rice on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:43 AM

    Name this new Eschscholzia from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & Morgan

    Isn’t this an amazing new California poppy? Such a wonderful fiery colour, and double too. It’s been developed by Thompson & Morgan and readers of the RHS New Plants blog have the unique opportunity to name it – and win a prize.

    Just email your suggested name (with your name and address) to twitter@Thompson-Morgan.com and if yours is chosen as the winner you’ll win £20! And everyone who enters will receive a free packet of seed when seed becomes available.

    The great thing about this new California poppy is its fiery red colouring and the fact that it’s double. [Sorry I don’t have more than this snapshot at the moment.] It’s derived from the old ‘Mission Bells’ mixture which has some double flowers but some semi-double and even a few single flowers. Being double not only makes a more substantial flower, but helps the flowers last longer.

    Michael Perry of T&M told me: “This Eschscholzia came out of a breeding program we started in 2003 with the aim of refining the double flowered seed mixture ‘Mission Bells’. We wanted to both increase the doubleness and select separate colours. We now also have a deep red and a harsh copper coming along. Both have extra double flowers.”

    T&M are introducing another new double eschscholzia in the 2012 catalogue,‘Peach Sorbet’ is a new double Eschscholzia from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & Morgan) ‘Peach Sorbet’ is a soft creamy peach shade and all the flowers are double.

    Send your name suggestion for the fiery double poppy at the top of the page (click to enlarge) to twitter@Thompson-Morgan.com (with your name and address) for the chance to win £20. Everyone who enters will received free packet.

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  • Irish primroses: New from Cotswold Garden Flowers

    Graham Rice on 13 Mar 2012 at 01:01 PM
    Two new Irish primroses: Innisfree (left) and Drumcliffe (right). Images ©Fitzgerald Nurseries
    • Exciting new series of Irish primroses
    • Dark purple bronze foliage
    • Prolific flowers in contrast or harmony
    • More colours coming


    Primroses from Ireland have always captured the imagination of gardeners. Just think of ‘Garryade Guinevere’ introduced from Co. Leitrim in the 1930s – one of the best, and best known, of all hardy primroses. Now a new series of Irish primroses is starting to appear.

    Kennedy’s Irish Primroses are the result of over thirty five years of careful selection by Joe Kennedy, originally in Co. Carlow in the south, and now in C. Antrim in the north. The first was released in Ireland last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, and now they’re available in Britain. In fact the plants are being propagated from a nursery just a short step from the Kennedy family’s original homestead in Co. Wexford.

    The plants have three things in common. The foliage of all the Kennedy’s Irish Primroses is an unusually dark purple bronze colour. The plants are prolific too, with flowers in gentle harmony or bold contrast to the foliage. And they’re tough, they’ve proved hardy in parts of the world far colder than Britain.

    The first two introductions are Drumcliff (K74’) and Innisfree (‘K72’). Drumcliff (above right, click to enlarge) has very pale lilac tinted white flowers while Innisfree (above left, click to enlarge) is deep and vivid red, and features unusually dark and glossy leaves. Both have occasionally been listed for a brief time in recent months, now they again available.

    More varieties are on the way, with yellow, white, peach and pink flowers, and another thirty six are being trialed and tested for introduction in the future.

    Primula Drumcliff (K74’) is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

    Primula Innisfree (‘K72’) is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

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  • Strawberry Toscana: Colourful flowers and tasty fruit

    Graham Rice on 08 Mar 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Strawberry 'Toscana' - tasty new strawberry with colourful flowers

    • Rosy red flowers bring colour early in the season
    • Sweet, bight red fruits are full of flavour
    • Raised from seed, so without virus diseases
    • Everbearing, so produces fruits all summer
    • Ideal in containers
    • Winner of the prestigious Florastar Award

    A strawberry with bright and colourful flowers as well as sweet and tasty fruits - all through the summer - just has to be a winner.

    Developed by strawberry specialists in Holland, the 4cm rich rosy red flowers - rather like the flowers of wild roses – are at first carried in clusters from the centre of the plant. Then, as the runners develop during the summer and trail down the sides of the pots, they too carry flowers.

    ‘Toscana’ is an everbearing variety so as summer progresses there are both flowers and fruits on the plant at the same time. Grow it in a container on the patio or deck and it’s a genuine edible ornamental – it looks good and tastes good too.

    There’s another advantage. Strawberries tend to suffer from virus diseases. But because ‘Toscana’ is a seed-raised variety – and virus diseases are not transmitted in seeds – each new plants starts life completely virus free.

    Strawberry ‘Toscana’ won the 2011/2012 Florastar Award for the most eye-catching plant of the year.

    You can order plants of strawberry ‘Toscana’ from DT Brown.

    You can order seeds of strawberry ‘Toscana’ from DT Brown or from Nicky’s Nursery.

    You’ll also find strawberry ‘Toscana’ in some garden centres this year

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  • Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike: New ruffled hydrangea from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 04 Mar 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike - New ruffled hydrangea.

    • Attractive ruffled florets bring a fresh new style to hydrangeas
    • Pale backs to the petals add a little extra flair
    • Pale green buds complete a harmonious pastel look
    • Flowers can be pink or blue
    • Reaches a manageable 4ft/1.2m in height
    New hydrangeas seem to be arriving with increasing speed. This is partly fuelled by their increasing popularity as cut flowers, and the cut flower trade is always looking for new and interesting varieties.


    At the same time nurseries and gardeners are realising that while hydrangeas are amongst the easiest shrubs to grow, and give many months of colour, for years they didn’t really change that much.

    But last year I mentioned three new hydrangeas with fine new features – Invincibelle Spirit, Fantasia and Expression – and here’s another: Beautensia™ Spike ('Spike').

    Its highlight is the ruffled summer and autumn flowers. Each floret is very prettily waved revealing, at the edges, the paler colouring of the backs of the petals. And each floret also pales prettily towards the centre while the buds and opening flowers have a greenish tint.

    The result is a delightful harmony of colours – in pink or in blue. As with other hydrangeas of this type, on limey soils the flowers will be pink while on lime free soil they’ll be blue. Or you can treat them with hydrangea colourant to make sure that they’re blue.

    Reaching about 4ft/1.2m high and as much across, Beautensia™ Spike is easy to grow in full sun or partial shade in any reasonably fertile garden soil that is not waterlogged or parched.

    Hydrangea Beautensia™ Spike (‘Spike’) is available from Crocus

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