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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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  • Two new heucheras from America

    Graham Rice on 30 Jul 2012 at 02:03 PM

    Heuchera 'Delta Dawn' (left) and 'Spellbound'. Images ©terra Nova Nurseries
    As the flow of exciting new Heuchera varieties continues, this year two new introductions from America stand out. Both are from the breeding work of Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, the company that has done so much to revolutionise what had become little more than an unfashionable cut flower.

    Now, of course, it’s foliage that is to the fore – foliage that lasts the whole year and often changes with the seasons.

    ‘Delta Dawn’ (above left, click to enlarge) certainly changes as the months go buy. Its bold, rounded, gently lobed leaves are red in spring with a golden yellow rim, the colouring retreating to red veins in summer and the older foliage becoming green with a faint red stain.

    This is a compact variety, reaching about 8in/20cm high and 12in/30cm across, the creamy white flowers are held just a few inches above the foliage in summer. This is a splendid container plant, or can be used at the front of partially shaded borders. It takes summer heat unusually well – when necessary….

    ‘Spellbound’ (above right, click to enlarge) is a different creature altogether, making a big bold clump 16in/40cm high and 14in/35cm wide. The foliage is also very different, silver with ruffled edges and dark veins, and with reddish purple margins to the leaves – especially in spring. That reddish colouring also covers the backs of the leaves. As is the case with ‘Delta Dawn’, the white flowers add little to the display.

    Dramatic as a specimen, try two in matching terracotta pots at the top of some partially shaded steps – but never let the plants dry out.

    You can buy Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

    You can buy Heuchera ‘Spellbound’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Six new roses from Harkness Roses

    Graham Rice on 26 Jul 2012 at 01:17 PM

    Rose 'Esperanza' - new from Harkness. Image ©Hardkness RosesI recently highlighted some of the new roses from two of Britain’s relatively new rose nurseries, David Austin Roses and Peter Beales Roses. So it only seems fair also to focus on those from a nursery that’s been around, one way or another, for over one hundred and thirty years – Harkness Roses. They have six new roses this year, all developed at their Hertfordshire nursery.

    ‘Diamond Days’ is a very strongly scented Hybrid Tea rose with white flowers, much creamier in the centre, set against rich dark green leaves. It flowers prolifically right through summer and autumn, but on neat plants which reach about 32in/80cm high and just 24in/60cm high. The citrus-like scent is very powerful.

    ‘Esperanza’ (above, click to enlarge) was picked out by the Harkness experts for its excellent health, no hint of disease, something they’re always looking for, but a visitor – knowing nothing of this – picked it out for its beauty. This is a modern shrub rose, reaching about 32in/80cm high and wide and is good in both borders and containers. 20% of receipts from sales of ‘Esperanza’ (the name means hope) will be donated to Addenbrooke’s Hospital Trust.

    ‘Glyndebourne’ is a lovely blushed white shrub rose for the back of the border, Roses 'Diamond Days', 'Ice Dance', 'Mercy Rose', 'Summer Sweetheart - all new from Harkness Roses. Images ©Harkness Rosesreaching 51/4ft/1.6m in height. This well-scented variety is also good for a flowering hedge and is excellent for cutting.

    ‘Ice Dance’ is a neat and dwarf shrub rose reaching only 2ft/60cm high and wide. The pure white flowers, set against dark green foliage, are single but with extra rows of petals to give the flowers more impressive impact – and they keep coming all summer and into the autumn.

    ‘Mercy Rose’ is a shrub-like Floribunda, with yellow-centred pale pink semi-double flowers fading almost to white. It’s tough, easy to grow, disease resistant and reaches just 3ft/90cm high and rather less across. 10% of the sales receipts will be donated to Mercy Ships, which provides medical and other help to the world’s poorest countries.

    ‘Summer Sweetheart’ is one of those invaluable roses – a well behaved climber. It won’t run up your apple tree, over the house and down the other side as it reaches only about 61/2ft/2m so can be trained up alongside the front door. With fragrant flowers all summer, its rich pink colouring never fades and disease is rare.

    You can order ‘Diamond Days’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Esperanza’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Glyndebourne’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Ice Dance’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Mercy Rose’ from Harkness Roses.

    You can order ‘Summer Sweetheart’ from Harkness Roses.


  • Strawberry ‘Sweetheart’: New from D T Brown

    Graham Rice on 21 Jul 2012 at 01:20 PM

    Strawberry 'Sweetheart' - wonderful traditional strawberry flavour. Image ©MeiosisMost new varieties of strawberry are selected for the value in commercial strawberry production. But the features that make a good commercial variety are not necessarily the same as those that make a good variety for gardeners.

    ‘Sweetheart’ comes from East Malling Research in Kent, one of the world’s leading creators of new fruit varieties, but they note that it is not ideal for intensive commercial systems. For gardeners, however, its ability to crop productively after its first year and in non-intensive plantings makes it well suited to home food growing. And while few commercial growers keep their strawberry plants for a second or third year after planting this is normal for home gardeners and ‘Sweetheart’ does well as a perennial.

    Yield is good too, in its second year, in its peak cropping week around the third week of June, research shows that each ‘Sweetheart’ plant will produce about a third more fruit than the old favourite ‘Elsanta.

    But of course yield is not everything, what about flavour? This is what D T Brown General Manager Tim Jeffries had to say: “I think Sweetheart is set to become a favourite for home gardeners. It is a very vigorous growing strawberry but with a compact habit but when we tasted the fruits we realised it was something special. It has that great balance of sweetness and acidity, mouth-wateringly juicy and quite frankly just tastes like a strawberry should, full of flavour and full of memories of summers gone by. It was one of those strawberries which made me keep going back for  more even though I was supposed to be tasting a full range of varieties! I’ll be growing it at home so clearly I really do rate it!”

    I think he likes it…

    You can order strawberry ‘Sweetheart’ from D T Brown.


  • New autumn and spring flowering wallflower

    Graham Rice on 17 Jul 2012 at 10:02 PM

    'Sugar Rush' wallflower blooms in autumn as well as spring. Image ©FloranovaThe colour, the fragrance – the humble British wallflower is a vital part of our spring; in fact no other country has such an attachment to wallflowers, we grow far more than anyone else.

    Of course we all think of wallflowers as essentially spring flowers, in fact they need a chilly spell to switch on flowering, that’s why they never flower in the autumn. Until now.

    In the British-bred ‘Sugar Rush’, this requirement for vernalisation, as it’s called, has been eliminated. They need no cold snap to initiate flowering so plants will flower in the autumn, sometimes lasting till Christmas. Pinch off the dead flowers and they then take a break before flowering again in spring.

    ‘Sugar Rush’ comes in a mixture of four colours - rich red, gold, primrose and purple - and the plants are relatively short, too, unlike many traditional types which can grow so tall that they fall over in full flower. The ‘Sugar Rush’ mixture also features that lovely fresh wallflower fragrance.

    Sow the seeds in July and the first flowers will be opening in the autumn. Plants are hardy down to -15C/5F, so they’re tough, and reaching only about 12in/30cm in height, they’re especially good in containers.

    You can order plugs of wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ from Mr Fothergill.

    You can order seed of wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ from Plants of Distinction.

    And look out for it in your local garden centre in the autumn.


  • Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream': New for 2012

    Graham Rice on 09 Jul 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Leucanthemum 'Banana Cream', the best yellow flowered Shasta daisy yet. Image © Chris Hansen.As long ago as December 2009 I looked forward to the arrival of a new yellow-flowered Shasta daisy, Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream', I’d seen across the Atlantic but it seems to have taken until this year to appear. It’s in the batch of new RHS Plantfinder introductions for 2012 listed by half a dozen different suppliers.

    This is generally reckoned to be the best yellow-flowered Shasta daisy yet, but it also has other valuable qualities. Each 4in/10cm wide flower opens in lemon yellow and then, as it matures, changes to butter yellow; there are other varieties that open yellow, but they tend to fade to cream. Each flower also has a double row of petals, giving the flowers extra substance.

    What’s more, as you can see from the picture (click to enlarge), flower buds develop not only at the tips of the shoots but also in the leaf joints farther down the stem. This leads to a much extended summer flowering season. When cut, the flowers also last up to two weeks in water yet are carried on plants no more than 18in/45cm tall.

    The plants are also vigorous, and increase well, and the foliage tends to be less prone to disease than in older varieties.

    ‘Banana Cream’ was developed in Michigan by Kevin Hurd at Walters Gardens, one of North America’s best known perennial growers.

    You can order Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream' from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • New plants at the 2012 Hampton Court Show

    Graham Rice on 05 Jul 2012 at 05:37 PM

    Trailing sweet pepper 'Sweet Sunshine' . Images ©DobiesSome great new plants were shown for the first time at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this week but perhaps the most astonishing of all was a new trailing sweet pepper from Dobies of Devon, it’s called ‘Sweet Sunshine’.

    As you can see from the picture (left, click to enlarge), the plant develops a dramatic trailing habit and looks impressive in a hanging basket. It’s covered in small slender peppers – they look like chilies but are actually pointed, slimline sweet peppers maturing from green to bright orange. They can be sliced or stir fried whole and you can keep picking right through to the frosts.

    To be honest, when ‘Sweet Sunshine’ was first released earlier this year I hadn’t seen it and I couldn’t quite believe it. But it really does trail. So I thought it deserved a better-late-than-never mention now.

    Also new at the show was another in the Harlequin Series of Streptocarpus from Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Purple' - new from Dibleys. Image © Diblleys.Dibleys. The first of these dramatic bicolours, ‘Harlequin Blue’, won the first Plant of the Year Award at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010. Now ‘Harlequin Purple’, with rich plum purple upper petals and creamy yellow lower petals has arrived. The flowers are flat to show off the colour effectively, and it flowers for eight months of the year.

    The 2013 Rose of the Year was also announced at the show. You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’) is a lovely pink, lightly scented, Floribunda rose which although it reaches only 3ft/90cm in height, is strong and bushy but neat enough for small borders and You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’), the 2013 Rose of the Year. Image ©Fryers Rosescontainers. Find out more on the Fryers roses website. And check out the other new roses launched at the Show.

    You can order seed of pepper ‘Sweet Sunshine’ from Dobies of Devon.

    You can order Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Purple’ from Dibleys.

    The 2013 Rose Of The Year You're Beautiful (‘Fryracy’) will be available from Fryers Roses and most other mail order rose specialists in the autumn.

    Take a look at the new and exciting Hampton Court plants from Phil Clayton, of The Garden.