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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

  • Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’: New from Hillier

    Graham Rice on 28 Apr 2012 at 10:39 AM

    Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', new from Hillier. Image ©Hillier NurseriesYellow-leaved Choisya Sundance (‘Lich’) is one of the most popular shrubs in the country. At its best, it’s superb but it does have its problems. Now Hillier have raised and introduced a new and improved golden leaved choisya called ‘Aztec Gold’.

    ‘Aztec Gold’ (left, click to enlarge) is an attractive evergreen shrub with a rounded habit and reaches about 4ftx4ft/1.2x1.2m. Its leaves are split into slender, pointed segments which are rich burnished gold towards the tips and a slightly greenish yellow shade towards the base.

    In spring and early summer, clusters of attractive, almond-scented white flowers appear and then after a break another flush opens in autumn.

    ‘Aztec Gold’ was developed by Alan Postill (right, click to enlarge) and is derived from ‘Aztec Pearl’ which provides the leaf shape together with versatility and resilience in the garden, and Sundance which brings the foliage colour. Alan worked at Hillier Nurseries as a propagator for fifty years and was also responsible for selecting and naming the prolific and impressively fragrant Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.

    Andy McIndoe of Hillier Nurseries explained why he thinks this is such a good Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', with its raiser Alan Postill. Image ©Hillier Nurseriesplant: “‘Aztec Gold’ is a golden foliage evergreen with a subtlety that will endear it to even those gardeners that “don’t do yellow”. In sun, the leaves at the ends of the shoots are rich golden yellow, while those in the heart of the plant maintain a greener hue. In shade, the overall colour leans towards lime; more subtle but still cheerily pleasing. The variation in the foliage colour between the young and old leaves gives the plant depth and a three dimensional quality often lacking in plain yellow evergreens.”

    Happy in any reasonably fertile soil that is well drained, the brightest colour develops in full sun.

    Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’ will be launched at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, but is already available from Hillier Online.


  • Rose Wollerton Old Hall: New in the RHS Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 22 Apr 2012 at 02:39 PM

    Rose Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) - new for 2012. Image © David Austin RosesFour new roses created by David Austin make their first appearance in the 2012 RHS Plantfinder, but Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) just pips the other three in being available from more nurseries.

    It first saw the light of day at last summer’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and in what has become a great tradition of English Roses from David Austin, Wollerton Old Hall combines the elegant flowers and heady perfume of so many old roses, with the long flowering season that so many old roses lack.

    There are sparks of red in the unopened buds, but as each flower develops into a fully rounded bloom the butter yellow colour emerges then softens to cream as the flower matures while developing slightly peachy tones. All the way, the flowers retain their attractive rounded shape.

    This is one of the mostly strongly scented of all the English Roses. The myrrh fragrance is exceptionally powerful and is also relatively uncommon. Seeing it at Hampton Court last summer the BBC’s Rachel de Thame said: “I loved the pale creamy yellow flowers, which have an attractive spherical shape and intense myrrh-like perfume”.

    More upright in growth than many English Roses, reaching about 5ft/1.5m high and 3ft/90cm across, and mostly thorn-free, Wollerton Old Hall makes an ideal specimen in a mixed border. It was named for the garden at the 16th century house of the same name, one of the finest recently made gardens in the country.

    You can buy Rosa Wollerton Old Hall (‘Ausblanket’) from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Clematis Alaina: New in the 2012 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 16 Apr 2012 at 03:54 PM

    Clematis Alaina (‘Evipo 056'): New in the 2012 Plantfinder. Image ©Raymond EvisonFor some years, clematis wizard Raymond Evison has been developing a series of varieties that are much more suitable for small town gardens than most clematis. It’s not true that all clematis will take over your garden, but some will and many gardeners tend to think that in a small space it’s just too much of a gamble.

    But the varieties in the Boulevard Series never get out of hand and the latest in the series, Alaina (‘Evipo 056'), is one of the most widely offered new plants in the 2012/2013 RHS Plantfinder.

    Reaching no more than 5ft/1.5m in height and only about 2ft/60cm across, this is an ideal variety for a container, or a bed along the side of a patio.

    Flowering comes in two seasons; first in June and early July, then in August and September and each flower opens a rich and vivid pink, with a dark stripe along the centre of each of the six petals. Then, as the flowers mature, they become paler creating a happy harmony of pink shades. Sometimes the petals may be a little twisted creating an appealing sense of movement. They’re best planted in at least some shade to help prevent the colour fading too much.

    Of course, there’s pruning to think about. Couldn’t be easier. Just cut the plants back hard to about 12in/30cm every spring.

    Clematis Alaina (‘Evipo 056') is available from seven RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • The new RHS Plantfinder is out today

    Graham Rice on 11 Apr 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Echinacea 'Daydream': new in the 2012 RHS Plantfinder. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesOne of the most exciting days in the gardening year is upon us – the new RHS Plantfinder is out today. This – need I remind you – is a book that serves two invaluable purposes. It reveals where to buy almost 70,000 different plants, and it also serves as a record of the correct names for them all.

    This year the RHS Plantfinder contains an amazing 67,603 different plants, with suppliers from 541 nurseries listed for every one. In fact there are nearly 74,000 names included as all the synonyms are cross referenced. This year there are 3,380 new plants included.

    There are forty five new clematis included this year, twenty nine new echinaceas (including ‘Daydream’, above click to enlarge), thirty seven new hardy geraniums, eighty four new hostas and sixty nine new roses. There are too many new hemerocallis to count!

    I noted the most popular new entries in my recent post. Check back here regularly over the next few weeks as I’ll be giving you more details about all the top plants that are new to this year’s RHS Plantfinder.

    You can order the 2012-2013 RHS Plant Finder now.


  • Miscanthus ‘Starlight’: New from Knoll Gardens

    Graham Rice on 06 Apr 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Miscanthus 'Starlight' - the shortest variety yet. Image ©Neil LucasSome miscanthus are monsters, but not this one. We’ve seen some excellent dwarf miscanthus in recent years, and they’re so much more useful than the tall and vigorous varieties that were previously more common and which tended to take over the garden.

    Neil Lucas at Knoll Gardens has been responsible for introducing three of these dwarf types and now there’s a fourth – and it’s the shortest of all. He selected and introduced ‘Abundance’ and ‘Elfin’ and also named ‘Little Kitten’, which until now has been the most dwarf. ‘Starlight’ is shorter still.

    The waist high ‘Starlight’ (32-39in/80cm-1m) features mounds of slender green foliage and in summer is topped by biscuit brown plumes which turn silvery as they age. Very prolific and free flowering, ‘Starlight’ is happy in any reasonable soil in full sun. Once established it’s helpfully drought tolerant.

    Miscanthus can make wonderful garden plants,” said Neil Lucas of Knoll Gardens. “They are drought tolerant and bear tons of flowers but many are simply too large for a smaller garden setting. Miscanthus ‘Starlight’ is the perfect answer, a well-behaved dwarf miscanthus, that can bring the wow factor to containers and small spaces right through to planting in drifts.

    “Grasses are currently in huge demand and it is always satisfying to be able to introduce a new grass that is particularly garden worthy,” said Neil.

    You can order Miscanthus ‘Starlight’ from Knoll Gardens.


  • Runner bean ‘Firestorm’: New self-fertile bean from Marshalls

    Graham Rice on 03 Apr 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Runner bean 'Firestorm': new self fertile variety from Marshalls. Image ©Marshalls SeedsThe weather is on our minds again. This time, the drought. And it reminds us that drought always seems to disrupt the pollination of runner beans. Some say that we should spray the flowers with water – but I think this is a waste of time. I’m sure the only benefit they get is when the water runs off and soaks into the soil. But growing one of the new self fertile runner beans is certainly a help.

    Most runners beans need pollination from another plant to produce beans. They need bees to carry the pollen from flower to flower and they also need moisture at the roots. But with fewer bees and drier summers, crops have been unpredictable.

    ‘Firestorm’ is the first scarlet runner that is completely self fertile, it crops well when fertilised with its own pollen and without a visit from the bees. In fact it’s altogether less fussy about setting pods. The beans themselves are stringless and slightly thicker, slightly sweeter and more tender than other runner beans. And the flowers make quite a show too.

    ‘Moonlight’, introduced a couple of years ago, is also self fertile but has the less popular white flowers.

    The other thing that helps ensure a good set for all runner beans is moist soil. So the bath water and the washing up water should go along the bean trench.

    You can order seeds or plants of runner bean ‘Firestorm’ from Marshalls Seeds.