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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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  • Heucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’: New trailing and ground cover variety

    Graham Rice on 29 Aug 2012 at 03:33 PM

    Heucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’: sunny new trailing and ground cover variety. Image © Terra Nova NurseriesIn October last year, I told you about a completely new style of perennial – a heucherella for hanging baskets and ground cover. xHeucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ was the first in the Falls Series and the series has now expanded to three varieties with the addition this year of ‘Sunrise Falls’.

    These plants combine the creeping habit of some tiarellas, with the extra resilience of heucheras to create adaptable plants for trailing plants for containers or groundcover for shady borders.

    ‘Sunrise Falls’ (left, click to enlarge) is the brightest of the three, with foliage in a clearer and brighter yellow than that of ‘Yellowstone Falls’. Each leaf is blazed with a red stain in the middle of each lobe but the red colouring is less dominant and less bright than in some other heucherellas and the effect is altogether more pleasing. In winter, the foliage develops impressive rusty red tones.

    Grow ‘Sunrise Falls’ in a traditional wire hanging basket with moss and, when planting in autumn, add a liberal planting of blue grape hyacinths in the top and the sides – right down to the base. The grape hyacinths will grow through the mesh, and then through the yellow heucherella leaves which will provide a colourful background to show off the grape hyacinth flowers as the spikes turn upwards and open. The brightly coloured Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’ would be a good choice.

    As ground cover ‘Sunrise Falls’ will spread widely, rooting as it goes, and will snuggle up to shrubs and undercarpet perennials. It would be lovely under plummy hellebores and with another blue flowered bulb, Scilla siberica.

    xHeucherella ‘Sunrise Falls’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

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  • Three new double-flowered echinaceas

    Graham Rice on 26 Aug 2012 at 08:41 AM

    Three new double echinaceas: 'Secret Joy' (left), 'Secret Lust' and 'Secret passion (right). Images © Terra Nova Nurseries.There seems to be no drop in enthusiasm for echinaceas, as more new colours and new types arrive in nurseries and garden centres. But some gardeners have become wary of the double flowered varieties.

    It’s true that some of the first double-flowered echinaceas proved to be disappointing – either the flowers were not consistently double and sometimes broke into distorted shapes or the stems were not strong enough to support the heavy flowers. In some sad cases, varieties suffered from both problems.

    Recent introductions are much improved and three new varieties in the Secret Series not only guarantee nothing but double flowers but are also a little shorter than earlier double-flowered varieties at about 75cm/30in in height. They also have better strength to support the double flower heads – which of course are heavier than single flowers, especially when they collect rain.

    All have double flowers with a pronounced coloured cone surrounded by a ring of petals. The latest three varieties in this series to become available are ‘Secret Joy’ (above left, click to enlarge) in rich yllow fading to pale yellow, ‘Secret Lust’ (above centre, click to enlarge) with a reddish orange central cone and petals in pinker tones and ‘Secret Passion’ (above right, click to enlarge) with vivid pink cones and paler pink petals.

    All are scented, all flower from July to October, all make good cut flowers and all require sun, fertile soil and good winter drainage; without good drainage most modern echinaceas may prove to be short-lived.

    Plants of ‘Secret Joy’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants

    Plants of ‘Secret Lust’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants and from Suttons

    Plants of ‘Secret Passion’ are available from Simply Seeds and Plants and from Suttons

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  • Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster

    Graham Rice on 14 Aug 2012 at 06:57 PM

    Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster. Image ©Charles OliverCharles Oliver is the pioneer of creating new heucheras, it was his initial work hybridising wild selections which led to the dramatic developments of recent years.

    He also has an interest in other North American plants including Phlox, Tiarella, Arisaema and Aster but it has taken nearly fifteen years for his form of a widespread American Aster species to make it across the Atlantic to Britain.

    ‘October Skies’ is his selection of Aster oblongifolius, a species not often seen in British gardens. The wild species is a little like A. novae-angliae in general appearance, though with more petals – up to thirty five - around each flower giving a more solid look, but tends to be woody at the base, rather weak in growth and floppy.

    ‘October Skies’ is much more compact, reaching about 18in/45cm, and branches well to create an attractively bushy, self-supporting plant, much better in its habit of growth than the other variety sometimes seen, ‘Fanny’s’, which is taller and floppier. Its foliage, like that of the wild type, is strongly aromatic with a balsam-like scent then the purple-blue flowers, just over 1in/2.5cm across, open from late September and continue through October to the first heavy frost.

    Best in full sun and in well-drained soil, ‘October Skies’ will tolerate dry conditions once established. It was selected by Charles Oliver in 1999 from a wild population growing on his land in south west Pennsylvania.

    You can order Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

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  • New clematis from Raymond Evison

    Graham Rice on 11 Aug 2012 at 03:20 PM

    Clematis The Countess of Wessex™ (‘Evipo073’), new from Raymond Evison. Image ©Raymond Evison

    Back in April I highlighted one of this year’s new clematis introductions from Raymond Evison, Alaina (‘Evipo 056'), this time I’m taking a look at the other two.

    The Countess of Wessex™ (‘Evipo073’) (above, click to enlarge) was chosen as the variety to carry her name by Her Royal Highness herself from a range of new Raymond Evison clematis varieties.

    The 5–7in/14–17cm single flowers are an especially delightful soft colouring. Each of the six petals is blushed white with a slightly darker central stripe through the centre, while in the middle of the flower the ring of maroon anthers makes a striking contrast. The edges of each petal are appealingly rippled. The flowers open early to mid-summer, sometimes take a short break, then bloom again in late summer to early autumn.

    With its delicate colouring, which fades in bright sun, The Countess of Wessex™ is ideal out of direct sunlight, facing north, east or north west is ideal, and reaching only 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m is ideal in a container on the shady side of the patio. Clematis Zara™ (‘Evipo062’), new from Raymond Evison. Image ©Raymond Evison

    Even shorter, but happy in any aspect, Zara™ (‘Evipo062’) (left, click to enlarge) has lovely pale blue 4–5in/10-13cm single flowers, with six broad overlapping petals and a mass of golden anthers in the centre

    Reaching only 3-4 ft/1–1.2m in height, this is one of Raymond Evison’s most compact varieties and ideal for the smallest of spaces flowering from early summer to early autumn, with perhaps a short rest.

    Pruning of both these new clematis is simple: cut back to 12in/30cm in spring.

    You can order Clematis The Countess of Wessex™ from Raymond Evison Clematis and from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

    You can order Clematis Zara™ from Raymond Evison Clematis and from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries

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  • Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade': the first pink-fruited blueberry

    Graham Rice on 06 Aug 2012 at 07:11 AM

    Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade': the first pink-fruited blueberryGardeners have taken a liking to blueberries in recent years, with the enthusiasm of Jennifer Trehane and her books – the latest one is Blueberries for Everyone – making us all realise what great fruits they are, packed with flavour and goodness. But now, in addition to what have become the familiar dark blue fruited blueberries – we have a variety with pink fruits.

    First, it’s worth a reminder of what valuable three-season plants blueberries are. There are the dainty little spring flowers, like blushed white bells in this case; then in summer there are the fruits; and finally there’s fiery autumn leaf colour.

    ‘Pink Lemonade’ reaches about 5ft/1.5m high and wide, with masses of twiggy branches. The fruits begin green, then become speckled in pink and then take on a rich pink colouring as they mature in August and September. They can be eaten straight from the bush – with ice cream or Greek yogurt, or cooked in muffins, pies or other desserts.

    ‘Pink Lemonade’ is the result of many years development by the United States Department of Agriculture and has both traditional blueberries, Vaccinium corymbosum, as well as the less common V. ashei and V. darrowi in its background, with a wild white-berried form of the blueberry, V. corymbosum, being especially influential.

    Like all blueberries, ‘Pink Lemonade’ demands an acid soil and is especially happy in a large container of ericaceous compost. Although it’s self fertile, it will crop more heavily if another blueberry is planted nearby.

    You can order Blueberry ‘Pink Lemonade’ from DT Brown and from Suttons and from Thompson & Morgan.

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